Adjusting to your growing bump can be surprisingly stressful, but you can help yourself, says pregnant Becky Howard...
Lots of expectant women have mixed feelings about being pregnant, although few are brave enough to admit this openly. Despite having had two babies already, I’m fed up with my current pregnancy. I feel even worse when I see other pregnant women drifting around with a rosy radiance, lots of energy and a serene vibe.
My pregnancy glow is actually more of a sweat.
‘It’s important to realise a mix of negative and positive feeling is not unusual,’ says Clive Spence Jones, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at the Whittington Hospital, London.
‘But there are a lot of ways of tackling these issues which can make carrying a baby easier.’
So break open the bubble bath, get the hot water running and read on…
Keep a pregnancy photo diary
Creating a photobook of your pregnancy will build a special keepsake for you and your partner. And in years to come, your child will love looking through it too.
‘It will remind you of how you changed during your pregnancy, special moments you shared, and help create a bond with your bump,’ says psychotherapist Josephine Cropper (jmcpsychotherapy.com).
As well as taking photos of your growing bump, add a caption about how you felt when you saw the thin blue line and make a note of all the special things you do with your partner as you prepare for the big day.
‘The more you listen to your body’s needs, the better you will feel’
Look after your body
It’s tempting to focus solely on your baby when you are pregnant, but don’t neglect your own physical wellbeing. A changing shape, sometimes painful side effects and feeling like a ‘vessel’ can leave you feeling run down.
‘The more you listen to your body’s needs, the better you will feel. If you are tired, review your schedule and let go of less important activities,’ says Dominique Antiglio, pregnancy and birth preparation expert (be-sophro.co.uk).
Zita West, fertility expert and author of Your Pregnancy Companion (£25, zitawest.com) also advises pampering and rewarding your hard-working body with beneficial treatments: ‘Embrace acupuncture, massage or moderate exercise, which can help with endorphin release and your sense of wellbeing.’
Connect with baby
Using simple visualisation techniques for a few minutes a day can help you bond with your unborn baby. Choose a regular time to relax and focus, such as in the bath or before you go to sleep.
‘Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and imagine you are in a place where you feel at ease,’ says Maggie Howell, founder of Natal Hypnotherapy (natalhypnotherapy.co.uk) and mum to five boys.
‘Now imagine your child is with you. Allow your mind to wander – feel his or her presence and enjoy “being” with him or her. This is a wonderful way to focus on the positive times ahead.’
Express your feelings
Maggie Howell advises taking time once a week to write down how you’re feeling throughout your pregnancy. Note any changes or new thoughts and perhaps one thing you’re thankful for. ‘This will help you appreciate the present,’ she says.
Listen to music
Well-known studies back up the importance of prenatal music stimulation for babies, but music can be useful for mums-to-be too.
‘Planning time to listen to music can be relaxing, and aids mindfulness, which can help you feel grounded and in the moment,’ explains Josephine Cropper.
‘Choose any soothing track you like, or the CDs from psychologist Dr Mark Williams on finding peace in a frantic world (amazon.co.uk).’
It’s a good idea to use the same music to help you relax during labour.
Do a bedtime digital detox
Changing hormone levels, needing to pee more often and a growing bump can affect sleep in pregnancy.
By the third trimester, more than half of women suffer some form of pregnancy insomnia. Research has found that artificial LED light inhibits sleep-promoting neurons in the brain and the nightly release of the hormone melatonin, which aids sleep.
Make a pledge not to use any electronic devices in the hour before bed for some digital-free downtime.
Plan a treat every week
Those 40 weeks can drag, especially as you get further into your pregnancy. You may feel as though you’ll be pregnant forever but if you put a series of treats in the diary, you will find the weeks pass a little quicker.
From coffee with friends, to a long bath or buying a new book, make sure you have something to look forward to.
‘Pregnant women often get overlooked because all the focus is on the baby bump – so bring some focus back to yourself’
Make the most of being calm
In the urgency to meet our baby, it’s easy to forget that this is a unique time – and one of the last opportunities to take things easy for a while.
Wind life down as much as possible – while you still can. Watch movies, cook yourself delicious, healthy meals and sleep in late at the weekends.
During pregnancy, make as much time for old friends as possible. Once your baby is born, you will have less time to socialise, and you might prefer to spend time with new, new-mum friends. Strengthening your bond with old friends now will help them to be more tolerant.
Go out on date nights
You and your partner both created your baby, but when everything’s happening to just one person (that’s YOU), it can be hard for your other half to know what to do.
Focus on having fun with each other. What’s good for you and him is good for your baby too.
‘Pregnancy is a journey into the unknown’
Choose trusted advice
With so much information available online, and books galore promising how to be a perfect parent, mums-to-be can be left feeling confused and anxious. Choose your reading material carefully and stick to trustworthy sources like Mother&Baby.
‘Pregnancy is a journey into the unknown, so it’s normal for new questions or worries to emerge along the way,’ says Dominique Antiglio. ‘But you don’t have to read everything to find a satisfactory answer.’
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