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  • Writer's pictureDr Nicole White

Having a baby...

So you have found out that you are pregnant – you are probably excited, tired, maybe nauseous and perhaps a little bit apprehensive. What do you need to do now? Read on for some practical advice and tips for early pregnancy.

Did you know that your pregnancy dates are calculated from the first day of your last period. This can be confusing - by the time your period is late, you are usually 4-5 weeks pregnant. Time to see your GP!

Why do I need to see a GP?

Hopefully you have a regular GP. If not, then now is a good time to find one! You will need a GP throughout your pregnancy and even more so following the arrival of your baby.

You will need a blood test to check a few important things such as:

  • ensuring that you are in good general health and not low in things such as iron, vitamin B12 and vitamin D

  • your immunity to viruses such as Rubella and Chicken Pox

  • ensuring that you have not been exposed to viruses including Hepatitis B and C, HIV and Syphilis which may affect your pregnancy.

If you are due for your regular Cervical Screening Test then now is also the time to have this done.

Your GP may order an ultrasound scan. This is particularly important if you are unsure of the date of your last period as the ultrasound can help to determine how far along your pregnancy is. You will also have an ultrasound at around 12 weeks and again around 20 weeks to check that your baby is developing well.

Your GP will also arrange a referral to a maternity unit for ongoing care of your pregnancy - there are a number of options for this including:

  • Public Hospital care,

  • Shared care between your GP and the hospital, and

  • Private Obstetric Care.

If you live in a rural environment your own GP may be able to manage your entire pregnancy.

What supplements should I take?

There are a number of vitamins which are particularly important in pregnancy and need to be taken as a supplement (these should be started as soon as possible)

  1. Folate - this is essential for growth and development of a foetus. Taking a folate supplement can help to prevent some birth defects. A dose of 400mcg per day is required for most pregnancies. Some women may require a higher dose.

  2. Iodine - this is essential for thyroid function and development of the foetus. A supplement containing at least 150mcg per day is important.

  3. Iron - some women may require an iron supplement. Maintaining a good intake of iron in the diet is also important during pregnancy. Good sources of iron in food include meat, legumes, nuts and iron fortified foods such as cereals.

Some supplements contain all of these things (+more) as part of a multivitamin preparation - they are all different. Talk to your GP about which supplement would be best for you.

What About Listeria?

Listeria is a bacteria that lives in the environment and in some foods. In most cases it is harmless and infection may go unnoticed. In pregnant women however, Listeria infection can be a threat to the pregnancy. Symptoms of Listeria infection include fever, lethargy, back ache, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain – see your doctor if any of these symptoms are present.

There are ways to minimise the risk of exposure to Listeria:

  • Practise good food hygiene – defrost foods in the fridge or microwave and do not leave hot foods on the bench to cool – put them straight in the fridge.

  • Keep raw meats separate from other foods and make sure all meat products are thoroughly cooked

  • Eat leftovers within 12 hours

  • Make sure hot foods are hot and cold foods cold when eating out

  • Avoid high risk foods such as unpasteurised dairy products, soft cheeses, soft serve ice cream / thickshakes, pate, cold meats, pre-prepared salads, raw or smoked seafood.

Can I drink alcohol?

Alcohol consumption can certainly affect the developing foetus, current guidelines recommend complete avoidance of alcohol altogether throughout pregnancy.

What about Medications?

Many medications are not safe during pregnancy. If you are on regular medication, discuss this with your doctor as soon as possible to determine whether it is safe to continue. It is ok to use paracetamol for pain relief and your doctor can arrange a prescription for an anti-nausea preparation should this be required.

What about Exercise?

Exercise is good for you and your pregnancy. You can continue with any exercise that you have been doing prior to falling pregnant as long as it remains comfortable. Pregnancy hormones can affect ligaments and tendons in the body so you need to be careful to avoid injury. Increased body temperatures can impact the developing foetus so avoid saunas, hot spa pools and hot baths while you are pregnant.

What now?

Arrange an appointment with your GP to discuss these and other relevant issues to ensure that your pregnancy is off to a healthy start.


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