Hello and welcome. If you’ve landed here, there’s a good chance you’re either trying to conceive and currently having all the relentless ovulation window sex, very much pregnant (huge congrats!) and looking for all the tips you can get, or you’re on the home stretch and weeks away from welcoming your little one into the world and wondering what you need to pack in your hospital bag.
There’s a lot of widely available info out there, most of which you can get from a quick midnight Google panic-search, but we thought the most relatable advice would be best coming from those truth-telling internet pals who have been there, done it and got the kegel technique to prove it.
We took to Instagram to ask real parents what expectant mothers, or those trying for a baby (because we see you too), should know. Whether you want the scoop on how to get a good night’s sleep, a remedy for morning sickness that actually works or the ins and outs of perineal massage (you’re about to get to know your vagina very well), these are the tips that’ll get you through pregnancy from your first trimester right up to your due date.
Of all the suggestions that landed in our inbox, we have to say “a third arm” was a personal fave. Without further ado, let’s push on!
Take the guesswork out of fertility tracking
For anyone who is TTC (trying to conceive) and looking for a more advanced way to track fertility, the personalised Mira is an at-home lab-quality hormone tracking system that monitors LH levels throughout your cycle. It still requires peeing on a stick, there’s no getting away from that, but you then insert the wand into the analyzer and your fertility hormone concentration will sync with the Mira app, giving you accurate insight into your fertility window.
It’s particularly useful for anyone with irregular cycles or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) as some people with PCOS have an elevated LH baseline, which means standard ovulation prediction kits can give false positives and can’t identify the actual ovulation.
Trying for a baby doesn’t happen overnight for everyone
It’s a biggie no one really talks about but for the majority of people trying to conceive, it takes work. We’re talking on average, six months to a year of regular unprotected sex. Yep, it turns out, there’s a fair bit of trying involved in this trying for a baby malarky, after all. It’s a whole lot of joint sex calendars, fertile windows and peeing on a stick.
You’re not alone and we see you. It’s a wild journey and it is possible to feel utterly full for others and their good news whilst feeling desperately empty yourself.
One in seven couples have difficulty conceiving, so if that happens to be you and you’re dealing with negative pregnancy results and a lockdown baby boom thrown in for good measure, hold tight. You’re not alone and we see you. It’s a wild journey and it is possible to feel utterly full for others and their good news whilst feeling desperately empty yourself.
If you need to stop reading after this point for your own mental health, we welcome that kind of self-care. Reading about pregnancy and birth might not be what you need at this moment in time but equally, it might serve as a sign that things do work out, babies are born, pregnancies do happen and there is hope. Check in with yourself. How do you feel? You have permission to slope off at this point if it gets a little much.
Get yourself a pregnancy pillow like, right now
The pregnancy pillow hype is real. If you’re suffering from back pain, allow this humble sausage to work its magic. Made of pressure-relieving material, it will provide unique support around your belly, lower back, pelvis, knees and ankles throughout your pregnancy. This one comes highly recommended!
Wear flight socks
Relieve swollen ankles by wearing flight socks or stockings under your clothes. Genius. Nobody’s gonna know (said in TikTok voice).
Get yourself a decent sling for crying out loud
You wear your baby more than you realise and your back is going to need all the support it can get. We asked Maddie, our very own motherhood expert, for her carrier recommendations and she loves Amawrap, Baby Bjorn and Ergobaby.
Pamper yourself, obviously
Take some time to unwind and let a prenatal massage help with the pains and strains of pregnancy.
Pregnancy massages may seem like a luxury but let’s not forget, you’re growing a human here. Your body is going through a lot of physical and emotional change and now is not the time to feel guilty about your chosen method of self-care. Book in a few massages and bloody well enjoy it. Milk it for all its worth – you deserve it.
And talking of massages…
From 32 weeks, you’ll need to start getting very familiar with the area between your vagina and your bum three to four times a week, otherwise known as the perineum. Perineal massage, or birth canal widening, has been clinically proven to help prepare the perineum for childbirth, making it more flexible so it can stretch easier during labour. We don’t think there will be any danger of you falling asleep in this massage but it’s gotta be done if you want to reduce the risk of tearing.
You can either do it yourself or get your partner to help if you feel comfortable. Nothing like a bit of hands-on bonding.
Perineal massage, or birth canal widening, has been clinically proven to help prepare the perineum for childbirth, making it more flexible so it can stretch easier during labour.
First, make sure you lubricate your perineum with oil to make the massage more comfortable. Take some deep breaths to help you relax and put your thumbs about 2.5cm to 4cm inside your vagina. Press down towards your bum and to the sides, resting your fingers on your perineum. You should feel a slight burning stretching sensation, hold this for a few minutes. Then gently massage the lower bit of your vagina using your thumbs upwards, outwards and in a U-shaped movement. Continue for two to three minutes. Can’t visualise it? Don’t fret. This video will demystify the process for you.
NB: If a partner is helping you out, they should use their index fingers instead of their thumbs.
Freeze your maternity pads
For postpartum pain relief, nothing offers more support down there than a soothing padsicle (frozen maternity pad FYI) smothered in aloe vera gel. It reduces swelling and encourages the healing process after vaginal birth.
Bodysuits are your best friend
Winnie the Pooh is cute but sometimes you don’t really fancy your bump crowning out of every t-shirt you own. Enter the bodysuit. Comfy, excellent coverage and supportive. A friend indeed.
Cabbage leaves to the rescue
It’s true what they say about the healing powers of a cold cabbage leaf. Keep them in the fridge and whack them over your boobs to help with pain and breast inflammation that may occur during breastfeeding. You can use red or green, but green is best if you don’t want to deal with stains or discolouration on your nursing bra.
When prepping your cabbage leaves, rinse thoroughly, pat dry, remove the stem and cut a slit down the middle. You want it to remain in one piece with a gap in the middle to wrap around your breasts without covering the nipples. Kind of like a nipple wig. You can keep them on there for a good 20 minutes or until they start getting warm. Cabbage soup, anyone?
Take prenatal vitamins
Eating a balanced diet of lean meat and leafy vegetables will ensure you get most of the vitamins and minerals you need but it’s difficult to get the recommended amount of folate (natural form of folic acid) from food alone. The NHS recommends you should take a 400 micrograms folic acid tablet every day from when you’re trying to conceive until you’re 12 weeks pregnant.
The NHS recommends you should take a 400 micrograms folic acid tablet every day from when you’re trying to conceive until you’re 12 weeks pregnant.
Taking a Vitamin D supplement to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body is also important to help your baby’s bones, teeth, kidneys, heart and nervous system to develop. If you’re pregnant, you should be taking a 10 microgram supplement of Vitamin D every day. Eating Vitamin D-rich foods such as oily fish, eggs and some breakfast cereals will also help you get your recommended daily intake but be aware of the foods to avoid too.
Liver is fortified with Vitamin D but should not be eaten whilst pregnant due to the high levels of Vitamin A which can be harmful to an unborn baby.
Keep a pregnancy diary
Make a scrapbook or keep a pregnancy diary for your baby to have when they’re older, full of all the memories and moments you’ll never want to forget from scans to cravings and things that were happening when they were the size of a pomegranate. Show them how they turned your world upside down in the best possible way. Got-to-go, there’s something huge in my eye all of a sudden.
Do your pelvic floor exercises
Strengthen your pelvic floor muscles by squeezing as though you’re stopping your flow whilst you’re going for a wee. Squeeze for three seconds, relax for three seconds and repeat 10 times, ideally every day. The best part? You can do your pelvic floor exercises (aka kegels) anywhere and no one will know. Queuing for coffee? Have a little squeeze. Waiting for your midwife appointment? Perfect time for a little tactical keg.
You can never have enough big black pants
After birth, you’ll be living in big black comfy pants, so stock up early doors.
And nursing bras!
SO many nursing bras. M&S came up trumps when it came to bras that make breastfeeding that little bit easier.
Orange peel is a precious friend
Carry a tub of orange peel in your handbag to sniff when you get waves of sickness – sure, you might get weird looks when you’re in the office, but the smell of orange peel and citrus fruits can help alleviate nausea so give ‘em hell kid. A lot of people also swear by ice lollies, ginger and chewing gum / mints too, so they might be worth a go if you’re looking for something a little more discreet.
Bananas before bed
Sounds like a charming children’s bedtime story but really though, eat bananas before bed. When you get those dreaded calf cramps in your third trimester, a banana knows what to do.
Mamo Mio for skincare
Expertly formulated to nourish and soothe growing bumps, the Mama Mio Tummy Rub Butter is packed full of natural plant-based goodness to increase skin elasticity and protect delicate sensitive skin. We’ve yet to meet a mum who doesn’t love this stuff.
You might feel like a stranger in your own body at the moment, so if whacking on a few creams makes you feel better about your stretch marks, then you do that.
The Mama Marks stretch mark minimising cream is another cult product mums swear by. Whilst we believe no woman should feel ashamed of the marks she gained whilst making a home for her baby, it’s your skin and you shouldn’t feel a pressure to worship all your bodily changes either. Skin is skin – you’re entitled to love your stretch marks but just making your peace with them is valid, too. You might feel like a stranger in your own body at the moment, so if whacking on a few creams makes you feel better about your stretch marks, then you do that.
Try a belly band
Like a bra for your belly, these handy undergarments are cleverly designed to help the lower back and abdomen during pregnancy. This one from JoJo Mamaen Bebe is particularly good for supporting your bump and your back whilst working out but there are other styles to wear all day under your clothes.
Spritz your Bits
If we’re talking hospital bag essentials, you need Spritz your Bits in your life. This multi-award winning midwife developed spray can provide instant relief for sore bits both after birth and during pregnancy. It’s also particularly great for that first post-birth wee, so we hear! Store in the fridge for extra oomph. Your vagina, vulva and ya perineum (the whole gang basically) will thank you for it.
To prepare for any kind of birth, look no further than the digital hypnobirthing pack by The Positive Birth Company. They’re on a mission to make hypnobirthing accessible and affordable for all, wherever you are and whenever you’re free. The antenatal program is priced at £39 and designed to empower women, birthing people and their partners to create positive birth experiences with lifelong benefits.
By the time you complete the course, you’ll feel more positive, confident and excited about giving birth, however it happens for you.
Learn all about the physiology of birth, how the uterus muscles work, delayed cord clamping, skin to skin, relaxation techniques and interventions including caesarean birth and induction. By the time you complete the course, you’ll feel more positive, confident and excited about giving birth, however it happens for you.
Try a TENS machine for pain relief in early labour
A TENS machine is a small, hand-held, battery-operated device, worn on the body to relieve back pain in early labour. It works by sending mild electrical pulses to the sticky pads on your lower back to distract you from the pain, though it’s not effective for everyone.
There’s no need to buy one, most chemists will hire them out and your hospital will usually have them, too.
TENS isn’t safe for everyone to use. Don’t use it without first seeking medical advice.
Use nipple covers for your belly button
Belly buttons get pretty extra in pregnancy but it’s nothing a nipple cover can’t sort. Stick a reusable silicone nipple cover over your belly button and voila – no more rubbing on irritating fabrics.
A water bottle with a straw and time markings
When you’ve got a million things to organise for the arrival of your tiny human, the simplest of things can be left off the list. Like a water bottle with a straw – great for pregnancy, labour and breastfeeding. The time markings on this one allows you to keep an eye on how much water you’re drinking, which comes in very handy once the baby is here. BF thirst is a whole other kind of thirst.
If you’re struggling to stay hydrated or you’re feeling nauseous, try a low-calorie squash instead.
Make a birthing playlist
Everyone’s got their power tracks to get them in the mood to push so girl, take it to the bridge and get that baby outta there. Whatever birth you’re having, a playlist of birthing bangers will be a welcome bit of ambient noise.
Take your birth plan with a pinch of salt
Whilst it’s good to have a plan, nature doesn’t always like to stick to it. Go with the flow as much as you can and be kind to yourself. Everyone has an idea of the dream birth scenario with no pain relief and plinky plonky music but every birth is different and however you end up bringing your baby into the world, that’ll be the right plan for you and your little one.
Sleep with something you’re going to give your new-born
Whether it’s a muslin or a cuddly toy, nothing will comfort them like the scent of their mama. No, you’re crying.
Don’t bother with maternity clothes
Stick to baggy one size jumpsuits and stretchy dresses that’ll serve you all the way through your pregnancy.
To get the most out of your jeans, use a hairband looped through the buttonhole for extra room. No top button, no problem!
Stretchy sports bras and bra extenders are a great alternative for those who don’t really want to splash out on pregnancy undies, too.
Mist your face
Pack a calming face mist or just fill up a spray bottle with water to spritz on your face whenever you want to cool down or freshen up during labour.
Pack a long cable for your phone
Hospital rooms were not designed with phone charging convenience in mind. Cheat the system by going long with your charging cable so you’ll always have enough juice to supply the family with baby spam.
Make sure you have enough snacks
Forget the baby grows, do you have enough snacks to see you through? A mum’s gotta eat.
Batch cook freezer meals
Prep a few frozen dinners to see you through those first blurry weeks of motherhood. It’s one less thing to worry about and your future self will thank you for being organised.
Have you got any sage motherly advice or must-have products? Let us know in the comments below!