Can I still dye my hair? Can I still do yoga? Why am I huge? Can I eat ricotta? Is that my waters breaking, or did I just ...
If you’ve been pregnant, chances are, you’re familiar with all of these questions. And so many more. There’s no way around it – pregnancy is rife with anxiety. While it’s undoubtedly exciting, it can also be one of the most confusing times in a woman’s life, thanks to the sheer amount of change taking place in our bodies and the extraordinary amount of information (and misinformation) available on the internet. To help combat some of these questions comes 9 Months, a welcomed addition to our bookshelves. 9 Months has been written by an Australian country obstetrician and father, Dr David Addenbrooke, who in his daily practice sees women of all ages with widely varying conditions, as well as a health scientist and mother, Ruby Matley. They have combined forces to provide clear, compassionate and up-to-the-minute advice for soon-to-be mums and dads, and we couldn’t be happier about it. (We simply wish it had been released a decade ago.) We spoke to Ruby about common pregnancy questions and misconceptions, how to navigate life and partnerships pre-and-post birth and how women can prepare for the most exciting, daunting and life-changing moment of their lives … Motherhood. For mums-to-be, look no further: this is your must-have guide to pregnancy.
Can you tell us a little about 9 Months?
9 Months is an easy, comprehensive guide for Australian women wanting the latest advice from a medical expert as well as practical reassurance and emotional support from myself, a mother of two, during the sometimes scary but often wondrous, months of pregnancy.
We love the fact that you’ve merged advice from two people with vastly different experiences - with yourself being a health scientist, and Dr Addenbrooke, who is an obstetrician. What sparked this idea, and how did your partnership form?
Dr Addenbrooke was my OB/GYN during my first pregnancy. The idea came about around six months after having my daughter Quinn and I approached David with the idea. I saw that there was a gap in the market for a book that gave insight into the medical side of pregnancy that delved into the emotional and practical guide for a modern mother. This book is the first for Australian women by Australian authors in over 20 years!
For a first-time mother, pregnancy can be really overwhelming. What’s the first thing you suggest a woman does when she finds out she’s pregnant? (Beyond telling her partner, of course!)
There are a few things that a woman can do when she finds out she is pregnant. Book in to see your doctor or midwife. Write down the first day of your last period (if you can remember). Start taking a pregnancy multivitamin that contains folic acid and of course don’t forget to celebrate with the people you feel most comfortable telling.
How do you suggest women determine whether a midwife/public/private/etc option is right for them?
When it comes to deciding whether to choose private/public or going through the midwife clinics, it is purely a personal decision. There are both positives and negatives to each option however, choosing a good team of people that you trust and that you feel most comfortable with is important. It is worth taking into consideration proximity of the hospital to where you live for appointments as well as the costs associated with both public and private.
What are some of the most common concerns pregnant women have? (And how would you respond to them?)
There are so many common concerns that pregnant women may have. These can range from; Is an ultrasound safe for my baby? Can I travel whilst pregnant? Is it safe to sleep on my back? How do I know if I am in labour? I am feeling anxious about childbirth, and the list goes on. I would suggest not searching the internet for answers, it is always best to turn to your team whether that is your doctor or midwife when it comes to concerns about your pregnancy. We have answered all the common concerns in our book in the hope that it will help alleviate any anxieties you may be having.
What are some of the most common misconceptions people have about pregnancy?
There are many but one that sticks out most, is the misconception that you have to wrap yourself up in cotton wool whilst pregnant. It is perfectly safe to exercise, swim, work and have sex even in those early weeks of pregnancy (unless your doctor has specified otherwise).
What tips do you have for pregnant women who are experiencing fatigue, morning sickness or body aches?
Some tips for fatigue, morning sickness and body aches would be to rest as much as you can, eat well, do low impact exercise, drink lots of water to stay hydrated and for nausea – ginger tea, ginger ale, ginger tablets (yes, it helps!).
Can you talk a little about diet during pregnancy?
Pregnancy is the perfect time if you aren’t already to make a conscious effort to eat healthily. Choosing foods that are nutrient rich which include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, dairy products and proteins will ensure you receive adequate nutrients, vitamins and minerals for you and your growing baby. I am a big believer in ‘everything in moderation’. It is good to familiarise yourself with food safety during pregnancy and the importance of food storage, cooking meat and eggs thoroughly, avoiding raw meats & fish and unpasteurised dairy products to help reduce the risks of salmonella and listeria.
What about exercise? There is so much conflicting advice … What’s off limits? And what do you recommend?
For me, exercising during pregnancy was not only about the physical benefits but the mental benefits that it provides. Exercise is safe to do during pregnancy. The safest forms of exercise are walking, water aerobics, swimming and light weight training. I highly recommend swimming particularly in the third trimester to help with aches and pains. It is important to avoid activities that may cause injury or have a high risk of falling such as horse riding or skiing.
How did your first and second pregnancies differ?
I was very cautious during my first pregnancy. I would read constantly and want to know everything there was to know about pregnancy. I also made a conscious effort to be more relaxed and make time for self-care. My second pregnancy mostly involved chasing after a very active toddler, being nauseous for the first 20 weeks and writing our book ‘9 Months’. I was certainly less anxious as I knew what to expect and what all the aches, pains & cramps meant.
How do you recommend first-time mothers best prepare themselves and their bodies for birth?
I highly recommend learning to meditate (there are loads of apps out there) for relaxation and breathing techniques. It is also a useful tool for motherhood. Perineal massage is said to be beneficial. Discuss a birth plan (knowing that they don’t always go the way we plan) with your partner or support person to identify what is important for you both.
What about preparation for the postpartum period?
Preparing and being organised for the postpartum period will help to make the transition of bringing your baby home smoother. To help ease the transition consider packing your hospital bag, preparing frozen meals, setting up a comfortable space for breastfeeding, organising care for your pets, a sleep space for your baby and a kit that contains necessary items such as breast pads, maternity pads, bottles, nappies and wipes.
Are there particular courses you recommend women undertake before birth?
Most hospitals or government-run health centres usually have antenatal classes that you and your partner or support person can attend and I thoroughly enjoyed attending these during my first pregnancy. There are many courses out there such as calm birthing or hypnobirthing which are all said to be beneficial and helpful in preparing for birth however, it is purely a personal choice if you choose to undertake these.
Is there anything you recommend to start creating a beautiful bond with your baby during pregnancy?
Try and make time to connect with your baby along the way. It may be a simple as massaging your bump, talking or singing to your baby, taking photos at different stages of the pregnancy, or giving your baby a nickname.
Pregnancy (and particularly parenthood!) can put a strain on relationships. How do you recommend we connect with our partners in this time?
It is important to spend time together as a couple and enjoy the simple things that will become somewhat of a rarity once your baby comes along. This may be making time for dates, cooking dinner together, going to the beach or park, organising and planning together as a team or taking a babymoon.
What has been the most surprising part of motherhood for you?
How well I have been able to function on limited sleep. I was always one for getting 9-10 hours a night and I haven’t had that for the past 3 years! I am most surprised at how many incredible relationships I have formed with people since becoming a mother, it really is a community of its own.
What’s one piece of advice you would pass on to all mothers?
Try and make the time for YOU, without the mum guilt. Fill up your ‘self-love tank’ by doing the things that you enjoy even if it is only for 10 or 20 minutes a day.