Are you a first-time mother? Here is everything you need to know
Finding out you're gonna be a mum for the first time can be a beautiful experience, but it can also be terrifying! Not to worry, the experience of being pregnant and being a first-time parent doesn't have to be a scary one. Below is everything you need to know about being a first-time mum, and things we recommend you use to keep yourself relaxed, happy, and healthy!
Being pregnant for the first time might bring up many questions for first-time mums. One of the most common questions with pregnancy is, how long will the pregnancy time be? Or possibly, how long have I been pregnant for? For many women, it can come as a surprise to find out they're pregnant! Luckily, there's a simple way to figure out how long your pregnancy time will be, and how long you've been pregnant for.
How long will the pregnancy time be?
The length of a pregnancy varies from woman to woman. In addition, no two women have the same bodies or menstrual cycles! Because of this, it's important to remember that there are only general guidelines for pregnancy time. On average, women will carry a child for 280 days, or roughly 40 weeks. This is a little over 9 months, however, most people use this 9 month timeline as a general timeline.
During these 9 months, women generally find out they are pregnant around the time of their first missed period, which is around week 5 or 6. If you have irregular periods, it can be difficult to find out right away whether or not you're pregnant, as you won't notice a missed period. This is why it's important to take a pregnancy test either at-home or at the doctor's office if you think you might be pregnant. Usually, it takes around 2 to 3 weeks after conception (where the sperm meets the egg) to become pregnant and have that egg attach to your uterus. Once this happens, signs and symptoms of being pregnant can happen as early as one week after pregnancy!
Signs and symptoms to look out for include:
- Sore breasts
- Spotting (usually light and pink)
- Mood swings
- Frequent urination
- Dark spots on the face
Although it's rare, some women might not have any signs and symptoms of pregnancy at all! However, according to the UK National Health Service, or NHS, most women start to feel symptoms of pregnancy within the first trimester, or first 12 weeks of pregnancy. There are three trimesters during pregnancy that have different time periods ranging from:
- First trimester- Weeks 1-12
- Second trimester- Weeks 13-28
- Third trimester- Weeks 29 to 40
It's important to make an appointment with a doctor as soon as you find out you are pregnant, if you have heavy bleeding or severe pregnancy symptoms such as frequent vomiting, or even if you aren't sure whether you're pregnant or not. Visiting a doctor can lower your chances of experiencing a miscarriage, which unfortunately happens in 10 to 15 percent of pregnancies. Although miscarriages can happen any time, they are most common in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Fortunately, there are many ways you can have a healthy and stress-free pregnancy! Finding out you'll be a first-time mum might be nerve-wrecking, causing stress, anxiety, and depression. This is especially true since your hormones during pregnancy are constantly changing.
To have a less stressful and healthy pregnancy, some tips you can follow include:
1. Prioritizing your body- Listen to what your body is telling you, and make sure you're putting your health and safety first. If you need to take some time off work, work less hours, or work from home, ask your workplace for accomodations.
2. Practicing mindfulness- Meditating is one of the best ways to practice mindfulness, and can also help you relax and unwind during your pregnancy. Audio-guided meditation is especially useful, in addition to prenatal yoga!
3. Use aromatherapy- Aromatherapy can be a great tool to help you reduce stress while also making your flat smell amazing! Aromatherapy candles and oil diffusers are a simple, yet effective way to distress.
4. Take childbirth education classes- Many times, the anxiety that comes with pregnancy is due to not knowing what to expect during childbirth, or beyond pregnancy. By taking childbirth and parenting classes, you can put your mind at ease about the labour and birthing process and eliminate this stress from your life.
5. Consider a Counsellor- Pregnancy can be a beautiful time, but if you feel like your stress levels are too much, or you have other mental health concerns, don't hesitate to reach out to a trained counsellor for help.
6. Continue to eat healthy and exercise- Unless you have a high-risk pregnancy or are told otherwise by your doctor, you can still continue to exercise and of course, eat healthy! During pregnancy, hormones and changes in your body can significantly increase your hunger and cravings! Exercising and eating a healthy diet can also help you avoid common medical complications that can result from pregnancy, such as pre-gestational diabetes and preeclampsia, or high blood pressure.
7. See your doctor regularly- Pregnancy is a natural process which women's bodies were literally made for! However, this doesn't mean you shouldn't get medical help during your pregnancy. It's important to continue to see your doctor regularly for all your check-ups and ultrasounds leading up to childbirth. During these checkups, your doctor can inform you about the health of you and your baby, and recommend any lifestyle or medication changes especially if you have pre-existing medical conditions.
Labour and giving birth
After you've gone through your 9 months of pregnancy, have followed up with your doctor, and practiced the above tips to relax and stay healthy, it's finally time to have your baby! This can be an exciting, yet stressful time for first-time mums and dads, so it's important to clarify a few things first about labour and giving birth. The first thing to note is that not every woman will give birth at exactly 9 months of pregnancy. Only 1 in 20 women will do so! Your doctor will more than likely give you a time frame of about one week for when your baby will be born.
In addition, babies can be born at 39 to 40 weeks (known as at term or term babies), or early or later than this. Babies born before prematurely are those that are born before 37 weeks of gestation. If you experience any signs of labour at or before 37 weeks, reach out to your midwife or doctor immediately for consultation.
According to the NHS, some signs of labour include:
- Contractions and spasms
- The "show" of mucus that comes away from your cervix
- Water breaking
- Feeling the urge to use the restroom and have a bowel movement
If you're having signs of labour, your midwife or doctor will make a treatment plan based on if your water has broken or not, or if your symptoms are caused by something else such as an infection. Don't worry if you're having early contractions or a premature birth! There are many medications and treatments your midwife and doctor can provide to help prevent medical complications from premature births, including injecting steroids to help your babies lungs, medicine to slow or stop the labour, or giving you antibiotics to treat any infections that are causing your symptoms.
In addition, if your baby is born prematurely, they will get help from a hospital in what is known as a neonatal unit. This neonatal unit will provide round the clock care for premature babies, who can survive premature births even at 24 weeks!
Just the opposite, babies can safely remain in the womb for weeks after the initial birth date. This is known as a prolonged pregnancy, and isn't necessarily dangerous. Rarely are babies born up to four weeks after the initial date. This is because your doctor will induce, or make the birth happen, at one to two weeks after the due date has past.
Will giving birth hurt?
Giving birth can be extremely painful, however, a recent survey done by the American Society of Anestheologists showing that almost half of all first-time mums said their labour wasn't as bad as they thought it'd be! During labour, women can have a natural birth, a birth done at home, or a c-section where the baby is taken out from an incision made in the abdomen. Your doctor and midwife will provide medical care, including pain medication, to help you through the birthing process.
Is giving birth dangerous?
Giving birth is now much safer than it used to be thanks to advances in science and proper medical care. In the UK, The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is constantly updating guidelines on what to do in case of complications during birth, such as hemorrhages. Overall, however, giving birth is a safe, albeit painful, yet manageable and beautiful experience!
Recovery after childbirth
After giving labour, you'll of course be enchanted and amazed by the birth of your baby, who will then be examined by medical professionals and given further medical treatment if necessary. This includes checking their vital signs, giving them vaccines such as a Hepatitis B shot before they leave the hospital, going through a newborn screening, weighing, and much, much more! Your doctor and midwife will be with you in hospital for 24 to 48 hours before you are discharged if you had a regular vaginal birth. If you had a C-section, you might stay between 3 to 4 days depending on your circumstances.
Immediately after child birth, your uterus will begin contracting, you will deliver your placenta after 5 to 30 minutes, and best of all, you will get to bond with your baby during the golden first hour after birth! During this time, it's recommended mums get skin-to-skin contact with their baby as much as possible. In addition, breastfeeding can also be done during this first hour while your baby is energetic and full of life. After breastfeeding, you might feel your nipples are sore or the skin around them is dry and chaffed. You can take balm with you ahead of time to help sooth this irritation, along with other items in a care bag before your delivery.
Having a care bag can help you during childbirth recovery at the hospital. You can take items including:
- Supportive bra or nursing bra
- Personal gowns
- Personal toiletries
- Cell phone
- Support underwear for C-Section aftercare
- Extra pillows
and any other items you think you'll need during your stay at the hospital!
Childbirth recovery will also be quite different and vary from woman to woman. Some women might find they feel just fine after giving birth, while other women might take some extra time to recover even after coming home.
Some signs to look out for that indicate you should go to the hospital after child birth include:
- Severe headaches
- Blurry vision
- Pain or tenderness in the legs
- Signs of infection at C-Section site, such as pus and redness
- Open c-section wound site
The period after child birth might also bring with it postpartum depression, which can be serious if left untreated. If you notice any signs of depression, such as crying fits, low mood, fatigue, and thoughts of harming yourself, seek medical care right away.
Thankfully, most women recover from childbirth in about 6 to 8 weeks, but it can take months to feel their physical best again. During recovery, take time to practice self-care, including taking baths that can help soothe pain from vaginal lacerations, using a body oil to treat stretchmarks and help nourish your skin, and taking some much-needed rest time and time off work to heal.
Breastfeeding and baby's burping
According to the CDC, breastfeeding is the best nutrition you can give your baby, as it is unique to your infant and provides a plethora of health benefits for your baby!
These benefits include preventing the following conditions in breastfed babies:
- Type 1 diabetes
- Severe lower respiratory disease
- Ear infections
- Sudden infant death syndrome or SIDS
- Diarrehea and vomiting
First-time mums should also be aware that breastfeeding has health benefits for them too, including:
- Lowering blood pressure
- Lowering risk of type 2 diabetes
- Lowering risk factors of ovarian and breast cancer
Breastfeeding can be done as early as the first hour after childbirth. If you need help breastfeeding, a lactation consultant from the Lactation Consultants of Great Britain can help you find the right method to breastfeed your baby. Although breastfeeding can be painful, using nipple cream, a breast pump, or switching to formula can help!
Babies will usually breastfeed for 6 months to a year, with the last 6 months incorporating new foods along with breast milk. Newborn babies will need to eat every 2 to 3 hours, taking in about half an ounce in the first few days of life, followed by one and then 2 ounces of milk. After 8 weeks, they will consume 4 to 5 ounces of milk every 3 to 4 hours, followed by 4 to 6 ounces at 4 months of age. At 6 months, they can consume 8 ounces of food every 4 to 5 hours, and afterwards begin to eat solid foods!
Babies are well-equipped to let you know if they're hungry. Crying, fussiness, and opening their mouth or reaching for your breast can all be signs that your baby is hungry. It's important to not overfeed your baby, especially if you are bottlefeeding them. Talk to your doctor about getting your baby a pacifier to prevent overfeeding issues like stomach pain, gas or vomiting.
In addition, you should burp your baby gently after feedings to make sure gas doesn't build up in their tummies, as they suck in air during feedings. To burp your baby:
1. Hold your baby over your shoulder while gently patting their back with a cupped hand until you hear them burp
2. Put your baby face-side down on your lap and pat their back this way
3. Sit your baby down on your lap while supporting their chest and chin with one hand, and patting their back with your other hand
Besides burping your baby, there are other hygiene regimens you will have to do with your baby. These include changing their diapers and learning how to run a newborn baby bath!
Basics of nappies
Nappies are a beautiful invention that help keep your baby clean and capture poop and urine from your baby. Nappies can either be disposable or made of absorbent cloth to capture waste material from your baby. Your child will need nappies from the time they are newborns up until they are toddlers and are sufficiently potty-trained. When choosing what nappies you will use, consider the following factors:
- Amount you will need
Generally, using cloth nappies will lead to bigger savings if you can re-use your nappies efficiently and even use them on your future children. It's cost effective to use nappies that are "one size fits all" instead of having to purchase new nappies every time your baby grows. These nappies can be made of cotton, hemp, or bamboo with a leak-proof shell over top. Nappies that are reusable can be cost-effective, however, they are time-consuming as you must wash them continuously. It's best to purchase about 25 to 30 cloth nappies if you decide to go this route.
Disposable nappies, on the other hand, are usually made of a plastic outer shell with absorbent materials inside. They come in various sizes for newborns up to toddlers, and can be quickly disposed of in the trash (never flushed). However, it can be pricey buying disposable nappies constantly, so it's best to buy them in bulk.
Whether you choose to buy cloth or disposable nappies, you must change them as soon as your baby has soiled them in order to prevent nappy rash or irritation to their bottoms. First-time mums, be aware that you can tell either by the smell, or if your baby is being fussy, that they have soiled themselves and need a changing. To change your baby:
1. Wash your hands before you change your baby's diaper to reduce the risk of infection
2. Gather your new nappy, any nappy skin ointment, wipes, and a disposable bag or have a trash can nearby
3. Lay your baby flat on their back on the changing table
4. Unfasten the nappy pins (in a cloth nappy) or tabs
5. Lift your baby's bottom up by grabbing their ankles and lifting them off the diaper, then sweep the diaper off them moving it towards you
6. Set the dirty diaper aside and wipe your baby with moist towelettes. Wipe girls front to back to avoid UTI's.
7. Place the new diaper with the tabs on the back side of your baby
8. Pull the front of the diaper between the baby's legs and fasten the tabs or cloth pin
9. Apply any nappy ointment your doctor has prescribed
10. Throw away rolled up diapers and disinfect the changing table
11. Wash your hands and that of your baby
All about bathing a newborn
If your baby has soiled themselves too much, it might be better to run then a newborn baby bath to clean up. The World Health Organization recommends delaying your baby's first bath 24 hours if possible, or at the very least 6 hours. Newborns can then take baths about 3 times per week afterward since they won't get dirty or need them much more than this.
To bathe your newborn:
1. Place them on a flat surface such as an infant tub that is kept clean
2. Do NOT submerge your newborn under water until after their umbilical stump has fallen off (1-2 weeks after birth)
3. Gently bathe your baby with a spongebath, using warm washcloths and minimal or no soap, as it can dry out and irritate their delicate skin
4. For girls, pay attention to their genital areas, and for all newborns, clean creases between their necks, legs, underarms and elbows
5. Use a non-scented baby bath in 4 to 6 weeks, and only water before that
6. Keep your baby covered in a towel and only expose areas you are washing to keep them warm
7. After their umbilical cord stump has healed, you can try to submerge them under warm water that fills about 2 inches of an infant tub
Soothing and putting the baby to sleep
Newborn sleep can last up to 16 hours a day, and over time, their schedule will be more and more consistent. At 3 to 4 months, they eventually sleep nightly for about 10 hours. Newborns can be lulled to sleep in a manner of different ways, including through cuddling, bathing, singing or reading to them. These are soothing things you can do as a first-time mum, and you'll eventually find what methods works best to relax your baby.
It's important to set your baby down in a small bassinet next to your room, as this can help you keep an eye on your baby and reduce the risk of SIDS. Other things to consider during your newborn sleep routine include:
- Being consistent, and developing a sleep routine that lets your baby know it's time to settle down.
- Diming the lights and limiting stimuli such as loud noises and TV before sleep
- Considering using a pacifier which can soothe your newborn and also reduce the risk of SIDS
- Removing soft items like blankets from the bassinet to prevent SIDS also
What all first-time mums need to know?
There's many things to consider being a first-time mum. The most important things are to practice self-care during your pregnancy and beyond. Self-care practices like pampering yourself in a bath and shower gel, meditating, and taking time to rest are all important. Afterward, it's important to know you can always reach out for support, whether that's through your partner, friends and family, your doctors, and even lactation consultants to help get you through the first stages of having a newborn.
How to prepare as a first-time mum?
No one is ever ready to be a parent, but that doesn't mean you can't prepare to be a first-time mum! Follow up with your doctor, prepare your nursery and items you will need after your newborn arrives. These can include things such as:
- Baby Nasal Aspirator
- Infant bathtub
- Medical supplies such as a rectal thermometer
- Blankets and toys
- Nappy ointments and creams
You should also continue to reach out for support from friends and family during your pregnancy. Following all these tips above can help you experience what it's like to be a first-time mum while staying stress-free, happy, and healthy!