Mary managed a calm Christmas pregnancy, despite the donkey ride and accommodation problems. But we’re not all so serene, and having a fantastic festive season when pregnant can prove tricky, says Fiona Murray. Read on for some survival strategies if you are going to be pregnant at Christmas.
Even the best Christmases are pretty stressful – but throw in swollen ankles, rampant indigestion and the emotional stability of a PMT convention stuck in a ten-mile traffic jam and you’ll find a pregnant Christmas can be a fraught one.
Your hormones are in overdrive – whilst bursting into tears over an Andrex advert one minute and a violent rage at that jammed kitchen drawer, the next. Your body is changing daily and your relationships with those close to you are changing, too.
But with a bit of planning it’s possible to cope with the physical and emotional demands of Christmas without shrieking: ‘I’m a mum-to-be, get me out of here!’
You will fear for your sanity when you find yourself sobbing in the supermarket to the strains of Bing Crosby and David Bowie’s Little Drummer Boy. During pregnancy you experience a huge surge of hormones, which causes manic mood swings. Add in nausea and indigestion-fuelled sleep deprivation and it’s little wonder that you sometimes feel short-tempered or weepy.
Agony aunt and counsellor Suzie Hayman says it’s important to pay attention to how you are feeling: “You need to relax and recognise what is happening, otherwise you can feel you are going mad because you have such strong and conflicting emotions. It’s an emotional roller coaster and you just have to ride it out.”
Underlying fears – about how having the baby is going to affect your relationship, your job and your social life – can also cause you to feel extreme highs and lows. It’s also important to share your feelings with your partner and friends and family – if only to alert them to your sudden volatility.
Survival strategy: go with the flow and accept that hormones will be hormones; avoid potential tear-jerking moments such as Rolf Harris visiting sick children in hospital and It’s A Wonderful Life; buy in extra supplies of tissues & waterproof mascara.
Festive and frumpy
Oh no, it’s party time. Apart from the yawn-inducing tedium of watching friends/family/colleagues get steaming drunk while you nurse a Britvic orange, there’s the dilemma of what to wear. Your favourite little black dress no longer even goes over your bum – it can be difficult to adjust to the new larger you, especially if you’ve spent years trying to keep the pounds off.
Crass comments like “My God, you’ve got even BIGGER!” don’t help. Suzy Hayman suggests arming yourself with a positive remark to bat back: “Yes, there’s a nice bouncy baby in there.” Or if you feel upset, politely let the person know: “That was a bit hurtful, it’s a good thing I feel good about myself.”
“Challenge the remark,” says Suzy. “Don’t take it on board, look at the remark and if you don’t like it, hand it back or dump it.”
But, above all, work at feeling positive about your new shape, enjoy no longer having to hold in your tummy and make the most of your new assets i.e. a Grand Canyon cleavage.
Survival strategy: be big – be proud; buy or borrow one decent black dress and go mad in Claire’s Accessories to ring the changes; treat yourself to a manicure and buy the most expensive lipstick you can find.
Eat, drink and be merry?
Having a little of what you fancy should be fine on Christmas Day, providing you follow the current guidelines and use your imagination. Are you longing for a wedge of smelly Stilton? Mould-ripened cheeses are off the menu so think of substitute like some mega-mature cheddar.
Fiona Ford, research dietitian from the Wellbeing Eating for Pregnancy Helpline, recommends special vigilance with food hygiene at Christmas: “Your fridge may well be full, but be careful about leaving things out in the warm kitchen.”
Take the usual precautions with turkey; salmon and prawns are safe as long as they’ve been properly stored, but avoid raw seafood like oysters.
The big question is: how much is it safe to drink? The current advice from the Department of Health is no alcohol whatsoever during pregnancy or even when trying to conceive as evidenced in RCOG guidelines and on the NHS choices website.
Pork pie and ham will probably be wheeled out for supper on Christmas Day, it’s best to buy food like this packed and dated rather than loose from the delicatessen counter, warns Fiona Ford.
“Things which are left out in the air are more likely to have picked up things . . . . . if it’s something you are going to cook again yourself, like sausages, that’s fine.”
Even the Christmas cake could be risky – royal icing may contain raw egg whites, posing a salmonella risk.
Survival strategy: enjoy moderation in most things; eat small portions; think of scrummy alternatives; stock up on Gaviscon.
Pregnancy doesn’t mean behaving like a Victorian invalid, but you will need more rest. Traipsing round shops lugging bags of heavy presents will wear you out, as will too much partying.
“Recognise that a momentous process is going on, your body is busy building a new person and that takes a lot of effort,” says Suzy Hayman.
But well-meaning advice can be irritating – especially if it’s from your mother-in-law: who can’t stop using the phrase ‘in your condition . . .’.
“Cultivate a sweet smile and say ‘thank you so much for your concern . . . but I’ll do what my body tells me,” says Suzy. “If your body says you’re tired then put your feet up, but you may feel totally energised. Listen to your own body and don’t worry what other people think.”
Survival strategy: Shop online or by catalogue and let the postman take the strain; prime your partner to rescue you if you’re frazzled and want to leave the party early; make the most of times when you are bursting with energy.
By Fiona Murray