Healthy lifestyle = happy baby

The fifth week of pregnancy marks the start of one of the most rapid periods of growth for the tiny life inside you. You may be feeling sick already, or you may be feeling fine, both are totally normal.

Your baby’s heart is one of the first organs to develop and it’s already beating away, pumping blood around the tiny body. It’s the perfect time to think about your lifestyle and how the changes you make now can help you have a healthy pregnancy.

Even at this early stage, no two pregnancies are the same. Here, one mum tells us how she coped with the question of alcohol during that first flush of pregnancy.

I don’t have a problem, do I?

By day six after my missed period I’d taken three tests and each showed a progressively darker line. I felt sure I was pregnant. A friend of mine tested very early, even before she missed a period, and got a positive result but then she later started to bleed and it turned out that she’d had a chemical pregnancy (where the egg is fertilised but doesn’t implant). It was a horrible thing to happen to her and I was very relieved to be in week 5 of my pregnancy and progressing nicely towards week 6.

Going to work was a bit odd, because I wanted to scream it from the rooftops – I’m PREGNANT – but my partner wanted to wait a while. Coffee break chit chats were a definite struggle. Of course, I say coffee, but I actually switched to drinking tea because it had less caffeine in it. Some of my friends probably twigged then and there, when I refused coffee and went for tea.

I didn’t feel sick or tired by this point, in fact the only ‘real’ symptom that I had was sore breasts that felt a lot fuller than normal and I was weeing a lot too. I was pretty sure that nausea would follow, but at that stage I felt very well.

My only problem at that point was giving up my evening glass of wine. In week 5, I decided to make a list of things which would need consideration as I grew more pregnant. One of the first things was to overhaul my diet and concentrate on getting all the right vitamins and nutrients. That meant ditching fast food, alcohol and generally anything that was bad for me. My thinking was that if I started this early then it would quickly become a habit that was easy to stick to during the whole pregnancy.

Of course sometimes that’s easier said than done and I quickly realised how much I enjoyed my regular glass or two of ice cold Rosé when I got in from work. The first time I went to the fridge after the positive pregnancy test, my partner whistled at me and told me I couldn’t have it. I laughed, and happily put the bottle back, but after a few days I was beginning to get quite angry that I couldn’t have wine and I was starting to feel ropey and irritable.

It’s hard to say it now, but I found it really quite difficult to give up alcohol. My partner just stopped – like he just wasn’t bothered about it, but I struggled. In the end I went to talk to my doctor who told me all about alcohol and pregnancy, I learned that the first twelve weeks (first trimester) are when critical development of the baby’s brain, nervous system and things like neural tubes were taking place so a well-balanced diet was essential. She also told me what continuing to drink alcohol could do, especially early on in the pregnancy. It could mean I would miscarry or have a premature birth, or my baby would be born with a low birth weight. She said that whenever I drank, my baby drank too. It was frightening.

After that I tried to concentrate on eating as well as I could and getting lots of the helpful stuff –
Vitamin C particularly – so I tried to eat lots of blackcurrants, strawberries, green and red peppers, oranges and potatoes. I also discovered that some foods like bread, cereals and margarine were marked with an ‘F’ to show that they had extra folic acid added during the manufacturing process. This made it far easier to make sure that I reached the recommended 400 mcg (micrograms) per day to reduce the risk of birth defects such as spina bifida or a cleft palate. (Ideally you take folic acid before conception, but if not then as soon as you find out that you’re pregnant.)

In the end, it was trying to concentrate on eating all those really good things that helped wean me off the really bad thing. And my partner found some posh fizzy fruit drinks which he poured into a wine glass each night for me. It may sound daft, but it worked.

I knew I would have a ‘booking-in’ appointment with my midwife before the end of the first trimester and it felt a bit odd knowing that she was going to ask things like where I wanted to give birth, and if I had a birth plan, when my baby wasn’t even recognisable as a baby yet.

It did encourage me to think about these things though. And of course, I knew she would ask me about alcohol. By the time I booked in, I had more or less kicked my alcohol cravings. I still told her of the problems I’d had and how I’d drank a glass of wine almost every night leading up to conception, but at least by then we both knew I was coping with it and I was doing my best for the baby.

Important – If you or your child are unwell you should seek medical advice from a professional – contact your GP or visit an A&E department in an emergency. While My BabyManual strives to provide dependable and trusted information on pregnancy and childcare 24/7 via our website pages, we cannot provide individual answers to specific healthcare questions.