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Congratulations, you’ve found out you’re expecting. You’d be forgiven for getting swept up in the overwhelming joy of the moment and dreaming of a cooing bundle in your arms, what colour to paint the nursery and all the cute little clothes you’ve been dying to have an excuse to buy!

Pregnancy, child birth and parenting are beautiful things – or at least they can be if you realise that it won’t always be pretty pastels and soft comforters and that that is ok, in-fact its normal.

To help you prepare, Patrick gives you the low-down on what you should actually be expecting in the coming months and how to take it all in your stride, focusing on the health of yourself and that of the baby growing inside you.

Morning sickness
You’ve probably heard nightmare stories from family and friends who are quick to share their tales of woe about how ill they felt during their pregnancy. Whilst you might be lucky enough to have a mild case of morning sickness or none at all, there are some women who suffer with chronic morning sickness throughout all nine months. Although considered a normal symptom of early pregnancy, morning sickness can also be an indication of nutrient imbalance. Vitamin B6 and vitamins K and C taken as nutritional supplements have been used effectively for nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. You can find these vitamins in spinach and other dark, leafy green vegetables, bell peppers, cauliflower and broccoli. Ginger is also popular, in food and supplement, to alleviate morning sickness as is eating small, frequent meals throughout the day.     

Stretch marks
The skin on the abdomen does a remarkable job in pregnancy, but if it expands beyond its elastic capacity, stretch marks can develop. Stretch marks on the stomach, thighs, breasts, hips or shoulder girdle are one of the signs of Zinc deficiency, so eating Zinc-rich foods such as nuts, fish, peas and eggs is crucial. Up your intake of vitamins A, C, E and Zinc which are all key for skin health and help to keep skin supple. A stretch mark is a tear in the collagen fibre of your skin, so while these nutrients won’t necessarily repair it, they can help increase skin elasticity and tone, and prevent any further stretch marks developing. Applying Vitamin E oil or cream directly to your stomach and areas where you have previously had stretch marks will also help to condition your skin and reduce the appearance of existing marks.  Also make sure you have a good intake of essential fats.

Breast feeding
There are many benefits of breastfeeding for both you and your new baby but breast milk is only as good as the raw materials used to make it. Eating a great diet and supplementing where necessary are as important after birth, as during pregnancy, as now you are nourishing your growing baby from your breast instead of the umbilical cord.

Ensure you get enough protein especially if you feel you are not producing enough milk or it is not satiating your baby. Drinking lots of liquid will help you produce the volume you require and replenish your own water levels that your baby is consuming through breast milk. Make time for rest and ask for help when you need it as stress has been known to impede milk flow. Don’t forget that stimulants such as coffee, tea, alcohol, chocolate and fizzy or artificially sweetened drinks will pass into your breast milk so are best avoided.

Post-natal depression
Serious post-natal depression is thought to affect up to 15% of new mothers, and feeling weepy or down is even more common. Although the huge responsibility of taking care of a tiny human baby is thought to contribute to post-natal depression, it is usually triggered by hormonal and chemical changes, and these can be supported with good nutrition.

Before you give birth, you transfer a large supply of Zinc to your baby, and if you didn’t have a good supply yourself, the chances are you’re now deficient, especially if your labour was long and difficult or you had a caesarean. Depression is a common side-effect of Zinc deficiency, as are white marks on more than two fingernails, a poor appetite, stretch marks and a weak immune system. Zinc works best if combined with B Vitamins, especially Vitamin B6.

The other common deficiency associated with post-natal depression is essential fats. Try eat more oily fish (go easy on the tuna as it can contain mercury) as well as fresh pumpkin and sunflower seeds each day to boost essential fats in your diet.