What you eat can affect your mood and energy levels
Stress may be the reason that you are having trouble sleeping
Q: I’m 24 weeks pregnant with my second child, and experiencing mood swings, from feeling very low to extremely excited. I work part time in a shop and look forward to this as a way of getting away from my partner and child. I have even started creating imaginary shifts so I can have some time to myself. When will this emotional battle end?
A: The hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy can often be quite alarming and can account for some of your present emotional experiences. However, I think there is also an element of anxiety that needs to be addressed. At the moment you seem to be using the avoidance tactics in the hope that things will just sort themselves out, but this is more likely to leave you feeling out of control and a hostage to your emotions. I would suggest you take some quiet time to sit down and write out all that you are feeling. What has made you happy? What is making you anxious? Why are you avoiding your home life? If you get all this down on paper it will give you a much clearer picture of the underlying issues that are worrying you and make it easier to see what you can do to resolve them.
Pregnancy demands a huge amount of additional energy, so taking time to relax is extremely important. Try to structure half an hour of quiet time when you can simply relax each day. This should have a balancing effect on your emotions. And don’t isolate yourself from those who can offer love and support. Set aside some quality time each week to spend with your partner and your child so that you can talk and enjoy each other’s company.
You might also want to look at your diet as this can influence your emotional balance. Avoid foods that are highly stimulating, such as those that are high in fat or sugar, or which are heavily refined and processed. You should also avoid foods that contain caffeine and alcohol related products. Foods that are rich in calcium and potassium are particularly good when you are feeling stressed as these are major components of the nervous system. Good sources include dairy products, broccoli, almonds and bananas.
Dehydration can also affect your emotional balance so make sure that you are drinking enough pure water – it should make up 80% of your daily fluid intake. One thing for sure, once the baby arrives, you’ll experience a whole wave of new emotions so your current feelings won’t last forever.
Q: I’m 25 weeks pregnant and I’m having trouble sleeping. I’m lucky if I get 4 hours sleep. It seems like I’ve tried everything and I’m scared that I’m going to be like this until the baby comes – when I’ll be faced with further sleepless nights. Please help.
A: I think stress is your problem. There are obvious concerns about the baby and also you are still trying to do everything you did before you became pregnant. You have to accept that your priorities will change in your new circumstances. There is nothing more important than you and your baby’s health, so getting sleep at this stage is vital. I would suggest that before you leave work you write a list of jobs to do tomorrow so that you can close the door on work for that day. When you get home, have a 20 minute relaxation break – just lying on the bed doing deep breathing will do. Make sure you build in time every day to relax and spend time with loved ones – it is not an indulgence, it is essential. Also avoid foods that stimulate, such as those high in caffeine, sugar and fat.
One exercise I think will help is called the ‘4 Ds’. Make a list or write down on slips of paper, everything that needs doing and sort them into four separate piles: 1) Do it now, 2) Delay it, 3) Delegate it, and 4) Dump it. Setting a deadline will make you more selective about what really needs doing and enable you to fit it into a manageable time frame – for instance before your baby is born. It’s also a great way of staying focused on what is really important in your life, and gives you balance and control. Try using this technique in all areas of your life. By taking control you will begin to overcome stress and your fears – and start to enjoy your new life.
Q: Now that I’m pregnant, are there any changes I should make to my diet so it’s healthier for my growing baby?
A: A healthy diet is important for any individual; after all we are made and maintained from the food we eat. Your new baby is being created from the nutrients you absorb so refreshing your dietary habits is a very good idea at this stage. Rather than isolating specific foods, the most important dietary aspects during pregnancy are balance, variety and quantity.
We do need more food during pregnancy, but equally this does not give you an excuse to stuff yourself full of high calorie foods you normally avoid. The foods you should be increasing in your diet are ones that are going to increase your nutritional intake and maintain a healthy balance such as vegetables, fish and seeds. Food high in sugar and fat can destabilize blood sugar and hormone levels and heavily processed and refined foods are stressful on the digestive system and generate more toxic residue. A good guideline is ingredient labels. Buy foods that have only a few ingredients listed or are so pure they even need a label such as fresh meat and fruit.
Bananas are a great relaxing food, full of de-stressing potassium, but limit your intake of citrus fruit and juices as this can cause gut discomfort. Make sure food is well cooked and go for the high nutrient options. For example, salad is usually low nutritionally if you compare it with the rich content of broccoli or carrots.
Balance and variety are also important. There is no single food item that contains all the nutrients we need and an excess of any one food, to the detriment of others will leave your diet nutritionally imbalanced. Don’t get stuck in a rut of eating the same sorts of food for every meal. For example, cereals have some great nutritional elements and are full of fibre, but high intakes at every meal can lead to bloating and nutritional deficiency, especially for iron and B vitamins. A healthy diet now will also help you cope with the strain of childbirth and lack of sleep in those early months, so positive dietary chances are worth sticking to. They’re for life, not just for pregnancy.
Q: I am having my first baby, and although I do want the support of my family and friends, how can I stop them telling me what to do?
A: Having a baby can be both a worrying and exciting experience, not just for you but for all those who care about you. Unfortunately, anxieties can appear overbearing. To avoid confrontation, don’t disregard it there and then. Acknowledge their advice, demonstrate appreciation and move the conversation on. You are under no obligation to then follow it, of course. Any advice, even if you do not agree, can help you clarify which course of action suits you, so show you take it seriously.
Your baby is touching the lives of friends and family and they want to be part of the experience, but they can also want you to make this experience perfect for them. Close relatives can become demanding about their wishes, and with hormones all over the place, this can turn into a minefield of upset. To avoid distress, put across your wishes at an early stage, and allocate people to help you. For example, tell your mum how you would like the blessing to be and ask her to help you with specific tasks. Be clear about what you want, but don’t close your mind to suggestions and be prepared to compromise. It will be to your advantage to have helpful, happy friends and family when the baby is born than left in disgruntled isolation!
Q: I am really looking forward to expecting my first child but am concerned about how exhausted all my friends are who have new babies. Is there anything I can do now to maximise energy levels after the birth?
A: There are many energy draining aspects of having a baby, for example the physical wear and tear, high emotions, lack of sleep, lifestyle worries and diet changes. The biggest problem is how long it all goes on for. We cab all recover from a few bad nights sleep and cope with a sudden burst of stress but when this goes on consistently for months and months, this can have a catastrophic effect on your energy levels.
Fortunately, there is an awful lot you can do now to preserve energy levels for when you really need them. Organising practicalities and dealing with future concerns at this stage will provide you with a plan of action rather than panic in the future. Learning some basic relaxation techniques is also important as lack of sleep is almost guaranteed. Quality relaxation can compensate for poor sleep patterns as it replenishes energy supplies.
Sticking to a healthy diet is also essential at this stage if you want to remain healthy. We get our energy supplies from food but avoid quick fix energy foods high in sugar and fat that drain energy levels in the long run. Also make sure that your diet is well balanced as our body cannot process energy without essential minerals, vitamins, amino acids and omega oils. So eat plenty of vegetables and fish and avoid high intakes of processed and refined foods, caffeine and alcohol as these produce higher levels of energy draining toxins in your system. Finally, make sure you take time for gun – laughter is the best energy booster going.
Q: I have a great, fun relationship with my partner, but I’m afraid that this might suffer with all the strain and responsibility of looking after a new baby. What do you advise?
A: One thing you have to accept is that both your lives will change considerably once the baby is born, but that should not be a negative thing – in fact, your relationship should be enriched. Problems arise if you do not address the fact that changes will occur and one or both of you insist on trying to maintain your old lifestyle. A new baby is very exhausting and constantly changing, so neither the good or the bad bits last for very long. What is important is to discuss how you are going to manage these changes together and work as a team when the going gets tough.
It is also good to work out now what it is that makes your relationship work and how you can keep this alive. Don’t be afraid to ask for help so that you can spread the burden of work and don’t neglect your health as it will make you even more tired and irritable. Although your baby will be the priority don’t ignore the relationship you have with your partner. Build in time to talk and act as a couple – even for just 10 minutes a day. Look forward to the future fun rather than trying to cling on to ways that once brought you happiness.