An Expectant Mom’s Guide to Contractions

Many first-time expectant moms are understandably nervous about the labor and delivery process. A smart way to alleviate any anxiety associated with the birth of your new baby is to learn as much as possible about what to expect, including the difference between true labor signs and false alarms. Pocket this advice and you’ll be ready to take on your labor with confidence.

Beware of false alarms. Many soon-to-be new moms experience false labor pains known as Braxton Hicks contractions.  If you're not sure whether these might be real labor pains, remember that false contractions are irregular in their timing. And if changing your activity or position makes the pain go away, it's probably false labor. On the other hand, true labor contractions take place at regular intervals and occur more frequently as time goes on. They’ll last anywhere from 30 seconds in the beginning to 90 seconds as labor progresses, and walking or any increased activity may cause the contractions to intensify.

Look for other signs. While labor pains are usually a sign that you’re nearing your delivery time, there are other indications that labor is not far away. For starters, the new baby may have dropped, also known as lightening. This simply means your little one has settled into your pelvis. In some instances, a woman's water may break before labor begins, which occurs either as a sudden gush of fluid or a steady trickle. This is the amniotic sac, which is a fluid-filled membrane that protects the baby in the uterus. Once this occurs, there is an increased risk for infection, so if labor has not already started, you may need to be induced.   

Call the doctor You'll want to call your health care provider (and prepare to head to the hospital) if your contractions are growing stronger and occurring at shorter intervals. The same is true if your water has broken. Likewise, severe vaginal bleeding or cramping, as well as pain in your belly, back, or pelvis, are reasons for an expectant mom to call for emergency assistance.

When it comes to childbirth, the more prepared you are, the better, so memorize the signs of labor -- especially if this is your first delivery. Simply understanding the changes that take place in your body when the time finally arrives helps to put you at ease and prepare you for the birth of your new baby.

An Expectant Mom’s Guide to Traveling While Pregnant

Whether you’re getting there by plane, train, or automobile, traveling while pregnant definitely benefits from forethought and careful planning. While there’s certainly no reason to sit at home, you should take certain precautions to make sure that your trip is healthy, safe, and comfortable for both you and your new baby. Here are some tips on how to make pregnancy travel easier and more enjoyable, as well as advice for which activities are best left off the itinerary.

Before You Go

Check in with your doctor. Make sure you have the official go-ahead to travel from your doctor. Many heath care providers suggest that new moms-to-be consider traveling during the second trimester, when the risk of miscarriage and premature labor is at its lowest.

Find a hospital or medical clinic near wherever you are traveling. You’ll want to know where medical assistance can be found if you need it. If traveling internationally, refer to the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers for a worldwide directory of doctors.

Check in with the airline. Certain airlines have restrictions or regulations about traveling while pregnant, so make sure yours knows you have a baby on board.

Traveling by Air

Request an aisle seat. This makes it much easier to take those frequent trips to the bathroom.

Move around. Get up out of your seat and walk up and down the aisle at least once every couple of hours to promote circulation.

Drink plenty of water. Flying can cause dehydration, so keep sipping on water throughout the flight.

Traveling on Land

Pack plenty of healthy snacks. Roadside fare isn’t always nutritious or appealing, so it's wise to pack your own food to help stave off nausea and to keep  you and your new baby fueled along the way.

Dress in layers. While pregnant, your body temperature is constantly changing, and it’s a good idea to be able to remove or add clothing as necessary.

Limit driving time. If traveling by car, aim for driving no more than five or six hours each day, and make frequent stops to get out and stretch your legs.

Activities to Avoid While Away

Bicycling. The shifting center of gravity affects balance, especially after the first trimester.

Scuba Diving. As you surface, air bubbles can form in your bloodstream, which can be very dangerous to both you and your new baby.

Downhill skiing, horseback riding, surfing, and waterskiing. Any activity that poses a high risk for falling should be avoided, as a tumble may increase the risk of trauma to your abdomen.

Remember, women all over the world travel while pregnant. As long as you take the proper precautions, there’s no reason not to schedule a getaway before your new baby is born! And if you're going to be traveling by car, check out this list of Best Car Buys for 2019.

Baby Bump Photo Fun for Expectant Moms

If you thought the photos would start after your baby was born, think again. Many expectant moms are capturing their pregnancy through distinctive and unique baby bump photos that showcase their bellies. Creating these images is a fun and easy way to help you and your family get excited for your new bundle of joy. Ready to put your own belly on display? Read on for some inspiration and get snapping!

The Side-by-Side Comparison

This photo series is a great way to document the change in your belly size during your pregnancy. Simply stand in front of a solid, light-colored background, turn sidewise to the camera for optimal bump-viewing ability, and snap away, taking a new photo at the beginning of every month in the same pose. You may want to wear a form-fitting top so your bump really stands out. After nine months you’ll have great record of your new baby’s development.

The Sibling Photo

If you already have a child, a nice way to help get her excited for her new brother or sister is to involve her in the baby bump photo. It’s best to take this shot when you’re far along in your pregnancy. Pick a spot in the new baby’s nursery -- such as on the floor near the crib or sitting together in a rocking chair -- and have your child rest her head on your stomach. It’s a simple and sweet way for the two of you to welcome the new baby into your lives.

The Fruit Photo     

It’s common for moms to compare their new baby’s fetal growth to the size of certain fruits (for example, at week 8 the baby is the size of a raspberry, a plum at week 12, and an avocado at week 16). Take this a step further by photographing yourself holding the fruit next to your belly at each monthly milestone.

The Pregnant Paint Photo

If you’re artsy -- and willing to get a little messy -- then a photo shoot highlighting your painted belly is for you. Get creative with this one! You could paint hearts on your belly, have your other children paint their handprints all over your bump, or even use your stomach as your birth announcement for your new baby by writing “It’s a boy!”  Another option: Ask an artistic friend to create an elaborate piece of artwork on your belly. The paint won’t last forever, but the photo memories will.

Even if your to-do list is extremely long during your pregnancy months, aim to carve out some time for a baby bump photo shoot. You and your new baby will have fun looking back on the photo memories for years to come.

Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

Pregnancy Tips for Easing Backaches

Back pain, alas, is one of the most common complaints of expectant new moms. So what’s going on to cause the aches? First, your center of gravity changes as your uterus expands with your new baby, which can affect posture and wreak havoc on your back. A burgeoning belly causes similar problems, stretching out the ab muscles that normally help support your spine. On top of this, a new mom’s body releases hormones to relax the ligaments in the pelvic joints, making them more flexible for labor but causing back pain if these joints get too supple. Luckily, in addition to ice and heating pads, there are a few simple steps you can take to prevent or lessen the backaches of having a baby. 

Back relief pregnancy tip #1: Mind your posture. If you're an expectant mom, standing up straight isn’t just good manners: It also protects your back muscles. You may be tempted to slouch or lean back to compensate for the weight of your growing bump, but doing so may strain your lower back muscles. Instead, adhere to the principles of good posture and stand up straight with shoulders relaxed, holding your chest high. To help support the new baby in your belly, keep your feet wide apart and avoid standing upright for too long.

Back relief pregnancy tip #2: Sleep smart. While it’s important for expectant moms to get plenty of rest, it’s equally important to protect the back during sleep. Especially in the later months, avoid sleeping on your back -- those muscles need their rest, too! Instead, snooze on your side, bending one or both knees. For extra comfort, place a pillow or two between your legs for support.

A firm mattress may also help you avoid sore backs. But you don’t have to replace the bedroom set just because you’re having a baby: To add support to a softer bed, simply place a strong wood plank between your box spring and mattress.

Back relief pregnancy tip #3: Get active. Back-friendly exercises like swimming and walking provide a bevy of benefits for expectant moms. Strengthening and stretching both the back muscles and back-supporting muscles (such as your hips, abs, and legs) eases back pain and helps prepare you for labor. Simple stretches can also help release back tension, so consider signing up for a yoga class for feel-good back benefits. Be sure to check with your doctor before deciding which exercise regimen will work best for you.

If you back is causing you a considerable amount of pain or preventing you from going about your daily activities, talk to your doctor. Pregnancy may not always comfortable, but remember that you won’t be carrying the extra weight for much longer.

Breastfeeding Prep for New Moms

If you’ve decided to give breastfeeding a try, you may be wondering where to start and what to do. Breastfeeding doesn’t always come naturally to new moms, so it’s smart to do some prep work while you’re still pregnant so you know what to expect. Here are a few tips to consider before you start nursing your new baby:

Stock up on nursing bras. Easy access when you’re nursing is important, so think about purchasing a couple of nursing bras in the middle of your third trimester. Get fitted by an experienced salesperson (you want a little bit of room to grow towards the end of your pregnancy). Start with two bras for now and then get more as you need them.

Attend a breastfeeding class. Attending a nursing course will give you a preview of what to expect; it’s also a chance to ask questions you may have about the process. Many childbirth classes also include breastfeeding instruction, so don't worry if you can't find a class that's exclusively about breastfeeding. To find a class near you, call the hospital where you’ll be giving birth, ask your health care provider, or check out local message boards or mom groups.

Purchase the gear. If you plan to return to work after the birth of your new baby, a breast pump will be invaluable. It’s normal to leak a little when your milk starts to come in, so pick up a few breast pads to insert into your nursing bras. Finally, a nursing pillow may also come in handy, as many new moms find it to be very helpful for propping up their baby when nursing; others use regular bed or couch pillows for the same result.

Find a lactation consultant. Starting off on the right foot when you’re nursing is a lot easier if you have some professional support. Breastfeeding isn’t always easy at first, and it’s possible you may struggle with figuring out certain positions or getting your new baby to latch-on. You may want to make an appointment with a lactation consultant in advance of your birth to get must-know tips, or schedule it for soon after your delivery. Many hospitals will have lactation consultants and nurses available to help you start nursing right after your baby is born.

The best breastfeeding experience starts with a bit of planning. Ask your friends and family for their advice, too, as you get ready, and call on them for support as you begin nursing your new baby. Don’t worry if you can’t stick with it for as long as you’d like -- any nursing you do will have a positive effect on your baby.