Congratulations, you’re expecting a baby! You might be excited and have things under control, or you might be worried about what to do and where to go for help and support – or even a combination of all of those feelings. Today we’ll be discussing some of the support available to pregnant women and their families and where you can go to ask for specific help for your situation.
One of the first things you’ll need to do after you’ve confirmed your pregnancy is find a Lead Maternity Carer (LMC). Who this will be will depend on your circumstances and preferences. In New Zealand, most maternity care is provided by midwives, though you can choose a GP if they have been trained to work with pregnant women. Most maternity care in New Zealand is free of charge for those who are eligible – If you aren’t sure, you can check your eligibility here. You may also be able to choose a specialist doctor (such as an obstetrician), but this may be a charged service. It’s good to be aware, though, that no matter who you choose as your LMC, if they feel you need specialist care at any stage, they will refer you as needed. To choose a midwife, you can try a few things. Your GP may have a list of providers local to you, or you can try findyourmidwife.co.nz, a website created by the New Zealand College of Midwives. You can refine the results to not only find midwives local to you, but also by language and where you want to deliver your baby (home, a birthing unit, hospital, or no preference). This particular website is specific to New Zealand, but if you’re reading this from elsewhere in the world, have a look and see if something similar is offered in your country.
When you’re looking for an LMC, think about the things that are important to you and your pregnancy journey, and ask questions about your needs when you speak to care providers. You don’t have to choose the first person you find; what’s important is how comfortable you feel with the professional who will be taking care of you and your baby. And no matter who your LMC ultimately is, choosing them as early as possible means getting the possible continuity of care throughout your pregnancy, labour and delivery, and those important first few weeks.
Your LMC can help you with all your breastfeeding questions, and you might like to work through those gradually as your pregnancy progresses. There are also other resources – there may be people close to you, such as mum, aunties, friends or relatives who have experience and tips they can share with you. This shared knowledge is a valuable resource if you have it and means you can have a real range of people to ask for advice from in a relaxed setting. In addition to this, there are online resources you can access from the comfort of your own home. For example, Breastfeeding NZ have a range of videos to provide information about breastfeeding, from before your baby arrives to returning to work. Just remember - if you’re finding your own information online, make sure to check it is from a reputable source, and if you’re ever in doubt, confirm things with your LMC.
For some women, the first step in breastfeeding is antenatal colostrum expressing – this is when you express colostrum to store before your baby is born. There are a range of reasons you may want to express colostrum antenatally, but it’s important not to start without your LMC’s knowledge and approval, as nipple stimulation can bring on early labour. However, in some circumstances, your LMC may ask you to express and store colostrum in preparation for your baby’s arrival. In this case, you’ll need to store it somewhere safe. Haakaa has developed a 100% medical-grade silicone Colostrum Collector specifically for this situation. Since they are made of silicone, no plastic comes in contact with your baby’s precious first food. They’re effortless to clean and sterilise (just pop them in boiling water!), freezer-safe, and best of all, you can feed your baby your precious colostrum directly from the same container you’ve stored it in via the soft feeding nib – there is no need to transfer to a syringe or new container once you’ve collected it.
Nutrition can be difficult during pregnancy, especially when you’re struggling with nausea and morning sickness, food aversions, and just plain exhaustion. But it’s important to eat well, both for yourself and your baby. If you find you’re struggling to eat because of morning sickness, speak to your LMC or a doctor as soon as possible, as they will be able to work with you to overcome this.
In terms of what to eat, there are an array of guidelines. The Ministry of Health, through HealthEd, break the recommended healthy foods into four main groups, how many servings of each is recommended each day, and especially important, what a serving actually consists of. We’ve also got a handy blog here breaking those guidelines down, and we have a second blog here written by a professional midwife detailing the sorts of things that are best to avoid while pregnant.
It’s also important to keep your fluids up – water is best, though low-fat milk is also good. It’s good to let your thirst guide you and drink when necessary. As well as our aforementioned blogs, you can find more information on pregnancy nutrition by way of the Ministry of Health’s guidelines.
Some of you may be expecting multiples – twins or triplets (or even more!). This can leave you feeling more overwhelmed than usual and filled with questions about how to cope with having more than one baby at a time. The good news is that around the world, parents of multiples have banded together to provide support and encouragement while sharing their own experiences by creating support organisations such as Multiples New Zealand to help parents expecting twins or more. The pregnancy journey for someone expecting multiples can be quite different from that of a singleton pregnancy, so regardless of whether this is your first pregnancy or not, it can be worth getting in touch with your local organisation. They will be able to provide information about what to expect in conjunction with the information you’ll get from your LMC. If you are expecting twins/triplets, it is likely your care will be referred to a specialist obstetrician to deal with your pregnancy. No matter which decisions you and your midwife/LMC make, the people at multiples organisations have been through what you are going through, and they can be a source of great comfort as you navigate your way through what is probably an unexpected situation.