Your 9 months Pregnancy Essential things to do during pregnancy Too done in to do the stuff you’ve heard is good for you and your bump? Course you are, but check out our guide anyway, and see how a little extra effort goes a long way 1 of Ad break Healthy eatingThe theory We’re all encouraged to eat our five-a-day, but experts say a healthy diet is vital when you’re pregnant. “Women with raised BMI (body mass index) face higher risks in pregnancy, including a higher risk of infection, gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia,” says Erika Thompson, midwife and founder of Beautiful Births (beautifulbirths.org) Your reaction You know you should be snacking on fruit – but somehow chocolate keeps falling into your mouth. “I tried really hard to eat healthily during my pregnancies,” says mum-of-two Paula Fazekas, 26, from Bedfordshire. “But after three days of being good I’d just pig-out.” Why it matters Try and include something from each of the food groups every day: fruit and vegetables, dairy (milk, yogurt), protein (chicken, fish, pulses, beans) and starchy foods (bread, pasta). “No one’s perfect, just try and be healthy,” says Erika. “It’s better for the baby and you’ll feel better after giving birth.” Pelvic floor exercisesThe theory You should build up to about 50 pelvic floor exercises per day to increase your chances of having an easier birth, according to the NCT. Pregnancy can weaken the pelvic floor muscles, leading to stress incontinence and reduced sensitivity during sex. Your reaction We all know you try to remember to do your exercises – but are they really that important? Yes, says mum-of-one Rachel Harrison, 37, from Birmingham. “I wish I’d done them, as I do get the odd dribble if I have a bad cough or if I have to run somewhere,” she confesses. Why it matters Do your exercises now as you’re reading this. Sit and squeeze the muscles, hold for four seconds, then release and repeat. You can also try tightening and relaxing them as quickly as you can five or six times in a row, and try to stop the flow of wee when you go to the loo. “And it’s not just for mums – dads should do it, too, as it reduces the risk of impotence during later life,” says Erika. ExerciseThe theory The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recommends pregnant women exercise for 30 minutes at least four times a week. “Exercise is great,” says Erika. “It circulates blood to the baby, builds and tones your muscles, helps to get baby into a good position for birth and helps to develop your stamina – which is good for labour.” Your reaction You’re knackered all the time – does getting out of bed count? “I tried aquanatal, but that was just too strenuous,” says Jody Moffat, 35, from south London, mum to Toby, 23 weeks. “Pregnancy yoga was a great way to relax.” Why it matters “Even taking a walk is good for you and will help prevent DVT,” explains midwife Mervi Jokinen. “But be careful – too much in late pregnancy can damage already stretched ligaments. If you’re a gym girl, slow down, and if you’re a couch potato make an effort.” But remember, always take advice from your GP or midwife before you start. Perineal massageThe theory The perineum is an area of skin between your rectum and vagina that might be cut (episiotomy) or tear during the birth. The NCT recommends you massage it in the last weeks of pregnancy to encourage blood flow to the area and increase its elasticity ready for the birth. Your reaction “Our antenatal teacher gave us all a bottle of oil and told us what we should do with it. I couldn’t even reach by that stage and there was no way I was asking my husband to do it!” says mum-of-two Emma Atkinson, 43, from Cheshire. Why it matters Trust us on this one. Try sitting and leaning back, or lie on your side. “Put your fingers (or your partner’s) into the vagina and massage down towards the anus, gently stretching,” says Erika. Start off gently for three to four minutes. “You can use natural oils, such as coconut, grape or almond to help.” Continue slideshow > Making new mummy matesThe theory Experts recommend you build a local support network before the baby’s born, join antenatal groups and get in touch with feeding groups so that when you need help you’ll know exactly where to go. Let’s face it, there’s nothing like a good friend to confide in when the going gets a little tough. Your reaction You’re so busy at the moment you just don’t have time to make new mates. “I was working full time and had no friends with babies,” says mum-of-three Zoe Hawkes, 33, from Surrey. “I thought it was great to share things with other new mums and now I have amazing friends who I’ll know all my life.” Why it matters After the baby’s born you’re going to be even busier, so make the effort now – you’ll feel so much better after a chat with another nervous mum-to-be. “9 out of 10 times they’ll have had the same experience and will be able to help,” says Harps Chhokar, founder of MumDad Antenatal Classes (mumdad.info). Writing a birth planThe theory A birth plan is a record of what you’d like to happen during your labour and after the birth. NHS antenatal teachers say writing such a plan helps you prepare yourself for what’s going to happen, while also allowing you to stay creative and in control. “People don’t appreciate how powerful focusing the mind can be,” says Erika Thompson. Your reaction You haven’t done this before, so you’ll just leave it to the professionals. “I had all these fancy plans for the birth – music, snacks, massage and stuff, but in the end I was just happy to let the medical team do what they had to do just to get the baby out,” says Emma Atkinson from Cheshire. Why it matters You’re more likely to get the birth you want if you’ve been given all the information that you need. Build a decent relationship with your midwife so you feel at ease. Equally, you should feel comfortable when it comes to asking questions. “Have a plan B,” says Harps Chhokar. “If you’re aware of what a caesarean section entails, then there’s no reason why you should be nervous. Keep a positive focus at all times.” Mums’ stories“My sister-in-law told me to get a long pillow to go between my knees to help me sleep. I’ve had good results and definitely recommend it.” Rosie Eaton, 34, from East Sussex, mum to Nathanial, 2, and 36 weeks pregnant “Use stretch mark oil. People advised me to during my first pregnancy, but I never did and I wished I had because I had some awful ones.” Zoe Ellis Martin, 26, from Devon, mum to Charlie, 3, and 17 weeks pregnant By Jane Thynne Comments Latest on MadeForMums Must-have toys for Christmas from the biggest sellers Why e-books might be better for your toddler than paper ones Toddler wets herself after being blocked from using toilet on plane Could these be Beyonce and Jay-Z's twin baby names?