A to Z of pregnancy

Every woman experiences pregnancy differently and pregnancy is very often different for each baby. Indigestion and heartburn may have been a significant issue when carrying baby number one, but with baby number two the Gaviscon could sit in the cupboard, barely touched. Here's an alphabetical rundown of ways to stay healthy and happy while growing a baby!

A is for... anaemia.  Feeling tired? I mean, really tired, so it takes a huge effort to get off the couch? You may be suffering from lack of iron, because baby is depleting your iron supply to build up his own stocks. Anaemia is extremely common in pregnancy and a diet rich in red meat, wholemeal bread, cereals, eggs, spinach and dried fruit may not be enough. You’ll need to hop to your GP for an iron test while you still have the energy to hop.

B is for... boobs. Yes, they’re on the rise. Soon you’ll need to buy a bigger bra and in another couple of months it’ll be time to invest in maternity bras in preparation for the DD cups that burst forth disconcertingly just after baby arrives.
B is also for... bladder. The bladder is that part of your anatomy you’ll be all too aware of as your tummy expands. One of the less glamorous sides to pregnancy is the need for frequent trips to the loo. Even more embarrassing are the wee accidents that are common as a result of the muscles stretching in preparation for birth and the growing uterus putting pressure on the bladder. Coughing, laughing and jogging suddenly become high-risk activities. Try pelvic floor exercises.

C is for... constipation. Around 40% of women become constipated during pregnancy and hormones are often to blame. Increased progesterone slows down digestion, meaning food stays in your system for longer. Add to that, iron pills, which can often contribute to constipation and, in later months, your growing uterus putting pressure on the rectum.

D is for... diet. Say goodbye to sushi and soft cheeses because the list of foods not recommended in pregnancy is long (see it at Meanwhile your own tastes may have changed as soon as that little one makes his presence felt, and an urge for chocolate and chippies may be top of the list. But there are good reasons for curbing that urge. Latest research shows your pregnancy diet affects your little one’s taste buds. So if you reject carrots and beetroot in favour of a burger, there’s a good chance junior will reject the same, making your job that much harder when it comes to introducing solids. Besides that, you need extra vitamins and minerals because you’re now eating for two and it’s good to give baby the healthiest start you can.

E is for… emotional fall-out. Embarrassing meltdowns become the norm for many as they ride an emotional rollercoaster through pregnancy. Once again, raging hormones are to blame, add to that worries at the overwhelming prospect of motherhood and no wonder there are inappropriate floods of tears. But if it’s all getting too much talk to your GP or LMC.

F is for… folic acid. This little vitamin (B9) is one of the few supplements all health professionals will urge as the evidence is clear it helps avoid the risk of neural tube defects in babies. Folic acid has also been linked to a reduced risk of other defects such as cleft palate, certain types of heart defects and even autism. The important part though, is to start taking it well before (at least a month) you start trying to get pregnant and you need to keep taking 400mcg daily throughout the first trimester.

G is for… ginger. Ginger and morning sickness go together like horse and carriage. It’s not just hearsay, medical studies show ginger significantly reduces nausea and vomiting. But according to Auckland naturopath Leanne Pratt, you need to maintain levels of ginger in your system consistently. So, if you are drinking ginger tea, for instance, keep on sipping throughout the day. For an easy, cheap drink, simply grate a knob of fresh ginger into your teapot and add boiling water. Sweeten with honey if necessary.

H is for… heartburn. Heartburn and indigestion plague many pregnant women but there’s plenty you can do for that burning sensation.

  • Ginger, peppermint or chamomile tea after meals
  • Slippery elm capsules
  • Avoiding fatty or spicy meals. Banana and chocolate are likely triggers but try to figure out your own triggers so to avoid the worst culprits
  • Sleeping propped up on pillows or raising the bed head
  • Eating small quantities of food slowly
  • Chewing antacid tablets such as Gaviscon or Mylanta. These are fine to consume in pregnancy
  • If you’re really suffering see your GP about other options. 

I is for... itchy skin. About 20% of pregnant women complain of itchy skin, particularly in the third trimester. It’s said to be the result of pregnancy hormones and your skin stretching to accommodate the baby bump. The current advice is to moisturise regularly, using a mild, non-perfumed lotion and drink plenty of water. If you get desperate ask your doctor for oral antihistamines that are safe for use in pregnancy. In most cases, itchy skin is nothing to worry about but be aware of a rare condition known as cholestasis that’s dangerous for baby. Cholestasis is a pregnancy-related liver condition that’s characterised by intensely itchy palms and soles of feet. It signals the need for a quick call to the midwife.

I is also for... immunisations. Check if you need a rubella shot because you really don’t want to get German measles while pregnant. At the same time ask about the free Boostrix shot. Since the beginning of this year there’s a free shot for women who are 28 to 38 weeks pregnant. This is to protect their newborns against whooping cough in the first six weeks after birth, before they get their first round of immunisations.

J is for... juice. A great thing for hubby to buy you is an electric juicer so you can make a nutritious and delicious morning beverage to kick-start the day. Best to use organic fruit and vegies, though, to avoid a double helping of pesticides along with the vitamins. A small piece of root ginger is a great addition to your juice — especially if you’re suffering nausea. Apple, orange, banana and celery are also good stand-bys. To branch out, try beetroot, kale or spinach — now that’s a vitamin power burst that baby will love!

K is for... kit to take to the hospital. Packing your hospital bag is one of the more exciting jobs of pregnancy, particularly if it’s your first time. Don’t forget:

  • A camera
  • Snacks and a drink bottle
  • Lots of underwear
  • Moisturiser, hairbrush and make-up for the photosl Baby clothes, including socks, bootees, hats and nappies.

L is for… laughter. This is the best medicine for the trials and embarrassing moments of pregnancy. When waddling like an over-stuffed penguin, having just wet your knickers after a coughing fit or finding your ankles are too fat for your favourite boots, a giggle is your best defence. Glamour and pregnancy rarely go hand in hand so best to put aside delusions of elegance and revel in your newfound clutziness. 

M is for… massage. Not just a luxury, massage can relieve all manner of aches and joint pain common in pregnancy, particularly sciatic pain. It also eases fluid retention which leads to swelling in the hands, ankles and feet. It’s important to seek out a practitioner specialising in pregnancy massage as there are certain things to watch out for. Also, there are some essential oils that should be avoided and, before you go ahead with any massage, check with your LMC first. 

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N is for… napping. If you’re pregnant with your first child, afternoon naps should be top of the to-do list. If you already have a toddler, if at all possible, nap at the same time, though that’s easier said than done.

O is for… orgasm. Yes, pregnancy can give the big “O” an extra wow factor, thanks to increased blood flow coursing around the body. Now that’s “O” for awesome! While this sounds great, increased sensitivity in the genitals and breasts makes sex more uncomfortable for some women. And, quite frankly, between bouts of nausea, indigestion, feeling fat and having a huge bump to negotiate, you may want to forgo a bit of nookie in favour of a nice nap.

P is for… pelvic floor exercises. You know you should be doing them, because they offer all sorts of benefits, from avoiding those wee accidents when you cough, to making child birth easier. Pregnancy and child birth weaken the pelvic floor muscles, causing “stress incontinence”. This condition doesn’t just disappear after child birth either. One in three women suffer incontinence problems after baby is born. The trick is to do the exercises several times a day with 10 squeezes at a time. The hard part is remembering to do it. But if you spend a lot of time in the car, make this the time for: “pull up… hold… and release”. Go to for more information.

Q is for... quiet time. If you’re a first-time mum make the most of this time by looking after yourself mentally and physically. Fatigue is a well-known side effect of pregnancy, particularly in the first trimester. This is thought to be at least partly the result of a dramatic rise in the hormone progesterone. By the third trimester, you’ll again be feeling exhausted, as you’ll be carrying more weight and possibly suffering sleeplessness and pregnancy-related discomfort. Naps, lying on the couch and even meditation are just what the midwife ordered. Regular meditation not only calms the nerves while mentally preparing for baby, it can prepare you for child birth itself, making delivery less stressful and even less painful. For more go to

R is for... retail therapy. When pregnancy starts getting you down, go shopping! A flattering frock will make you feel good about yourself when you’re having a “fat” day. If your wardrobe is complete think about your impending arrival — that nursery won’t decorate itself, you know. There are so many gorgeous designs out there and some stunning furniture ranges. Don’t forget wall decals and mobiles — you may find your best purchases online.

S is for... stretchmarks. Unsightly stretchmarks are the cause of much heartache for mums and genes play a big role — if your mum got them, there’s a good chance you will too. Your best defence against stretchmarks is regular moisturising over the bump and avoiding gaining too much weight (easier said than done). Even if the telltale signs do start to show, these marks will fade and there is some evidence that medications such as retin-A can minimise the scarring. Or you can simply think of them as battle scars to be proud of.

T is for... teeth. Teeth can get sore in pregnancy and this is a sign you need to get to your dentist ASAP for your sake and your baby’s. Pregnancy is generally bad for teeth and gums (possibly as a result of lower immunity in mums-to-be) and research has linked gum disease to premature births so it’s important to get your teeth checked and cleaned. If you’re suffering from morning sickness it’s also really important to resist the temptation to clean your teeth after throwing up, as brushing can dissolve your teeth enamel made soft by stomach acids. It’s best to rinse your mouth with water or a small amount of baking soda in water to neutralise the acid effect and protect teeth.

U is for… ultrasound. Ultrasound testing provides valuable information on your baby’s wellbeing as well as some very cute snaps of that tiny being. Your first may be at six to eight weeks into your pregnancy but for many women the first will be for the nuchal fold test at 12 to 13 weeks gestation. The technician will also check your baby’s size, heart beat, the amount of amniotic fluid in the uterus and the location of the placenta. Ultrasounds are considered safe as there’s no evidence of any risks to mother or baby. You’ll have another ultrasound around 20 weeks where you’ll find out the sex of your child — should you wish to know.

V is for… vagina. That important piece of equipment “down there” is going to see some real action in a few months time and it’s not going to be pretty! So what can you do to prepare for the heavy-duty stretching involved in baby delivery? Pelvic floor exercises are said to make for an easier birth while perineal massage with a good-quality oil may help prevent tears (in both senses of the word). Starting around week 34, daily perineal massage may increase stretchiness in the skin, and thereby avoid tearing.

W is for… water. Raise your glass to H2O — you and baby will be better off with two or three litres of fluid daily. This can, of course, include juice, teas and other (non-alcoholic and decaffeinated) beverages. Strangely, if you suffer water retention or swelling in the hands and feet, drinking more water is again the answer. And drinking more liquids will also help keep at bay constipation, headaches, urinary infections, dry skin and, some say, even morning sickness. And we’ll all drink to that!

X is for… (e)xercise. You might find you can keep up your jogging and kick-boxing until well into the second trimester but listen to your body and don’t overdo it. “Safe” exercise includes swimming, gentle jogging, walking, yoga and Pilates. Look out for special classes for pregnant women such as aqua-jogging and pregnancy yoga.

Y is for… yawning. Sleeplessness in pregnancy is all too common — around 80% of women suffer it and it’s a problem that often gets worse as you approach your due date. Sometimes it’s because of the frequent trips to the loo or it’s the result of itchy skin, heartburn, cramps, discomfort due to the bump or baby seemingly performing back flips in your tummy. Whew, the list seems endless. Relaxation techniques are a good idea. Pregnancy massage specialist Samantha Thurlby-Brooks offers her top 10 tips for achieving maximum comfort when trying to get a good night’s sleep. 

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Z is for… zinc. This little mineral is one of those critical to the health of your baby and you need around 50% more than usual (11-12mg). Look out for a multi-vitamin such as Elevit which includes zinc. You can also get it from your diet by eating red meat, chicken, seafood, whole grains, cereals, legumes and dairy. Try to get plenty of calcium, folic acid, omega 3, iron and vitamins A, B and C. 


“A pregnant woman carries within her the finest piece of jade. She should enjoy all things, look at fine pictures and be attended by handsome servants.”

Chinese quote from Admonitions of the Instructress to the Court Ladies(500BC).




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