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Perhaps you haven’t been able to keep your eyes open over the last week? Maybe you’re even feeling the beginning of breast tenderness, or hints of nausea?

You pluck up the courage to take a test, and as you see those two blue lines appear, the realisation hits you – you’re pregnant! 

Congratulations! Here begins one of life’s most wonderful adventures!

Early pregnancy can be a time of real excitement and joy, but it can also be a time of anxiety and of constantly analysing what you are – or are not – feeling.

At Juno we’d love to take the worry out of the early weeks of pregnancy for you, so that you know exactly what to expect, and can fully embrace the beauty of the experience!

Once you have a positive pregnancy test it’s important to get in touch with a Midwife. 

Some will choose to access a Midwife via their GP, however you can make a self-referral to your local midwives, just by dropping them a text or email! 

Your GP surgery or local children’s centre will be able to advise you of the relevant contact details. Alternatively you should be able to access a self-referral form via the website of your chosen hospital.

There are many symptoms associated with early pregnancy, here we’ll take you through the most common.

Tiredness 
This is not your average tiredness. This is an exhaustion which can make it difficult to get out of bed in the morning, and to complete even your normal daily routine. You may find your eyelis closing as soon as you sit on the sofa, and in fact this is a common prompt for women to begin to consider that they might be pregnant. There is a huge amount happening in your body in early pregnancy, and all of that takes a lot of energy. Do only what you have to, and rest whenever you can, it’s the perfect excuse to leave the household chores to someone else – you’re already working hard growing your baby!

Nausea & vomiting
Often called ‘morning sickness’ which is a misleading title because some find that the nausea lasts all. day. long. Some women will experience nausea only, others may regularly vomit.

This typically begins at around 6 weeks of pregnancy and will generally last until around week 12. It can be a tough time both physically and emotionally, especially as people may not even know that you are pregnant and so you may be trying to carry on as ‘normal’.

Focus on managing symptoms day by day and do ask for help from loved ones if you’re struggling.

This is a fairly common symptom and is not a cause for concern unless the vomiting is severe enough to mean that you cannot tolerate water, which can lead to dehydration. 

In this instance you should see your GP for advice.

Breast tenderness
This is another very common symptom of early pregnancy. Some will notice that their breasts grow noticeably even in the early weeks, or that their nipples may darken, and veins in the breast become more prominent. These are all signs of your body responding to the hormones of pregnancy, and the beginning of preparation for breastfeeding. Make sure to wear a soft supportive bra, and avoid underwires which can increase discomfort.

Needing to wee – a lot!
Even in the very early days and weeks there are enormous changes happening in your womb and so its quite common to feel that you need to pass urine more frequently, as the womb grows and pressure on the bladder increases. You’ll get some relief from this at about 12 weeks, as your womb moves up out of your pelvis – although I’m afraid that symptom makes definite return in the 3rd trimester!

Changes to your sense of smell & taste
Scents that you would normally love or not even notice may now seem overpowering to you. You might spray on your favourite perfume as you usually would and then find yourself running straight to the bathroom to wash it off again!

Equally you may find that foods you enjoy just wont taste the same, or even that you have a continual strange taste in your mouth. It can be unsettling to feel that everything is changing but bear in mind that this is just a stage, nothing permanent, and before long you’ll be enjoying all of your favourite things once again. 

Your first appointment with a Midwife is known as your ‘booking appointment’ and should ideally happen before you are 10 weeks pregnant.

This will likely be the most in depth appointment of your entire pregnancy and your Midwife will ask a huge number of questions about you, your partner, your own medical history as well as that of your family. You may need to brush up on any family medical history ahead of that appointment! 

Midwives offer holistic care and that means they’re not just interested in the physical aspects of your pregnancy, but also how you’re feeling emotionally, and what kind of support network you have around you. Some of the questions are of a very personal and sensitive nature, so while you’re welcome to have someone accompany you to the appointment, it’s wise to carefully consider who.

Your Midwife will also spend time discussing diet, vitamin supplements, as well as screening and diagnostic tests that are recommended in pregnancy, It’s important you have a good understanding of any tests that you are offered before they are carried out.

Whatever the early weeks of pregnancy bring your way, remember that Midwives at Juno are just a text away to answer any questions that you may have.

There are so many new things we need to learn as parents. You have to become an expert on all sorts, including the array of coughs, cold, and bugs that your child will inevitably pick up in their early years. In this situation, knowledge is power; knowing how to care for your child when they feel unwell and what signs mean medical support is needed, is invaluable. Here, I outline the 5 illnesses that sound more sinister than they actually are and outline what you need to know about them. 

Hand, foot and mouth disease

This ominous sounding disease can often conjure up thoughts of foot and mouth disease – a completely different, much more serious condition that occurs in farm animals. In contrast, hand, foot and mouth is an extremely common childhood illness that many little ones catch. Whilst it’s not very pleasant, it normally clears up on its own within 7 to 10 days. 

The first signs of this disease might be a sore throat, a temperature above 38C, and a lack of appetite. This then develops into ulcers or sores in the mouth and a rash or blisters on the hands and feet. It can be uncomfortable for children and can also be passed on to adults, (whose symptoms can be more serious – my toenails fell out after my son got hand foot and mouth!). The mainstay of treatment is to drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated, whilst your child’s immune system fights off the virus. Cool drinks, soft foods, and liquid paracetamol can all help ease discomfort. 

You only need to seek help from a doctor if: symptoms don’t improve after 10 days, your child appears dehydrated, or if they present other symptoms that don’t fit the normal description. If you’re pregnant there are some additional risks, so you could also consult your GP if that’s the case. 

Febrile convulsions

Febrile means a fever (anything above 38 degrees) and convulsion means to have a seizure or fit. When some children between the ages of roughly 6 months to 5 years get a sudden, high fever it can cause some of them (about 1 in 20) to have a seizure. The cause of this is still unknown.  A febrile convulsion can be extremely scary, but try not to panic. 

How should you manage this? 

If your child has been running a high temperature and starts to seize (which typically sees their limbs go stiff and the body jerk), place them in the recovery position on the floor, stay with them, and don’t try to put anything in their mouth. If safe and possible for you to do so – time how long the seizure lasts, and take a video recording of it, as this can be helpful for doctors.. Most stop within 5 minutes.  It will then be normal for your child to be sleepy for a while after the seizure 20-60mins (on average).

  1. If it’s your child’s first seizure or it looks like it’s lasting more than 5 minutes, I’d advise calling 999 and going to your local A&E.
  2. Don’t try and bring your child’s temperature down quickly (such as by putting them in a cold bath). If your child is going to have a febrile convulsion, you cannot prevent it.
  3. They should only have one in a 24hr period, so if they have more, then once again please go to your local A&E

The vast majority of febrile seizures aren’t a cause for long-term concern and are actually caused by things like viral upper airway infections and ear infections, which don’t normally need antibiotics. However, a small portion may be caused by things like urine infections which will need antibiotics. So, if your child has a febrile convulsion and it’s not clear that they have a sore throat, ear infection, runny nose, etc. then I’d advocate seeing your doctor for a urine test and general check up. 

Only 50% of one year olds go on to have any more febrile convulsions after their first. Having a febrile convulsion in itself does not mean your child has epilepsy.

Viral exanthem

It might sound like something from Dr Who, but a viral exanthem is simply a rash caused by a virus. They are incredibly common in kids. There are a huge number of viruses that cause rashes to appear, but most are fairly benign and will go away on their own.  

A liquid antihistamine can be used if the rash is causing irritation. If the symptoms don’t clear up naturally within 72 hours, get significantly worse, or it appears to be another, more serious form of rash (such as those associated with meningitis), it’s important that you contact a medical professional.  Remember to perform the glass test – press the side of a clear glass firmly against your child’s rash.  If the rash does not fade under pressure, be sure to seek urgent medical assessment.

If you’re unsure if the rash is a cause for concern, but you’re keen to speak to a professional, I’d recommend intermediary services. These include NHS 111 or apps like Juno, where you can speak to a trained professional quickly and get advice on next steps.

Gastroenteritis

Incredibly common in adults, children and babies, gastroenteritis is a bout of vomiting and diarrhoea  which is often caused by a viral infection or stomach bug. Although unpleasant, it’s typically not serious and shouldn’t last longer than a few days. 

Aim to keep your child hydrated, encourage lots of rest, and let them eat what food they fancy (dry toast or crackers tend to be a good place to start). If you’re concerned about your child becoming dehydrated, a pharmacist can help you find oral hydration solutions (such as dioralyte) that might help. 

Vomiting normally only lasts 1-2 days, on average, but the diarrhoea can last up to 1-2 weeks. If either lasts for longer, or your child is unable to keep down any fluid or is showing signs of dehydration (you will know this because they won’t be weeing much or at all), it’s time to speak to a doctor. 

Oral allergy syndrome (OAS)

Oral allergy syndrome (OAS) is what happens when your child experiences irritation in their mouth after eating certain types of fruit or fresh vegetables (tomatoes are a very common cause of this). Whilst certain allergies can be extremely serious and sometimes life threatening, this is very rarely the case in oral allergy syndrome. 

OAS happens because the child’s immune system is mistaking the proteins in the food for pollen, triggering a mild allergic reaction. This can cause itchiness, discomfort and redness in and around the mouth and throat (children often say it makes their mouths feel ‘furry’ or ‘fuzzy’) that should dissipate soon after eating. Cooking the same fruit and vegetables before eating often stops this reaction.

If the rash and itching bothers them, you give your child a non-sedating antihistamine (always check the label). However, if your child’s face, lips or tongue starts to swell, they feel dizzy, look or feel unwell, or they have any difficulty breathing, call 999 immediately as they may be suffering from anaphylaxis which is much more serious. 

If you have been following a healthy exercise programme before you became pregnant then it is usually safe to continue with it throughout your pregnancy.  Your midwife, at booking, will discuss lifestyle and exercise with you.  However, if you have been attending a gym or classes then you should let your instructor know that you are pregnant now so that modifications can be made.

One exercise you can safely take up is Tai Chi (gentle moving meditation) and its’s sister Chi Kung (Chinese yoga or the art of energy cultivation).  Both of these ancient Chinese practices promote deep relaxation and improved mental focus. The movements are adaptable and can be practised while walking, standing or sitting.  Tai Chi is a martial art and a form of Kung Fu but do not let this put you off. 

What is it?

The type of Tai Chi I learned focused on energy management and improving health and wellbeing.   It used repeated flowing circular movements and visualisations to harmonise body and mind.  The emphasis was on balance and using the breath to create a sense of calm within.  As a student my Chinese Teacher used to say that in learning the form (i.e., the series of steps and sequence of hand and foot co-ordinations, that the hardest part was learning the transitions, when one flow of movement changes to another flow or form.   I believe it is the same with the birth process.  Very often, it is just before the birth that mother’s to be want to stop and give up.  The sensations within the body can become intense and we become aware of a change being imminent.  Tai Chi helps us recognise that even when there is intensity there is also calm and flow.

Why do it?

Exercise does not have to be intensive to be beneficial, it can be something gentle that you do for you and your baby for twenty minutes each day.  As you nourish and take care of your body, you are doing the same for your baby.  The gentle swaying motions of Tai Chi and circular movements, encourage good posture and deep connection to your body’s energy system or chi.  Tai Chi makes you aware of your surroundings but it also encourages you to dive deeply within and connect with your body and its’ own healing mechanisms.

In pregnancy, your centre of gravity changes and both Tai Chi and Chi Kung can help build core strength and balance.  Care is taken to warm up all parts of the body in turn, so that optimum circulation is achieved.  This can help improve swelling and lymph drainage. The gentle circular pelvic rotations promote mobility, thus helping prevent backache and teaching you to tune into your body for labour.    Breathing in a slow gentle rhythm in time to a series of gentle repeated movements stills the mind.  There is evidence to suggest that Tai Chi and Yoga combined can help prevent depression in the antenatal period.

Birth is a time when we need our strength and to be able to draw on our inner mental focus and intuition.  The guided relaxations and moving mediations within Tai Chi encourage a calm gentle contemplation and teach a sensitivity as to when to move and when to rest.  I was not pregnant when I first discovered Tai Chi and Chi Kung but both these practices helped me through an extremely stressful time in my life. 

They became a way for me to access inner resources and balance.  

What will I learn?

In Tai Chi and Chi Kung, we learn to focus on an area called the “dantian”, which is approximately three finger widths below the belly button.  Known as the “golden stove” in ancient Taoist texts, the dantian in Chinese medicine is regarded as being the foundation of balance, breathing and full body awareness.  

I like the fact that in focusing on this area, you are also focusing on where your baby is.  It can be a lovely way to connect with him or her, if you imagine them inside floating in their own ocean of stillness, as you move about your busy day.  One simple visualisation is to picture them safe and warm and relaxed, smile at them and see them smiling back at you.  Don’t worry about how it is done.  Just know that it is done.  You may even feel a nudge or a kick in response from your baby. Exercises like Tai Chi and Chi Kung promote the production of endorphins and endorphins provide us with a sense of happiness and wellbeing.  

Where can I practice?

Tai Chi and Chi Kung can be practised anywhere.  You can practice it at home with your shoes on.  However, my favourite thing to do is to find a quiet place outside.  Perhaps in your garden, at the beach or in a park. 

Kick-off your shoes and sink your bare feet into the ground.  Allow your knees to soften and relax, imagine a ball of sunlight under each armpit and that you are sitting on a large golden sun.  (Something like your birthing/labour ball if you have sat on this and bounced about.). If you are tired, you can use the ball to sit on or a chair. 

Just make sure that you are comfortable, have a snack to hand and stay well hydrated.  

Then without rushing and in your own time, imagine you can breathe in the gentle sunlight all around. 

Imagine that the sunlight flows all the way from the top of your head, right down through your body and out the soles of your feet.  Spend as long as you wish doing this and towards the end, connect with your baby again and picture them breathing in and out this gentle light in harmony with you. 

Don’t forget that smile.  

Typically if your pregnancy is low risk then you can usually expect spontaneous labour to occur when you are between 37-42 weeks pregnant. 

You may have seen that a TV labour usually starts with a dramatic gush of water in the middle of a shop and then contractions follow immediately after. But actually in real life, early labour (known as the latent phase) it is very normal for either waters to break or contractions to start spontaneously. There is no set way for labour to start. You may even notice your mucus plug coming away, although this could happen a good few weeks before labour, backache, or period like discomfort.

Pop!

For most of your pregnancy, your baby has been protected and surrounded by a fluid filled sac called the amniotic sac. The amniotic sac is made up of amniotic fluid and two thin, but tough, layers called the membranes. Towards the end of pregnancy when labour is ready to start, membranes can rupture and spring a leak – commonly known as waters breaking.

When waters / membranes break they can go with a gush or sometimes just a trickle. It is important to observe for signs of this towards the end of your pregnancy as your maternity unit needs to know when your waters break. 

*Please take note of the colour of your waters if they go as this is good information to pass onto your Midwife*

Contractions

You may have heard lots about contractions. Contractions are the name used to describe the tightening and shortening of the uterine muscles. 

Contractions have two purposes:

  1. To help the baby to move down into the birth canal.
  2. To assist the cervix in thinning out and dilating.

In early labour, contractions often start as quite irregular, infrequent and uncomfortable tightenings. You might notice that the contractions may stop and start, this is all part of the latent phase and it could last hours or sometimes days. Timing contractions is a really good idea in early labour. Time from the start of the contraction to the end and record how many contractions you are experiencing in each ten minute period. By recording the duration and frequency you are able to recognise when you may need to contact your local maternity unit.

What can I do?

At first you may be unsure if you are in early labour or not. It is always a good idea to:

Monitor. Record frequency and duration of contractions, watery loss and/or symptoms. Also monitor fetal movements as your baby should remain active through labour.

Bathe. Water is brilliant for relaxing and helping with discomfort.

Hydrate. Drink plenty of fluids to keep hydrated, you could also drink isotonic liquids to keep energy levels up.

Snack. Labour requires a lot of energy, so snacking little and often throughout the latent phase will help.

Mobilise. Remaining mobile during the early stages will help to get the baby into an optimal position for birth.

Analgesia. Paracetamol is safe and effective to take during labour if you have no recognised allergies / contra-indications.

Lighting. Keep lighting to a minimum. Dimming lights encourages relaxation and reduces stress hormones whilst increasing oxytocin (the hormone needed for effective contractions).

Massage. Asking your birth partner to massage you through this time will encourage relaxation.

Birthing ball. Gently rocking side to side can help baby settle into an optimal position for labour.

Rest. Use meditation or breathing techniques to help rest through early labour. Preserve your energy as your baby will be here before you know it.

Call. If you are experiencing any symptoms other than the ones described here or you would like to be assessed, please call your local maternity unit.

Please do not hesitate to contact one of our Midwives here at Juno if you require support advice or assistance regarding all things early labour related.