Many companies and websites will give you a long list of pregnancy and baby ‘essentials’, but most of these are a way of getting you to spend money. We all have personal preferences but the actual essentials are few and far between, and are usually cheaper than you’d expect. As a midwife turned doula, and a single mum of two young children here’s my list of what you really need. This is a list to keep your family happy, safe, and well within the confines of your budget. Any thing beyond that is a luxury!
Pregnancy Essentials For You
Something to Wear – See anything with ‘maternity’ on the label and expect companies to throw another few pounds AT LEAST onto the price tag. Shop smart and second hand, particularly if you are looking for special occasion outfits. Many non maternity clothes will fit you beautifully, leaving money for you to spend on the things you really want. Like your cheese and pickle sandwich craving.
Something to Eat – Pregnancy, as at all times of your life, requires a healthy, balanced diet. Good quality pulses, grains, fruit, veg and meat/fish if you eat them. If you are vegan/vegetarian there will be no ill effects to your pregnancy as long as you are getting all the things you need. Same goes for us meat eaters! If you feel that you need dietary advice or you have other medical conditions such as diabetes then your midwife will be able to refer you to a dietician who can help plan your food intake in the best way to suit you and your family.
Something to Boost Your Body – The NHS recommends folic acid (to reduce the chance of baby being born with spina bifida) and vitamin D (because we just don’t get enough sunshine in this country!). If you are on certain benefits you can get these supplements for free from your midwife, but if not they can be bought cheaply in local supermarkets. If you are looking for a pregnancy multivitamin then supermarket own brands are far cheaper than the better known ones (e.g. Pregnacare) and they do exactly the same thing. One may have 200% of your recommended daily allowance (RDA) of certain vitamins but your body is not capable of absorbing that amount. You simply pass it out through your urine, effectively money down the toilet.
Something to Ease Those ‘Minor Complaints’ – When I was working as a midwife I would give women a whole heap of literature at the booking appointment. One of those was a small piece of A5 paper titled ‘How to cope with minor complaints of pregnancy’. These include nausea/vomiting, constipation, chronic tiredness, aches and pains, heartburn, swollen ankles…I always wonder that if a man had to cope with all these things would they still be described as minor? Probably not. Dealing with these things will make your pregnancy experience a lot easier. Ginger, sickness bands and arnica can help reduce nausea as can eating little and often. A good diet and an increased water intake will help constipation. Remember not to strain otherwise you’ll have those other pregnancy gremlins: haemorrhoids! Tiredness is certainly easier to combat with your first pregnancy than with subsequent ones. Nap whenever you can and have those early nights, no matter how old it makes you feel. Heartburn will usually increase the closer you get to your due date. Small meals, little and often, are the best way to go and avoid anything spicy or dairy particularly near bedtime. Gaviscon and ranitidine are safe to use during pregnancy but discuss with your GP or midwife if you are still feeling unsure. As you go through your pregnancy you will learn through experience, and trial and error what works best for you but often the best remedies are free!
Something to Learn From – in my opinion, one of the most important things you can do to improve positive outcomes is to educate yourself. Educate yourself about pregnancy, labour, birth, your midwives, what to expect, what are your options, coping mechanisms through labour..anything and everything! Each new thing you learn will have you better prepared to face situations as they arise. See education as an investment rather than an expenditure as best you can. NHS antenatal classes are free but limited in the information you will get. They will tell you the bare bones of what you need to know, and will not discuss with you options outside of NHS guidelines. I have a small list of recommended reading here and a list of resources here which will give you so much information as a head start. Find books in libraries or borrow from your friends. This blog, of course, will be full of pregnancy related articles and as I’m a former midwife you know the information in them will be trustworthy and up to date at point of publication. You can also have a look around your local area to see what classes are available, or check out my services for one-to-one, bespoke classes for you and your partner.
Someone to Talk To – Although I’ve put it last, support is the most important essential. Whether that’s professional support from your midwife or doula, or a friendly shoulder to cry on when things are getting a bit overwhelming. Humans were not made for solitary living but the Western environment makes finding your tribe difficult. Reach out to friends who have been pregnant, even if you haven’t spoken to them in years. I guarantee that they need that social interaction as much as you do. Attend any antenatal groups that you can, feeding support groups will always welcome you and it’s another way to expand that social circle and build your tribe. Internet forums such as Mumsnet and Baby Centre certainly have their place, especially in this age of online living and social media. They remove the anxiety that can be felt about going to new places/meeting new people but, for me, they will never be a replacement for face-to-face friendships. However, it is comforting during that 2am feeding session to go online and see that everyone else is right there with you.
Part two of this blog series will be Baby Essentials, and part three will cover postnatal essentials for yourself. Subscribe to the blog and like the facebook page to be the first to know when new blogs are posted!