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Food is always a big concern when you're pregnant for the first time. We've already discussed what you shouldn't eat, so now here's some simple and easy-to-follow advice on what you should eat during your pregnancy, trimester by trimester:

During the First Trimester

What to eat:
  • Starchy foods such as bread, porridge, plain biscuits,oatcakes, pasta, rice and potatoes
  • Ginger (this will help to curb nausea)
  • Foods high in folic acid, such as green, leafy vegetables (kale, broccoli, spinach), pulses (chickpeas, beans, lentils) and fruits (citrus fruits, raspberries, strawberries). 
Other advice:
  • Eat small meals often.
  • Minimise your consumptions of fatty, hard-to-digest foods.
  • If you're experiencing morning sickness, keep a plain biscuit on your bedside table as a snack for when you wake up.
  • Don't overeat - you won't need to increase your food consumption ('eating for two') until later in your pregnancy, and even then, you will only have to increase your consumption by a few hundred calories.

During the Second Trimester 

What to eat:
  • Oily fish (such as salmon, mackerel, trout and sardines) twice a week
  • Wholemeal bread, cereals, and pasta
  • Oats, barley and pulses
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Lean meats such as chicken
Other advice:
  • Eat a variety of wholegrain foods, and up your consumption of water to avoid constipation.
  • Keep your iron levels at a healthy level by consuming lean meats, and plant-based sources such as dried apricots, spinach and lentils.
  • Include sources of vitamin C to aid your body's absorption of iron from plant sources.

During the Third Trimester 

What to eat:
  • Healthy fats from natural sources (found in foods such as nuts, seeds, avocados, eggs, and salmon)
  • A good variety of fruits and vegetables
  • Calcium-rich foods such as plain yoghurt, canned fish and tofu

Other advice:
  • Avoid bending or lying down after eating to help prevent heartburn and indigestion.
  • Increase your food intake by 150-200 calories a day.
  • Try to optimise your vitamin D levels, with foods such as eggs and fortified breakfast cereals.
  • Avoid spicy and fatty foods, to avoid the risk of further aggravating symptoms of indigestion.
Click here for a list of foods to avoid during pregnancy, or return to the First Encounters homepage to find out about the 3D/4D scan packages we offer for expectant parents and their families!

While we're sure you're already aware of how unpredictable and ever-changing each individual pregnancy can be, it always comes as a great help to prepare for the birth as much as possible. By creating a birth plan with your midwife or chosen health professional, you will be able to map out the details of your birth experience as you would like it to develop, while also preparing for any eventualities beyond your control. 

If you're unsure about what to include in your birth plan, or wondering how you can put these instructions in place, simply follow the advice outlined below:

What is a Birth Plan?

Although a birth plan is not an essential requirement for expectant mothers, it certainly acts as a useful reference for the midwives and doctors who will be looking after you, while also providing a great way to prepare for your labour in advance of your due date. 

While certain aspects will be affected by factors such as previous pregnancies and other medical history, the main aim of the birth plan is to give you as much control over the details of your labour as possible. From where you would like to give birth to your choice of pain relief, your plan should contain all of your preferences for the birth of your child, based on your own inclinations combined with the advice of your midwife. While it is vitally important that the plan should reflect your individual wishes, you should also remember the importance of flexibility, as you may need to adjust your plan to deal with unexpected circumstances once you have gone into labour. Your midwife will, of course, strive to follow the original plan as much as possible, but it is important to realize that not all your preferences will be achievable if circumstances change.

Where To Start

Before setting out a birth plan, you should seek out advice from medical professionals and other mothers in order to get a better idea of the pattern you would like your birth to follow. This will go hand-in-hand with your hospital appointments throughout your pregnancy, as well as your participation in local antenatal classes, which should give you countless opportunities to seek advice and assess your options. As you gather your information, you can note it down for reference when you come to setting out your finalised plans.

Once you have gathered sufficient information regarding the services available to you (along with identifying any possible constraints), you should then discuss these with your chosen birth partner. This will give them a chance to add any of their own suggestions, while also allowing them to gain a better understanding of how they can support your throughout the birth.

Things to Consider

When the time comes to put pen to paper and make your birth plan, here are the key things you should include in your specifications:
  • Identifying Your Birth Partner  - Name your partner and explain their level of involvement in your birth, making a note of any procedures you do not want them to be present for.

  • Pain Relief - Specify the type(s) of pain relief you would like to receive in order of preference, drawing attention to any you would like to avoid if possible. This should include medical treatments as well as natural forms of pain relief.

  • Position - Explain your preferred position for delivery, while also noting how flexible you would like to be in terms of your mobility during labour.

  • Location - This will include the geographical location you have selected for your birth, as well as your preferred delivery room style. This could, for example, include a request for a home birth.

  • Interventions - Include details of any interventions you would be happy to accept if the situation calls for them. This includes details such as speeding up your labour or assisted birth.

  • Heart Rate Monitoring - Provide details of how you would like your baby's heartbeat to be monitored during labour.

  • Third Stage Planning - This includes details for the delivery of the placenta and the cutting of the umbilical chord.

  • Post-Birth Details - Specify whether you would like your baby to be handed to you straight away or after cleaning, and explain your plans for feeding.

  • Emergency Care - As well as planning for any unexpected changes to the birth itself, you can also note your wishes in the event that your baby has to receive any additional care.

What if I'm Having a Caesarean?

If you've been advised to book a planned caesarean due to a medical condition or previous pregnancy, you will still be able to have a degree of control over your birth. You will still be able to choose the type of pain relief you would like to receive, although this will relate to the choice of anaesthetic and how it is administered. You will also be able to include your birthing partner in your plans, although they will have to follow the guidelines set out by the hospital. 

As well as selecting the medical details for your caesarian, you will also be able to decide on the ambience of the room, along with how much of the birth you would like to witness. This could include the amount of sound in the room, as well as your choice of if and when you would like the screen to be lowered during the birth. 

When putting your birth plan together, ensure that the opinion of your trusted medical professional is valued above all else. For assistance in creating your plan, ask your doctor or midwife for help, and use the information you have gathered during the course of your pregnancy. 

Here at First Encounters, we offer a complimentary pregnancy report with all of our scans, which can provide you with essential details about the health and position of your baby, in order to help you plan more efficiently for the birth. If you would like an additional glimpse at your little one before the birth, or would like to gain more information to help you plan for their arrival, take a look at our range of scan packages here.
Feeling your baby kick for the first time is an important milestone for any expectant mother, particularly when it's your first pregnancy. It can be extremely exciting to have that spark of life inside of you confirmed, although it can also be somewhat difficult to understand what kind of sensation to expect, and when! 
We've come to realise that many women are unsure about monitoring their baby's movements, and so we thought that we would write an informative piece for reference. In this blog post, we'll outline the types of sensation that you can expect to experience at various points throughout your pregnancy. 

What will the movement feel like?

The first movements of your pregnancy, referred to as 'quickening', are usually described as a fluttering sensation. If this is your first pregnancy, you may find it somewhat difficult to identify, but should find it more and more easy to pinpoint as time passes. By the second and third trimesters, your baby's movements should be far more distinctive, as you will be able to prominently feel your baby's kicks and jabs.

When will I start to feel these movements?

The time frame for experiencing your baby's movements can vary quite substantially in the early stages, particularly when comparing first pregnancies with those of women who have experienced pregnancy before. The average time to expect a detection of movement, however, is between 18 and 20 weeks. As previously mentioned, this may take slightly longer if it's your first pregnancy, and may even come as early as 16 weeks if you've already had a baby. If you haven't experienced any movement by 24 weeks, you should consult your midwife so that she can check that all is well.

How often should my baby be moving?

Again, there are no set amount of movements that you should look out for, although you may find that your baby is most active between 9 PM and 1 AM. There is also evidence to show that by your third trimester, your baby will move around about 30 times each hour, although you may not discern all of these. There is no need to keep a chart of how many kicks you feel each day, although it is useful to familiarize yourself with your baby's movement patterns during waking hours. This will be different for everyone, so it's all about taking note of the movements and getting to know what's normal for your baby.The best way to identify these kicks and wriggles is when you're lying down, so try to put your feet up for a while so that you can really take notice of what you're feeling. If your baby's movement pattern changes suddenly and your are concerned, again, as your doctor or midwife to take a closer look.

Will I see my baby moving when I have an ultrasound scan?

If your baby is awake during your scan, then of course, you will be able to see your baby move! At First Encounters, we recommend receiving  your scan between 25 and 29 weeks, as your baby will be well-developed by this time, and will also have plenty of room to move around. If your baby has assumed and awkward position and we are unable to obtain a high-quality image, your sonographer may ask you to stroll around in order to encourage movement. If your baby is being particularly difficult on that specific day, we will offer you a complimentary re-scan on an alternative date. With selected scan packages such as the Deluxe 4D, you will receive a 5 minute DVD recording, which will allow you to relieve your unborn baby's movements for years to come. You can preview our 4D scan images and video recording in our gallery, to give you a better idea of just how detailed our recordings are.
If you would like to witness your own babies movements in stunning 4D imagery, book one of our scan packages today, or get in touch to find out more about our services. Further details about our scans and what they are able to reveal, can be found on our FAQs page.
We've heard a lot about the Zika virus over the past few weeks, due to a recent outbreak in Brazil which has since prompted serious questions about the impact of the infection. While it's been rather common in certain African and Asian countries for many years, it's only since the infection has spread to Brazil that the western world has began to show concern regarding its impact. 

While for the most part the infection is largely symptom-free, presenting no lasting harm to those who become infected, the outbreak in Brazil has led to concerns that Zika could be linked to microcephaly in infants, causing them to be born with unusually small heads. 

If you are currently pregnant, or planning to become pregnant in the near future, here are a few things you should know about the Zika virus and its impact on unborn children:

Does Zika cause brain damage?

While the evidence linking microcephaly to Zika is largely circumstantial, there was a clear surge in the amount of babies being born with the disease during the outbreak, which would suggest that Zika is, in fact, the cause. As for the issue of microcephaly itself, in around fifteen percent of cases it accounts for the physical impact (i.e. reduced head size) only, while in the remainder of cases it can prevent proper brain development. 

Which countries present the highest risk?

Countries in South America are naturally at risk due to their proximity to Brazil, as are those in which the virus was already prevalent, such as Kenya, Egypt, India and more. The most up-to-date information on which countries pose a risk can be found here.

What should I do if I've visited a high-risk country?

Aside from rare exceptions, the virus does not linger in the body, and once you have recovered from the infection you will become immune. This means that this risks for women who have previously visited the country before getting pregnant are very low. Despite this, if you have visited the at-risk countries whilst pregnant (or during the early stages of conception), you should most certainly seek medical advice and get your blood tested. You should also get an ultrasound scan to check that your baby is developing properly, although evidence can not be detected until the end of the second trimester.

Should I worry about Zika if I'm trying to conceive?

As mentioned above, Zika is particularly dangerous in the early stages of pregnancy, which means that those looking to conceive should avoid visiting the countries which are most at risk. Those who are not trying to get pregnant are also being warned to be diligent with their birth control routine, in order to avoid an unplanned pregnancy with a high risk of complications. There has also been some evidence to suggest that it is possible to transmit the virus via sexual intercourse, which means that those with partners who have also recently returned from one of the affected areas should also exercise caution.

How can I avoid infection?

Travellers to high-risk countries should attempt to avoid infection by avoiding or minimising their contact with mosquitoes, taking precautions such as wearing long clothing and sleeping under mosquito nets. Sadly, there is no way to completely avoid infection if you are in these countries during pregnancy or at the time of conception, which is why pregnant or soon-to-be pregnant women are encouraged to avoid high-risk locations altogether.

For more pregnancy news and advice, follow us on Twitter or Facebook.
If you've recently become pregnant for the first time, you no doubt have a million and one questions to ask about the experience that lies ahead. However, if we had to guess the single most common query amongst mothers-to-be, it would probably be this:

Which foods should I avoid while I'm pregnant?

It's only natural to worry about the ways in which your diet might adversely affect the child you're carrying, but there is a lot of misinformation out there regarding this topic. Since we've already tackled the topic of whether or not a pregnant woman should imbibe alcohol, today we'd like to talk about food; not only will this short guide tell you which foods to steer clear of during pregnancy, it will also bust a few myths and highlight the foods that, in spite of what some people say, you can safely consume without putting your unborn baby at risk.

Foods to avoid

First of all, here's a quick list of foods that you definitely shouldn't eat when you're pregnant:
  • Raw eggs (and dishes that contained raw/undercooked eggs). Eggs should be cooked thoroughly before consumption to prevent salmonella.

  • Raw or undercooked meat. This includes cured meats (unless they have been cooked beforehand), as well as rare steak. Do not eat meat if any part of the meat is still pink, or if there is any trace of blood.

  • Certain soft cheeses. Anything with a white rind (e.g. brie) or blue veins (e.g. gorgonzola) should be avoided, unless the cheese has been cooked thoroughly before consumption.

  • Certain types of fish (the NHS recommends that pregnant women avoid eating shark, marlin and swordfish).

  • Raw shellfish. Ensure that any shellfish you consume during your pregnancy has been cooked properly first.

  • Unpasteurised milk.

  • Pâté (even if it doesn't contain any meat).

  • Liver (and dishes that contain liver).

  • Unwashed fruit/vegetables. Make sure that any soil has been washed off your fruit/veg before you eat it.

  • Certain vitamin supplements. Be sure to avoid fish liver oil supplements and vitamin A supplements in particular.

Foods you can eat

Listed below are some foods that are often said to be potentially harmful if consumed during pregnancy. All of them are, in fact, safe to eat when pregnant; however, please pay careful attention to the advice given alongside each item, as some of these foods can cause problems for you and your baby if prepared incorrectly or eaten too regularly.
  • Most types of fish and shellfish are OK to eat if they have been cooked properly. You can eat uncooked fish too, as long as it has been frozen before consumption (this will generally include sushi sold at supermarkets - if in doubt, stick to sushi that contains only cooked fish and vegetables). Tuna and other oily fish can be enjoyed in moderation; we recommend visiting the NHS Choices website for more information on how much tuna/oily fish you can safely eat while pregnant.

  • Yoghurt is safe as long as it was made using pasteurised milk. The same is true of ice cream.

  • Venison and other game should only be avoided if the animal was shot using lead bullets. Speak to the supplier if you're unsure where the meat came from.

  • Liquorice may be eaten freely during pregnancy.

  • Caffeine may be consumed during pregnancy; however, it is recommended that you do not exceed 200g of caffeine a day.

  • Green tea can be enjoyed in moderation - limit yourself to no more than 4 cups a day, and bear in mind that each cup will count towards your daily caffeine limit too (see above).

Click here for more blog posts about pregnancy, or visit our Scan Packages page to browse the scan options available from First Encounters Ultrasound.