10 December 2003

Dad-to-be: 12 weeks

Your favourite eggplant, showing at a sonar near you.

What’s going on
The foetus is growing at a fearsome rate now. You can track its development on a daily basis. It’s a humbling experience. If your partner has a sonar done at this time, try to have it recorded. Don't be alarmed - the foetus may look like an eggplant.

How she feels
Your partner may be showing some outward signs of pregnancy – enlarged breasts and a slightly thicker waist.

How you feel
By now you should be hitting your stride, knowing which aromatherapy and massage oils to use, and which foods she’s off.

What to do
Like a commando scouting out the territory, build up a directory of suppliers and services that you’ll need when the baby arrives. Develop contacts among friends and relatives who might know of used or nearly new equipment. There’s no indignity in this if the money you save can be invested in really useful stuff such as disposable nappies. Keep feeding your partner plenty of fresh water and foods.

Set some rules: you need to reach a pact with your partner, that she undertakes to tell you whatever’s going on, whether it’s nausea, constipation, haemorroids or any other visceral and embarrassing problem.

Be a partner: If she’s sworn off chilled white wine and cigars because she’s pregnant, do the honourable thing and do it with her. The brownie points you’ll earn will equal those you'll get for taking her on a round-the-world-cruise.

What to avoid
Too much booze: a glass of red wine a night won’t do any harm, but your partner needs to avoid any more booze than that. It goes without saying that nicotine, first- or secondhand, is verboten. Tobacco is really the only thing she needs to abstain from completely. She should also avoid raw egg.

You partner may feel tempted to diet during pregnancy. This can have disastrous consequences – there’s only one watchword during pregnancy and that’s moderation.

Caffeine: Coffee, cocoa, tea and energy drinks drain your body of iron.

Sugary pastries and other delights: Yielding to the allure of a confection that’s high in refined carbohydrates will boost her blood-sugar levels, after which they’ll plummet, leaving your already beleaguered partner feeling as though she’s been run over by an ambulance.

Salt. Too much sodium causes the body to retain fluid, pushing up blood pressure. It also depletes the body’s calcium resources. Enough said.

Pâtés, shop-bought salads and processed meats carry scary levels of bacteria. A dose of food poisoning can be very dangerous while pregnant, so play it safe.

Watch those cravings: One day she can’t face dry bread because it’s too oily. The next she’s demanding deep-fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches, with a side order of marshmallows and anchovies. Where they’re reasonable and healthy, allow the cravings to be indulged. When she feels the need to eat dirt, coal, wood, clay, or to chew the tyres on your new 4X4, you need to step in. This is a condition called pica (the compulsive ingestion of unsuitable substances having little or no nutritional value).

The truth is that a balanced diet will result in less weight gain during pregnancy and the weight will be shed more easily afterwards.

So here are a few guidelines:

  • Graze: If she inhales a triple cheeseburger at 11pm she’ll feel bloated, uncomfortable, windy and even vomity. You should both develop the habit of snacking on light foods – nuts, fruit and raw vegetables;
  • Hydrate: At least eight glasses of water should pass her tender lips daily. This will whiz the nutrients around her body and that of your child.
  • Have a steamy scene: rather than cooking your vegetable to soupy stodge, learn to steam them lightly. This retains their nutritional value. Other stuff like carrots, broccoli and tomatoes are better raw;
  • Spend more: consider buying free-range poultry or organically grown fresh produce, at least for the duration of your partner’s pregnancy;
  • And some stuff she simply can’t do without;
  • Vitamin C. It does more than ward off the common cold. It helps build tissue, synthesises proteins and helps the body absorb iron. You get it from kiwi fruit, tomatoes and oranges;
  • Iron. Vital to good blood supply and warding off anaemia that’ll make her look like Morticia Addams, iron is available in lean red meat, as well as baked beans, and all dark green vegetables, particularly spinach and broccoli. If your partner is anaemic she should take a tonic such as Bidomak FE. You can also get iron from brown rice and eggs. Remember that caffeine robs your body of iron;
  • Calcium. It builds strong bones and is vital to the health of your partner and your baby. You get it from yoghurt and hard cheese, sardines (not to everyone’s taste) as well as other dairy products and leafy vegetables such as broccoli;
  • Folic acid. You may never have heard of it, but folic acid is vital to the synthesis of nucleic acids during cell division – given the rate at which cells divide in the foetus, it’s clear why folic acid is important. Lack of folic acid is the most widespread nutrient deficiency in the western world. You can be the exception to this statistic by eating plenty of lightly steamed dark green vegetables, meat and wholegrain breads;
  • Herbal teas. They might seem trendy and superfluous, but camomile, ginger and peppermint teas can aid digestion and quel nausea;
  • Fatty fish. Tuna, mackerel, sardines and herrings are rich in a variety of vitamins as well as omega-3 fatty acids, which help the foetus;
  • Garlic and onions. They lower blood pressure, prevent hardening of the arteries and reduce the likelihood of heart disease.


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