The journey of motherhood, important things to keep in mind

Emeh Joy
By Emeh Joy

Basic Medical Scientist, Freelance Health Writer, Lifestyle Blogger and Business Enthusiast

Motherhood, maternity and maternal health

Women look forward to motherhood. Childbirth is the joy of many mothers; however, are you prepared for motherhood? Do you know everything to expect as you walk the path of motherhood?

Many find themselves caught up in motherhood unprepared and find themselves reading frantically, searching the internet, researching to find some pieces of information to help them go past the initial shock associated with motherhood and marriage.

Reading about pregnancy and childbirth might not give you the 100% information you need, but it would help you. In most cases, until you experience it, you might not really understand what truly it is.

You have probably heard many times about the joy of motherhood, which is great and worth dreaming of, but there is also the other side of it- the pain of motherhood that you have to prepare for.

Important things to know about motherhood

So, what are the things you should know or do in readiness for motherhood? Below are some things you should know about motherhood.

  1. You will get weird symptoms

    The journey of motherhood starts with pregnancy, and with pregnancy comes weird feelings and symptoms. You have to be prepared for it.

    When that feeling of nausea comes, having food aversions, weird cravings, fatigue, frequent urination, sore breast etc., do not feel like the whole universe is against you. The symptoms are normal.

    Even after childbirth, some days will feel strange. You might get post-partum syndrome, but not all mothers do anyways, but in all, you will find yourself looking at your baby in amazement and wondering how you pushed the bundle of joy out of your body.

  2. You will need help

    With motherhood, you will need help. There are loads of things you cannot do alone. During the pregnancy period, you will need help with carrying things and doing chores around the house.

    Even after pregnancy, you will still need help. You will need help with carrying your baby and breastfeeding the baby. You might not be able to do child-parenting alone. You will need help with tutoring the child and grooming him or her into a fine young man or woman.

    So, if it ever gets overwhelming, do not hesitate to ask for help. Seek help from your family and friends, and of course, the presence of your spouse would help.

  3. Motherhood will make you neglect your partner

    Here is where women need to really be careful. When preparing for motherhood, it is easy to get caught up in the whole activity that you totally neglect your spouse.

    Some allow their baby time to take up their whole time that little or nothing is left for their spouse. This can tear the home apart without you both realising it.

    Not all spouses are understanding, but even if you have one that is considerate and understanding, do not make them feel alone during this phase. Make time for him and ensure he is actively involved in the baby's life right from when the baby kicks in your tummy.

  4. You will stress about everything

    Pregnant women or new mothers literally fuss over things and stress about almost everything. This is because they find it all overwhelming.

    Life is already hard with you taking care of just yourself and your partner; you can now imagine adding a tiny little human to this list.

    So you find yourself worrying about what to eat, what to wear for your comfort and that of the baby's, baby clothing and other accessories to buy, breastfeeding the baby, putting the baby to sleep etc.

    However, practising how to get things done efficiently even before motherhood sets in can help you. You will need to be good at doing many things fast.

  5. You will need enough rest

    The need for rest cannot be overemphasized here. Before you go into motherhood, you must know that you will face many responsibilities. However, rest is inevitable.

    When you are tired, take a break and rest. You might want to take turns with your spouse to do some chores or call in someone to help you. Remember, too much stress can cause much harm to you and the baby.

The first signs of pregnancy

The early symptoms of pregnancy range from a missed menstrual period to nausea and fatigue and differs from one person to another. The only proof of pregnancy is a positive pregnancy test. However, some early signs might suggest you are pregnant.

First signs or symptoms of pregnancy include:

  • Missed menstrual period
  • Nausea with or without vomiting
  • Tender swollen breasts
  • Increased or frequent urination
  • Fatigue
  • Bloating
  • Moodiness
  • Light spotting
  • Cramping
  • Food aversions
  • Constipation

A pregnant woman might not experience all the symptoms above and might experience some unique symptoms not listed. However, the lists are common signs and symptoms of pregnancy most women experience during their first trimester.

It is also important to note that many of the signs and symptoms are not unique to pregnancy. Some of them could be a sign of a sickness or onset of your menstrual period.

However, taking a home pregnancy test or seeing your health care provider will help you confirm whether you should start treating sickness or start getting ready for antenatal care.

Things to do during pregnancy

What to do during pregnancy

Pregnancy is a delicate phase. It doesn't matter whether you are in your first trimester, second trimester or third trimester; you must be deliberate about taking care of yourself and your baby.

Pregnant women are always advised to rest, take vitamins, eat healthy foods, etc. Below is a comprehensive list of things to do during pregnancy for the safety of your unborn child.

  • Get lots of sleep
  • Sleep on your side in the third trimester
  • Take multivitamins like folic acid, iron and calcium
  • Incorporate a fitness routine into your weekly activities
  • Practice yoga
  • Eat healthy foods, especially seafood
  • It is okay to have sex; use positions that are comfortable for you
  • Monitor your baby's movement
  • Take care of your physical and mental health.
  • Consider taking vaccinations like the flu shot and the whooping cough vaccine.
  • Watch for any abnormal symptoms like painful urination, bleeding, smelly vagina etc.
  • Have/write a birth plan which can include your preferred birth position, who you want to be present during birth, what you would want doctors to do if complications arise etc
  • Educate yourself by attending antenatal or childbirth classes and asking your healthcare provider questions
  • Keep track of your weight, so you don't gain too much weight
  • Shop for maternity outfits
  • Drink more water and eat fruits

Things to avoid during pregnancy

On the other hand, there are certain things to be avoided during pregnancy. Pregnant women are always advised to avoid drinking or smoking. Below is a comprehensive list of things to avoid during pregnancy for the safety of your unborn child.

  • Avoid smoking
  • Do not expose yourself to second-hand smoke
  • Do not drink alcohol
  • Do not drink caffeine
  • Avoid heavy exercise, keep fit through light exercises
  • Avoid over-stressing yourself
  • Do not eat contaminated meals
  • Do not take medications that are prohibited for pregnant women. Read instructions before eating anything.
  • Do not wear high-heeled shoes
  • Do not stand or sit for too long
  • Do not sleep on your back during the third trimester

Healthcare during pregnancy

Healthcare during pregnancy

Healthcare during pregnancy is important as it ensures that both the expecting moms and their babies are healthy. Antenatal care and routine check-ups enable doctors to detect problems earlier during pregnancy.

It would be best to start prenatal care as early as possible, even within the first two weeks of pregnancy. The prenatal healthcare team should consist of:

  • A family practitioner
  • A certified nurse or midwife
  • Obstetricians/gynecologists

Device a pregnancy healthcare plan that should include:

  • Go for routine check-ups: Schedule routine check-ups with your healthcare provider at least every four weeks until your 28th week and, after then, every two weeks until delivery. If there is any issue with the pregnancy, your doctor will detect it during the check-ups.
  • Run prenatal tests: It is still up to your healthcare provider to put you up for prenatal tests. Such tests can help detect problems like chromosomal abnormality or congenital disabilities. Prenatal tests can be diagnostic or screening tests and might include ultrasounds, blood tests, CVS and amniocentesis.
  • Take prescribed medications and multivitamins: Prenatal vitamins or supplements like folic acid, iron and calcium are usually prescribed for pregnant women. Make sure you take them as prescribed by your doctor.
  • Take recommended vaccines: Some vaccines have been recommended for pregnant women. Examples are the flu shot recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Tdap vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis.
  • Practise food safety: During pregnancy, you must avoid foodborne illnesses like toxoplasmosis and listeriosis. Such illnesses can causes miscarriage, congenital disabilities and are life-threatening. Avoid raw or undercooked meats or eggs and unpasteurized milk.
  • Watch your weight: While it is not advisable to go dieting and doing vigorous exercise while pregnant, you should watch your weight. The best time to avoid gaining much weight is during the first few months. Eat healthy foods and get regular low-impact exercises.

Signs of labour

The early signs of labour can be vague that even mothers with a previous pregnancy and childbirth experience may not tell when a pregnancy delivery time is near.

The trickle of fluid might be due to urine leaking because the baby is resting on your bladder and not because your water broke. Below are some signs of oncoming labour.

  • A slight weight loss
  • An increase in vaginal discharge (typically pinkish or brownish)
  • A dull pain in the lower back that comes and goes
  • The sensation of your baby dropping lower into your pelvic cavity (engagement)
  • Cramping or building pressure around your rectum or pelvic area
  • Loose and frequent bowel movements
  • More frequent Braxton Hicks contractions
  • Restlessness and increased energy
  • Rupture of the amniotic fluid sac (water breaking)
  • Discharge of the mucus plug in the cervix (the bloody show)
  • You experience extreme back pain

How to improve health after childbirth

Whether you had vaginal surgery or underwent a cesarean section, you will feel tired, sore and bruised after delivery. Recovery might take a while, but that is okay. Take the needed time off work and talk to your health care provider if the need arises.

Post-partum recovery takes time. Some women, after delivery, do not feel like their usual selves until after some months, while others recover fast, within 6-8 weeks of delivery.

After labour, you might experience any of the following:

  • Vaginal discharge
  • Vaginal soreness
  • Vaginal bleeding and discharge
  • Contractions and cramps
  • Blue feeling and hormonal fluctuations
  • Pain
  • Constipation
  • Weight loss
  • Water retention
  • Trouble urinating
  • Diarrhoea
  • Breast swelling and soreness
  • Skin changes, e.g. formation of stretch marks on the breasts and belly
  • Hair thinning

Post delivery: Health improvement after childbirth

There are certain things to do to speed up recovery after childbirth. To ease perineal pain, for instance, one can have warm sit baths for about 20 minutes. Icing the perineum can also help it heal. Acetaminophen can help ease aches and pains.

Below are things to do to improve postpartum health:

  • Eat well to keep your energy up
  • Eat foods that contain lots of fibre, e.g. fruits, vegetables and wholegrain cereals
  • Drink lots of water
  • Get enough rest
  • If you had a C-section, take care of the scar
  • Do kegel exercises to get back the vagina in shape
  • Always wear a comfortable bra and if breasts are achy, use a cold or warm compress
  • Don't try to do it all; allow family and friends to help
  • Don'ts start serious exercise too soon; allow your body to heal
  • Don't skip doctor appointments
  • Pay attention to your body in case something doesn't seem right
  • Know when to see a doctor

When to see a doctor

Pay attention to your body especially after the first six weeks of childbirth. Successful delivery does not mean you are totally out of danger for health complications.

While nobody wishes for things to go wrong, it is often better to err on the side of caution. Thus, see a doctor anytime you feel something is wrong with you or with the baby.

Below are some symptoms that should warrant calling for a doctor after childbirth:

  • Heavy bleeding that increases every day or that soaks more than one pad within an hour
  • Chills and high fever
  • Severe headache and changes to vision
  • Passing large clots
  • Vomiting
  • Vaginal discharge with a strong odour
  • Prolonged difficulty with urination
  • Haemorrhoid
  • Heart palpitations or difficulty breathing
  • Abdominal pain that worsens over time
  • Increased swelling
  • Swelling or formation of pus on the incision from C-section or episiotomy

Resources

"Early Signs and Symptoms of Pregnancy." Tommy's Pregnancy Hub, 10 April 2018, https://www.tommys.org/pregnancy-information/im-pregnant/early-pregnancy/early-signs-and-symptoms-pregnancy

"Flu and Pregnant Women." Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 12 April 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/flu/highrisk/pregnant.htm#

Harvey, Marie-Andrée. “Pelvic Floor Exercises During and After Pregnancy: A Systematic Review of Their Role In Preventing Pelvic Floor Dysfunction.”Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada: JOGC = Journal d'obstetrique et gynecologie du Canada: JOGCvol. 25,6 (2003): 487-98. doi:10.1016/s1701-2163(16)30310-3, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12806450/

NHS, UK. "Signs That Labour Has Begun." National Health Service, https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/labour-and-birth/signs-of-labour/signs-that-labour-has-begun/

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