Depending on your circumstances – and whether or not your baby was planned – finding out you’re going to be a parent can be a wonderful, exciting, astounding or even terrifying experience.
After the initial excitement or shock wears off, first-time parents often start wondering if they are ready for parenthood. After all, becoming a mum or dad is a massive commitment and one which is guaranteed to change your life forever. Going from being a couple – or a singleton – to being a family requires more than a little adjustment.
At a time when you might already be feeling tired and emotional, it can seem like there’s too much to think about:
When you’re pregnant, you have two (or more) people to look after. Your lifestyle choices now have an impact on someone else too.
The Safer Pregnancy Wales campaign has key messages for expectant mothers:
Pregnant women are encouraged to understand their baby’s normal movements and to talk to their midwife about anything that is worrying them, including feeling low or depressed.
While the medical focus is on the expectant mother, this is an important time for both parents. If possible, attend antenatal classes together so you can prepare for the birth you want.
If either of you smokes, now is the time to give up. Smoking throughout pregnancy puts the mother and baby at a significantly higher risk of miscarriage, still birth, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (cot death) and low birth weight. Second-hand smoking also has adverse health risks to the newborn child.
Public Health Wales offers this advice to pregnant women during the lambing season.
Expectant mothers are now encouraged to make informed decisions about where and how they give birth. A birth plan gives you the opportunity to make it clear what you would like to happen and what you want to avoid. You don't have to have a birth plan, but your midwife will help if you want to write one.
Some things you might like to consider:
Where you give birth
- A labour ward where you will be cared for by midwives with medical facilities and doctors on hand if you need them.
- A midwifery-led unit where the focus is on birth without medical intervention.
- A home birth where the midwives come to your home and look after you during labour and birth.
Which: birth choice lists the maternity services in Wales (and is supported by the Royal College of Midwives).
Your birth partner – someone who will stay with you throughout your labour to give you emotional and physical support. Often this is the baby’s father, but many women opt for a close friend, partner or a relative.
Pain relief – there are many available options including gas and air, pethidine injections, an epidural, TENS machine, relaxation and breathing exercises or water immersion.
Your views about medical interventions, e.g. forceps and ventouse deliveries, Caesarean, episiotomy, etc.
While your midwifery team will respect your birth plan, you need to remain flexible should complications arise during the birth.
After the birth
If this is your first baby, you may find relatives and friends (even strangers) are desperate to offer advice. While their comments are usually well-meaning, remember current medical thinking is changing all the time on issues like the best sleeping position for a baby, breastfeeding and when to wean them.
Breast-feeding is now recognised as having important health advantages for both baby and mother and helps with mother-child bonding. La Leche and NCT run support groups for new mums.
It’s normal to feel tired, tearful and anxious in the early days; however if your feelings persist you may be suffering from post-natal depression. Talk to your GP or health professional to get the support you need.
Parenting: Give It Time helps parents to understand how a child develops from 0-5 years and contains lots of parenting tips.
For more information about pregnancy, birth and when your baby is born, visit NHS Direct Wales Pregnancy and Baby Guide.
Bump, baby and beyond contains lots of information for parents-to-be and new parents.
NCT runs antenatal classes and a helpline offering advice on all aspects of pregnancy and early parenthood.