Pregnancy Is Tough Enough – Spare Us The Alarmist Advice!

Pregnancy Is Tough Enough – Spare Us The Alarmist Advice!

Ah, pregnancy.

That blissful time of bump-rubbing, glowing and preparing the nursery for the new arrival.

Well. Maybe not quite.

In my experience, pregnancy can a rollercoaster of emotional and physical upheaval during which you spend half the time crouching over the toilet bowl and the other half munching savoury snacks.

Yes, yes, I realise you get a baby at the end – so it’s worth it, on balance. But let’s face it, for most of us being up the duff is no picnic.

Your body becomes public property

For me, one of the worst things was the way your body suddenly becomes public property. And I’m not talking about the doctors who seem intent on sticking every instrument known to man up your lady hole. Or the baby who bounces on your bladder or kicks you in the ribs every five minutes. I’m not talking about the belly strokers, or the people who tell you whether your bump is ‘neat’ or ‘enormous.’

I’m talking about the people who seem intent on telling you what you may or may not do.

Everyone has a ‘concern’

Is this or that good for the baby? Are you eating for two? Are you carrying lots of weight, or too much? Should you be on your feet all day? Should you have a hot bath? A cold bath? A run? A walk? A swim? Should you be working out more or less?

Year on year, the recommendations change. Which means almost everyone who gives you a nugget of advice from their own experience is probably completely out of date. Women are left feeling, no matter what they do, they’re probably getting it wrong.

Chocolate?! It’s a risk, says study

This is why I was annoyed to read that a study this week recommended that mums-to-be ignore the current NHS advice about keeping caffeine consumption below 200mg per day, and further, suggested they give it up altogether.

No coffee. No tea. No coke. No chocolate. I repeat: NO CHOCOLATE.

If we don’t, the study concluded, we could risk stillbirth, early labour and our babies could suffer from obesity or disease as a result.

Alarmist headlines aren’t helpful

Other experts quickly dismissed this recommendation as alarmist. Sure, it made for a good headline, but wasn’t actually based on specific tests (because nobody can force copious amounts of caffeine into pregnant women just to see what happens). Instead, the scientists had based their conclusions on observational evidence gleaned from past studies.

Too late. Once this sort of claim is ‘out there’ it’s much harder to get it back in it’s box. Too many women – perhaps mid-pregnancy, or caring for a preemie, or those who have tragically suffered miscarriage or stillbirth in earlier pregnancies, will become stressed, or feel inadequate as a result of this ‘recommendation’. What about the cup of tea you had last Tuesday before the news came out? What about the latte you grabbed to get you through that meeting?

There’s no such thing as a ‘Perfect Pregnancy’

Here’s a fun fact for you: there is no such thing as a perfect pregnancy. Just as there is no such thing as a perfect mother. And sticking to rigid rules for 9 months isn’t always achievable, because as well as growing a life, we’re living one too.

Conflicting recommendations do nothing to help the situation. They simply confuse mums-to-be (and anyone who fancies giving them a bit of advice – aka most people).

Life is messy, and so is pregnancy. There will be days when you worry, days when you have to meet a deadline, days when you’re so tired, you simply can’t imagine getting through without a cup of tea. Or – horror! – a couple of squares of chocolate.

Is the stress worth it?

You know what’s also bad for foetuses? Stress. The last thing we need is to think the world is going to end if we nibble a KitKat.

Don’t get me wrong, if there’s something I’m ingesting that might harm my baby, I want to know about it. I want to avoid it. But conflicting advice and over-zealous recommendations don’t help anyone.

Plus, any study that jumps to a sweeping “alarmist” conclusion without sufficient evidence, and without bearing in mind the consequences of such advice, forgets the most important thing of all: however angelic and glowing and bump-patting we are, pregnant women are human too.

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Gillian Harvey

Gillian Harvey is an author and mum of five living in France. Her debut novel 'Everything is Fine' is published with Orion. Available at Amazon, Waterstones and your local bookshop.

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