Zita West has a client list including, Cate Blanchett, Kate Winslet and Davina McCall. Now the midwife, fertility expert, and acupuncturist offers her holistically inspired answers to some of the niggling worries you might have about your pregnancy.
Q: What is the best way to cope with morning sickness?
A: It's very important to keep blood sugar levels stable, so I advise frequent, small, healthy meals throughout the day which contain both protein and carbohydrates, rather than three large ones. In some cases morning sickness may be caused by nutritional deficiencies. Make sure you include foods that contain good levels of B6 and zinc in your diet by upping your intake of dairy products, dark green leafy vegetables and yeast extract, lean meats, wholegrain cereals, canned sardines and eggs. Try to rest as much as possible, avoid fatty or spicy foods and drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. Sometimes sipping ginger tea can help, and acupuncture can be useful (contact the Singapore Acupuncture Association for a reliable practitioner).
Q: How can I beat fatigue? I feel exhausted most of the time.
A: Tiredness can be a particular problem in the first trimester, when you may feel unbelievably tired and sleepy. Caused by pregnancy hormones, fatigue is often worse for women who are overweight, who are pregnant with more than one child, or who already have other children to look after.
However, feeling very tired and washed out may also be a sign that you have anaemia or another underlying condition - so do go and see your GP if you are worried.
The best solution is to rest as much as possible, though this is often easier said than done. Make sure that you are eating well. Small, frequent meals will keep your blood sugar levels up. Try to include plenty of iron-rich foods such as lean red meat and green leafy vegetables in your diet. Plenty of complex carbohydrates such as wholemeal bread, brown rice or pasta will give you energy. A good pregnancy multi vitamin and mineral supplement may help. Cut out caffeine, drinks with artificial sweeteners, and highly processed or refined foods as they may cause sleep problems.
Q: What should I eat during my pregnancy?
A In the early days of pregnancy a lot of women feel they're not eating as well as they did before they conceived. It's vital to include enough protein (for example, lean meat, fish, eggs, nuts and tofu) in your diet, as this is important for your baby's growth and development. Eat healthy snacks such as oat biscuits, seeds, hummus, dried apricots, figs and live yogurt, and avoid sugary, refined and processed foods. You don't need to increase your daily calorie requirements until the second and third trimesters when you need to include an extra 200-300 calories per day. (If you are pregnant with twins this should be an additional 600 calories per day.) Try to choose organic food wherever possible, and cut out salt, caffeinated drinks and alcohol. If you're concerned about your diet get advice from your GP or midwife.
Q: Do I need to take vitamin and mineral supplements, other than folic acid, during pregnancy?
A: My key piece of advice is to be aware of the importance of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) - a vital omega 3 fatty acid found in oily fish and flax seeds.
Statistics show that 8 out of 10 women are deficient in DHA before they get pregnant. DHA is vital in the first 12 weeks of your pregnancy for the development of your baby's brain and spinal cord. You cannot manufacture this essential fatty acid by yourself, so your unborn baby will take it from your richest source, your brain. Research shows that pregnant women who include DHA in their diet may be less likely to suffer from postnatal depression and it may also help to prolong gestation. The best sources of DHA are oily fish and flax seeds and oils. However pregnant women are advised not to eat more than two portions of fish a week because of possible mercury contamination, so supplementation will ensure your needs are met.
Q: I haven't had a good night's sleep since I became pregnant. Do you have any tips?
A Sleeping difficulties are common during pregnancy. You may find you are not able to relax fully in bed due to general discomfort, heartburn, leg cramps or worry about the baby. Some women have problems falling asleep followed by restless unrefreshing sleep with periods of wakefulness, leading to fatigue and irritability during the day.
I often encourage women to avoid all drinks containing caffeine and include calcium- and magnesium-rich foods - such as wholegrain cereals, nuts, seeds and dairy products - in their diet. Try to take regular, gentle exercise during the day and perhaps consider meditation, which will allow you to calm your mind. If at all possible, you should consider giving up work if you haven't already as this may be causing you unnecessary stress. Try a few drops of lavender oil in the bath in the evening and a special pregnancy pillow that may help to support you in bed. You could also try acupressure insomnia pads (available from some pharmacies) that many women find help to relieve sleeplessness.
Q: I've been suffering from splitting headaches. Is this normal during pregnancy - and what can I do about them?
A: Headaches do occur during pregnancy and can be caused by hormonal action or tension in the muscles of the head and neck as a result of poor posture during pregnancy. Spotaneous headaches might be caused by dehydration. There are several things that may help:
- Get plenty of fresh air each day.
- Take 20 minutes gentle exercise each day such as walking, swimming or yoga.
- Sleep and rest as much as possible.
- Drink plenty of filtered or mineral water.
- Try to reduce your stress levels.
- Do not take painkillers without seeking medical advice first.
- Report persistent headaches to your midwife or doctor, to rule out the possibility of anything more serious.
Q: Is there anything I can do to prevent stretchmarks?
A Stretchmarks tend to be congenital and no cream will ever prevent or get rid of them. However I do believe it's important to use a rich cream to nourish and hydrate the skin during pregnancy. Look for one that has mostly natural ingredients and is safe for use during pregnancy.
Q: I'm only 12 weeks pregnant but already I'm terrified about labour. Can you suggest any ways to calm me down?
A Don't worry it's quite normal. Many of the women I see are very frightened about labour. Try to focus on where you are at in your pregnancy rather than focusing so much on the delivery. Labour is such a small part of everything even though it doesn't feel like it at the moment. And how you prepare for labour can greatly impact on the kind of delivery that you have. Try not to work right to the end of your pregnancy. That way you'll have time to rest and store up the energy you'll need to get through labour. Prepare with classes such as pregnancy yoga and meditation that will help to build you into a pattern of remaining calm.
The best advice is to be as open-minded as you can about your labour. Don't listen to friends' or relatives' stories about pain or the number of hours or the amount of stitches they have had!