It's possible to be pregnant, and have fun! Here's how you can survive this festive season...
Surviving the party season
Keep your stress levels down and always remember that you're pregnant, advises Xoli Makabane, a midwife in private practice at Linkwood Clinic in Johannesburg.
"Be honest with yourself and don't try to please other people by attending events when you're not feeling up to it."
East London gynaecologist and obstetrician Dr Robyn Spring agrees: "Scale down your obligations and this year, don't volunteer to host the Christmas lunch! Be sensible and listen to your body.
"The last thing you want is to land up in premature labour which, if you overdo things, can be a real possibility particularly in the last stages of your pregnancy."
Try to eat small meals more frequently rather than indulging in big portions, says Dr Spring. "Big meals will make you feel horribly bloated (especially as your uterus gets bigger and begins to press against your stomach) and can make heartburn worse."
One of the big drawbacks about being pregnant at Christmas in South Africa is that it's summer. No doubt you're already feeling the heat (pregnancy can make you feel hotter than usual), and it's very likely that your ankles and legs may swell due to water retention (this is known as oedema).
Dr Spring suggests drinking lots of water, staying off your feet as much as possible (avoid "standing only" cocktail parties or if you can't, try and find a handy chair) and if you're invited to a pool party accept immediately.
"The pool is one of the best places to be in summer when you're pregnant," she says.Before a big night out...
"Have a cat nap in the afternoon," recommends Dr Spring. "You're likely to feel incredibly tired by the end of the day, and you'll enjoy yourself more if you've had a rest."
If you're in your second trimester you may find yourself with a little more energy but, still, don't be tempted to overdo it.
When choosing what to wear, avoid being ultra-cool and trendy and slipping into your killer heels, says Xoli. "You'll pay the price later in an aching back, legs and feet (ligaments soften during pregnancy so it's much easier to injure your back).
Plus, since pregnancy can affect your sense of balance, you could trip and fall and possibly injure yourself." Have something healthy and filling to eat before you leave, advises Cape Town dietician Megan Pentz-Kluyts.
"You'll be less likely to tuck into something you'll regret later." Healthy snacks include low-fat muffins, fresh and dried fruit, low-fat yoghurt, fruit smoothies, crackers with low-fat cheese, popcorn or a sandwich with low-fat filling.
For those of you in your first trimester, you've probably already realised morning sickness does not occur only during the morning. If you're still feeling decidedly grim in the late afternoon, snack on some dry salty crackers, ginger biscuits and/or pretzels.
Eat slowly and take small bites. Pop some crackers and a bottle of sparkling water or ginger beer into your bag.It's party time
If you're normally a social drinker and smoker, try and avoid parties where you'll be tempted to indulge, cautions Xoli.
"If you're making an effort to avoid alcohol and cigarettes during your pregnancy the last thing you want is to possibly trigger old habits."
Incidentally, passive smoking can also have a detrimental effect on your baby's development so try and stay away from the smokers' corner at parties.
Experts generally agree you should drastically cut down on the amount of alcohol you drink during your pregnancy, if not avoid it entirely.
Dr Spring says more and more research is indicating that even a tiny amount of alcohol can be toxic to a developing foetus – and certain women may be affected during pregnancy more than others. As a result of this, she advises her patients to avoid alcohol completely during their pregnancy.
If you do find it hard to resist a glass of champagne though, then have one, says Xoli. "But stick to one glass." If you're only a few weeks pregnant and aren't ready to announce your news to the world by ordering orange juice, then fake it.
"Order a ginger-ale," suggests Dr Spring. "It looks alcoholic and as an added bonus, the ginger may help with nausea!" You don't have to look like a party pooper if you avoid alcoholic drinks.
Plan ahead and come up with some options that won't leave you feeling deprived: non-alcoholic champagne, a Virgin Mary (a Bloody Mary with tomato juice, a dash of Worcester sauce, a dash of Tabasco and a twist of lemon but minus the vodka) or a juice spritzer (fruit juice mixed with sparkling water or lemonade) for instance. Even sparkling apple juice can look decidedly festive in a champagne glass.
If you're feeling nauseous, stand in a well-ventilated area (by a window or door) well away from the kitchen or any other area where food is being cooked.
Avoid fermented cheeses (such as Blue, Brie and Camembert), undercooked fish (including sushi) pork and chicken (in South Africa, though, you can still have your beef and lamb rare).
Also avoid any dish (such as rice) that may have been standing for a while in the hot sun," advises Dr Spring. "Basically, unless you know something is freshly cooked or just out of the fridge it's probably best to avoid it as it may contain bacteria which could harm your foetus."
Megan adds that skipping meat pâtés, liver and the all-time favourite party food – "the mystery meat" – is also a good idea. "In fact, delicatessen foods and ready-prepared salads, both of which are potential sources of bacteria, are best avoided altogether."
So what can you eat? "At a cocktail party, opt for crudités (raw vegetables), mini-pizzas, sandwiches with identifiable fillings and hard cheeses with crackers," suggests Megan."
At a buffet, choose well-cooked identifiable food that hasn't been standing on the table for hours.
Try and avoid tempting calorie-laden, high-fat snacks such as sausage rolls, chips and nuts. But if you can't resist, don't beat yourself up.
Put a few items on a plate (along with some healthy tidbits) and then move far away from the food table so you'll be less tempted! Incidentally, too much salt can contribute to the swelling and puffiness many pregnant women experience.
A word of advice: avoid gas-forming foods like cabbage and beans, which can cause flatulence. Pregnancy hormones can cause crucial muscles to relax and you may find yourself in a rather embarrassing situation!
Don't deny yourself Christmas goodies because the chances are you'll end up rebelliously over-indulging. Give yourself permission to eat whatever you like but stick to small portions and try and eat as healthily as possible the rest of the time.
Remember the 80/20 principle. Try to eat healthily 80% of the time and the other 20% won't matter nearly as much.
If you're boogying away on the dance floor and someone bumps into your tummy, don't panic. "It's very unlikely that it could cause a miscarriage," says Dr Spring.
"The amniotic fluid surrounding the foetus provides a lot of protection and in the first three months of your pregnancy, the baby is in your pelvis anyway not your tummy."
She warns though that falling down a flight of stairs (which could happen if you succumb to those killer heels) or being involved in a car accident (always a possibility particularly during the festive season when drunk drivers abound) could be much more serious.
"If you're the slightest bit concerned, especially if you're having cramps or show any signs of bleeding then contact your doctor or the nearest hospital as soon as possible."
An excellent reason (and excuse) for avoiding parties where you'll be standing around for ages is varicose veins. Pregnancy hormones can cause blood vessels to soften and certain women are more susceptible to developing varicose veins than others.
If you suddenly develop a headache (typically more common in pregnancy) be careful before accepting any medication from a sympathetic soul. Certain medication is contra-indicated during pregnancy as it may harm the foetus.
Rather carry some paracetemol with you. And, if you do suffer from migraines, ask your doctor for advice on what medication you can take – and carry it with you. Parties can exacerbate or even cause a migraine.
Certain natural remedies such as Echinacea should also be avoided during pregnancy, so don't be led astray by some misguided soul at the party who thinks you need a health boost.
Upon arrival, immediately find out where the nearest loo is. Your growing uterus will be exerting pressure on your bladder so you'll find yourself frequenting the ladies room!The morning after
After a late night, try and rest as much as possible the following day, suggests Dr Spring. "Plan well, so that you have ample days off in between the socialising to take it easy."
Xoli agrees. "You don't want to isolate yourself too much but be selective about the events you attend." If you've over-indulged and are suffering from heartburn, prop yourself up on a mound of pillows, turn on the TV or grab some reading material (to distract you) and pop an antacid. This will pass – promise!If you're heading off on holiday
Take a full history of your pregnancy with you, including your doctor's name and contact details, your due date, blood results and any complications, advises Dr Spring.
If there are any unexpected complications and you go into labour far from home, you'll make things much easier for the doctor on the other side. It's also a good idea to find out where the nearest hospital is. Before you head off to areas unknown check with your local travel clinic.
The water supply in certain areas may be contaminated and, in some parts of the world, bottled water can also be contaminated. If this is the case, experts suggest taking your own means of water purification.Call your doctor if you experience...
- A decrease in foetal movement
- Any vaginal bleeding or any
- leakage of water from the vagina
- Signs of pre-eclampsia.
This is a serious condition that can occur in late pregnancy. If left untreated it can be life-threatening for you and your baby.
Warning signs include raised blood pressure, a severe headache with stars at the edge of your vision, severe epigastric pain – at the top of your tummy–sudden excessive weight gain, puffy ankles and hands and protein in the urine.
Regular clinic or doctor's visits during your pregnancy should pick up the warning signs in enough time to do something about it.Foetal alcohol syndrome (fas)
Avoiding alcohol when you're pregnant – or cutting down drastically – may make you feel like a party pooper. But it's worth it.
South Africa has one of the highest rates of FAS in the world. FAS can have drastic consequences for your baby and lead to facial abnormalities such as cleft palate and hare lip, heart defects, developmental delays, abnormal limb development and lower than average intelligence.
Incidentally, research has shown that binge drinking even once or twice during your pregnancy can have as serious effect as heavy drinking on a regular basis. If you do drink, UK experts recommend a maximum of one or two units, once or twice a week.