I have walked out of a maternity unit leaving my dead newborn son behind me. I have driven home, unaware that I left the building in my pyjamas and walked across the car park in socks and stared blankly at the car in front for a 20 minute journey home; that car had a ‘baby on board’ sticker waving in the rear window. I have told my 4 daughters, aged between 11 and 5, that their new baby brother is dead and won’t be coming home. I have told them I don’t know why.
This shouldn’t happen to any family. It shouldn’t happen to any mother. The physical sense of loss is so great that it is as if your limbs have been torn off and your soul ripped away. I would have traded any living soul, excepting my daughters and husband, for his life at that moment. I probably still would. Infant loss over rides every other sense you have.
The odds of stillbirth or neonatal loss in the UK are approximately 1 in 200 – if you are obese, your chances of experiencing a stillbirth are doubled. Obesity, something I have battled with all my life, is a factor in maternal and foetal health, in birth defects and miscarriage. And fighting with weight is an enormous challenge at the best of times for many women, never mind in pregnancy, when ‘dieting’ is frowned upon and myths of “eating for two” abound. A recent survey suggests that 40% of women believe they need to eat an extra 500 calories a day during pregnancy. The truth is that they need around an extra 200 calories a day in the last 12 weeks of pregnancy – that’s two slices of bread a day.
I’ve joined up with Tommy’s Baby charity and Bounty UK to help them launch their new 5 Point Plan for healthy pregnancy. This is a plan aimed at empowering women to make small changes to improve the health of themselves and their baby. It’s about making thoughtful choices and making a difference. Too often women feel there is nothing they can do once they are pregnant to keep themselves healthy and that all the ‘inevitable damage’ that they do during pregnancy can be fixed afterwards. This campaign is about supporting women to make good health choices, small changes that can make big differences.
If I had known how much my weight might impact on Freddie, REALLY known, I might have fought off some weight first, as I did with this current pregnancy. We don’t know why he died, but nagging in the back of my mind is that I could have taken much better care of myself. I struggled with colds all the way through, I didn’t take vitamins after the first three months, I didn’t really look after my soul and my mental well-being as well as I could have. And because we don’t have any other reason for his death, it is hard not to blame myself and my choices. I DID eat healthily and wisely and put on as little additional weight as possible, I’m absolutely sure that helped his pregnancy and birth go smoothly as it did with Maddy’s, but I wish I had planned ahead more.
The 5 Point Pregnancy Plan
Tommy’s and Bounty Uk are encouraging women and health carers to address 5 areas of wellbeing:-
Women have a right to good information and supportive assistance in these areas, whether it is help to know what foods they should eat, or managing stress, which can contribute to pre-term labour, finding a gentle exercise programme to suit them or giving up smoking. 17% of pregnant mothers still smoke. 1 in 5 pregnant mothers are obese. There are common misconceptions surrounding ‘dieting’ as opposed to nutritional and healthy food and how safe exercise is during pregnancy. Tommy’s and Bounty UK aim to help women get easy access to this information by placing an information card in all new pregnancy packs given to expectant mothers.
How You Can Help
This morning I went on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire to talk about my experiences (starts at 1 hr 40m) I’ve learned a lot through my various pregnancies; after my first, I never relied on breastfeeding to shed all that extra fat ever again. After Freddie died, when we knew we would try to have another child, I took Folic Acid and vitamin supplements religiously throughout the year it took to conceive again. I attended counselling to sort out my head as I was all too well aware that the stress of his death was likely to affect conception and make pregnancy incredibly hard. Once I felt able I took up running, eventually getting to a point where I could run a 5K charity event run. It took surprisingly little time to achieve that and I kept running through early pregnancy. I now walk briskly around my circuit. We eat well here, good, nutritional and balanced meals, but I’ve monitored my treats and aimed to put on the weight associated with baby, not extra fat. I have plenty of that
What did you learn from your first pregnancy? How have you changed things with later pregnancies? Can you share your story, whether something huge and life changing, or small and funny, that made you manage your approach to pregnancy differently? Do yyou feel there is enough information available? Do health carers help you or frustrate you? How did your approach to physical and mental well being change over your pregnancies?
The blog hop below aims to gather lots of different stories about healthcare in pregnancy and spread the word about this new, incredibly worthwhile, campaign. Please join in and share the links I’ve included where you can. We’re using the hashtag #healthypregnancy on Twitter. Help us get the word out
As a small incentive, I am personally offering two GBP25 (my server refuses to do the pound sign) vouchers for our toy shop which will be randomly drawn from the entrants. If we get lots of entries, I might even add more vouchers. June from Goddess Jewels is offering a bracelet and Jenny is going to offer some Natality Mum or Baby Balm
Thank you for reading.