Pregnant women should be given a budget of around £3,000 to be spent on services including a midwife of their choosing, a major review has concluded

Under plans proposed by the National Maternity Review, women would be told about local NHS providers, but given flexibility to make their own choices about their care.

Mums-to-be could opt for a hospital near work for routine scans, but a hospital closer to home for their baby’s birth, or choose a provider offering the same midwife throughout pregnancy, birth and postnatal care, the authors said.

The scheme would give women more choice over how and where they give birth – an important decision at a time when half of maternity services in England are classed as “inadequate” or “require improvement”.

The proposals have been compared to personal health budgets, where people with disabilities or long-term conditions have a say over how NHS cash is spent on their care.

That system has come under fire amid reports of abuse, with some patients using their budgets to buy holidays and video games.

Despite rapid improvement over the last 10 years, the review highlights safety concerns, including some hospitals failing to own up when something has gone wrong.

The review’s authors call for a standardised investigation process and “rapid redress” for families whose babies suffer harm.

The review also calls for better continuity of care and more resources for postnatal care.

Chair Baroness Julia Cumberlege said: “Women have told us they want to be given genuine choices and have the same person looking after them throughout their care.

“We must ensure that all care is as safe as the best and we need to break down boundaries and work together to reduce the variation in the quality of services and provide a good experience for all women.”

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said: “The independent review… rightly argues that the NHS could and should raise its game on personalised support for parents and their babies, better team working, better use of technology, and more joined-up maternity and mental health services.”

23 weeks pregnant

You are starting your 6th month of pregnancy and believe it or not, your baby can tango. Most senses are active by now and your baby has the skinny shape of a mini person; something bigger than a Smurf, about the size of a papaya fruit.

How the baby is developing at 23 weeks

At 23 weeks, your baby is sitting in your uterus like a king on his throne. His ears are fully developed so he can hear and react to loud noises such as a barking. If you turn up the stereo and dance, your baby will perceive that and will rock it, too. His eyes are fully formed, except that they do not have a colour yet. From this point on, he will also start to bulk up a bit. By now, he is finally 1 pound and about 11 to 14 inches. His skin is red and wrinkled.

Your lifestyle and pregnancy symptoms at 23 week

This is the time to prepare your maternity leave and finish with the stress of work and papers. However, if you still want to work you can do that, but make sure you keep yourself hydrated. Drinking water is very important during pregnancy. You can also drink milk, which hydrates you better than water.

Being 23 weeks pregnant, you start to fatten up faster, so make sure you eat nutritious food that quenches your hunger and cravings.

Your growing belly starts to put pressure on your back and you may start to experience back pains. Make sure you sit comfortably at home or at work. Another part of your body that feels the pressure is the legs. Stretch them or put them up on a pillow when you lay down in order to avoid the painful swelling. Reducing the use of heels and walking with comfortable shoes is of most importance now.

You will observe that your body starts to widen and an odd line appears on your belly, below the belly button. That is the linea nigra. The pregnancy hormones change the shades of your skin, darkening them. They are also guilty for linea nigra, which before your pregnancy was just a normal line between your belly button and pubic area. Do not worry; this line will fade slowly after your baby is born.

Scan appointments at 23 weeks

If you have not seen your baby at 22 weeks, this is the right time to make an appointment for a growth scan. This way you will be able to see the mini human developing in your womb and your doctor will check the health of your baby. With the growth scan, your baby’s tummy, head and legs will be measured to make sure he is growing up in tip-top condition.

 

New Mother Syndrome or Post-Natal Depression

You are home with your newborn. You look at that angel sleeping and you suddenly burst into tears. Do not worry – feeling emotional, in tears and panicked is normal for a new mother. Your life perspective changes from “I” to “my child”. You have new priorities and you are more sensitive than ever.

Reading this article will help you make the difference between baby blues and post-natal depression. Remember that a happy mother is a happy child.

New Mother Syndrome

This is hardly a problem or an illness. The new mother syndrome is the change in perspectives. From woman you become mother, the ultimate title. In the first weeks of maternity, you can suffer from the so-called baby blues, which are random bursts of tears, anxiety or sadness. They do not last long, though and they swap with good moods.

You need to realize that being a mother is not entirely a joyful, idyllic experience. It is also an overwhelming, tiresome experience.

What you need to do is take care of yourself and of your baby. Do not neglect yourself. Get enough rest and eat well.

Most mothers panic when their baby cries… or does not cry. Babies have their own alarm system and crying is their way of speaking.  When your baby cries and weeps, try to keep your cool and soothe his nerves, do not become yourself agitated and nervous.

Things get problematic if your sadness persists and it becomes a way of living.

Post-Natal Depression

Scientists did not discover yet why some mothers become depressed and others do not. It is the result of many factors: an unstable financial situation, no support from their life partner, the absence of family and friends, previous depressive symptoms.

Consult with your doctor to diagnose correctly a depression.  Here are the most common symptoms of post-natal depression:

  • Manic behaviour: insomnia, severe agitation
  • Prolonged sadness
  • Lack of hope and no perspective on life, future
  • Guilt
  • Irritable behaviour, unjustified anger
  • Indifferent to your baby or a wish to harm him
  • Indifferent to your life partner

It is very important to acknowledge these symptoms and not to keep them to yourself. Do not be afraid of being judged or misunderstood. In any types of depression, communicating with your closest ones and a doctor is the best method.

Post-natal depression does not mean you have failed as a mother.

Love yourself and your baby.

5 Ways to Communicate with Your Baby in Womb

As you approach late pregnancy, you might feel the desire to communicate and bond with your baby, by telling stories or playing music to your womb. The feeling of bonding with the baby in womb can be very rewarding and it will help you be more peaceful and joyful.

1. Talk to your baby

After about 23 weeks, your baby is able to hear sounds from outside the womb, which means she’ll already start to learn your voice. Studies have indicated that hearing is developed so early because it helps babies familiarize with the mother’s voice and form an attachment early on. New-born babies also pay more attention to the mother’s voice than to other voices.

It might feel unusual at first to talk to your bump, but once you’ll get used to it and become more aware of the fact that your baby can hear you, it will be rewarding. The long chats with your bumps are one of the best experiences in the third trimester of pregnancy.

2. Play music to your baby

Play an album with relaxing music when you take a break or when you are reading, exercising or just pampering yourself with a nice bath. Meditation music can have a very calming effect for both you and your baby. Listen to this playlist to see what we mean: Meditation – The Sounds of Your Pregnancy. This album was created for Baby Clinic of Harley Street and contains 9 tracks of relaxing sounds for a soothing afternoon spent with your bump.

3. Sing to your baby

What can be more bonding than singing a lullaby to your baby in womb? Try one song every evening when you are in your third trimester. Your baby will familiarize with your voice and enjoy the sounds of the lullaby. It’s a great way to bond with your bump. Try singing the same lullabies and playing the same music to your baby after birth. You might notice that your baby pays special attention to those songs than to other sounds.

4. Gently massage your bump

Starting with the second trimester, it’s perfectly safe to massage your belly with oils or lotions. Make sure you use gentle movements, without pressing on your bump.

5. Respond to your baby’s kicks with gentle strokes

Although there is no evidence that stroking your bump every time you feel a kick will have any benefit, your baby can feel when you touch and stroke your tummy. For most pregnant mothers, responding to kicks feels very much like bonding and the first experience of a two-way communication is amazing.

How to Throw a Baby Shower

Congratulations on throwing a baby shower! There’s no strict etiquette regarding baby shower parties, so you’ll have the freedom to organize it the way you want it to be. Before your start your to do list for the awesome baby party, here are the most important aspects to consider.

Who should throw the baby shower?

Usually baby shower parties are thrown by a close friend or by several friends. The organizer handles invitations, decorations, catering and the planning of games. It does not have to be a surprise party and most often the parents want to be involved in the party planning.

When to throw the baby shower

There is no rule for this either. Many moms prefer to have the party in their final weeks of pregnancy, because the moment of birth is closer and it feels right to celebrate as close as possible to the big event. Also, it’s more likely that the baby’s sex is known by the third trimester, so guest will be less clueless on what presents to choose. It’s also nice to throw the party after the baby is born: everyone will be joyful and happy to see the baby.

What location to pick for the baby shower

Usually the baby shower takes place at the mum’s house or at one of her close friends’ house. Only close friends are invited to the baby showers, so the intimacy of a home is preferred. When there is not enough room for the number of guests, it can also be held at a restaurant. Just make sure the place is private enough for everyone to feel comfortable and up for playing games.

Baby shower invitations

You can send the invitations by e-mail, post, or by handing them directly to the guests. Don’t create a Facebook event where you invite everyone. Not all will see the notification and every guest deserves a proper invite. The invitation should state the basic information: date, place, who is organizing, RSVP info and the baby shower theme.

What to do at a baby shower

Picking a theme for the baby shower will make everything more fun and get the guests excited about the party. Usually some food and drink is served. Restaurant parties with many guests will feel more formal, while some prefer a casual buffet at home. Just make sure there will be a cake, too.

There are plenty of ideas for baby shower games to keep everyone entertained, yet they’re not a must. Other activities can be planned instead, such as decorating a baby book or baby clothes.

It’s custom to give a favour to every guest at the end of the party, something small to take away and remember the lovely party.  It’s usually a goodie bag or something related to the theme of the party or to babies and it should not be an expensive gift.

Vitamin D and Pregnancy during Winter

Your Vitamin D levels during pregnancy are important for your baby’s health and help prevent certain diseases. Differences between babies born during summer and babies born after October are believed to be partly due to differences in sun exposure. Because the amount of sun exposure is higher during late spring, summer and beginning of autumn than the rest of the year, women who are pregnant in this period benefit from more Vitamin D intake on average.

Effects of Vitamin D intake during pregnancy

What does this mean? Your baby needs Vitamin D for growth, especially in the second half of pregnancy, when ossification processes and bone growth are developing. Babies born during the summer are more likely to have bigger bones than babies born during the winter season. On average, “summer babies” are 5 mm taller than “winter babies”. This difference is correlated with the difference of Vitamin D levels measured in the blood of the mothers while pregnant.

Vitamin D has many other benefits for maternal and fetal health. It has important effects for the immune system and it may play a role in preventing food allergies, asthma and preeclampsia. Try to spend as much time as possible in daylight, especially during the winter season, when days are shorter.

Food sources of Vitamin D and dietary supplements

Products fortified with Vitamin D are a good choice, since very few foods have sufficient Vitamin D. Cereal, milk and orange juice that are fortified with Vitamin D and Calcium are usually easy to find. Other foods rich in Vitamin D are: egg yolk, tuna, sardines and pink salmon. However, when you are pregnant, your body needs much more Vitamin D than any of these foods can supply. So if the rainy days keep you inside, vitamin supplements are a must. Always consult with your doctor beforehand.

Most pregnant women need to take dietary supplements that include Vitamin D, as intake from food is often not sufficient. The level of Vitamin D in your body can actually be measured if deficiency is suspected, so check with your doctor at the next appointment for advice on taking supplements. Talk to your midwife for nutrition and lifestyle advice that will help you increase your daily intake of Vitamin D. A tip: hold back on using sunscreen with SPF higher than 30, it reduces your Vitamin D intake.

10 Healthy Pregnancy Snacks That Are Actually Quick and Tasty

Ideally, you should eat small meals and plenty of snacks throughout the day during pregnancy. Eating snacks that are healthy for you is important, but not always at hand. If you’re running out of ideas, here is a list of 10 quick snacks recommended for moms to be.

Oranges

  • They contain Vitamin C and folate, so they are especially healthy during the first trimester.
  • Eat them as fruits or juiced early in the morning.

 

Fortified cereals and milk

  • Cereals are rich in fibre and are usually fortified with vitamins and minerals.
  • For those who don’t like drinking plain milk, adding cereals can be the perfect fix.
  • Add berries for extra Vitamin C and yumminess.

 

Baby carrots

  • Easy to carry around, baby carrots are rich in Vitamin A and are the perfect on-the-go snack.
  • Keep them close during your second trimester: the beta-Carotene is important for the development of your baby’s visual system.

 

Leafy greens and nuts salads

  • Fix yourself a healthy snack with spinach (or other dark green leaves), Brazil nuts, fresh cherry tomatoes and some lemon juice.
  • Leafy greens and tomatoes are rich in iron and contain essential vitamins, while Brazil nuts contain calcium and are probably the tastiest source of magnesium.
  • Eat them raw and make sure the spinach is fresh.

 

Granola bars

  • Buy granola bars with nuts or prepare them yourself (non-bake recipes are ideal)
  • Opt for the ones with honey and almond butter (rich in Magnesium), they’re delicious and healthy.
  • The perfect time for a granola bar snack is at brunch.

 

Smoothies

  • Start your morning with a fresh smoothie out of your favourite fruits for yet another awesome day of pregnancy.
  • Mix in raw or roasted almonds for Magnesium intake and a nutty flavour (roasted almonds taste better and preserve their nutritional values pretty well).
  • Check out these healthy smoothie recipes.

 

Dried fruits and nuts mix

  • Create your own trail mix of raw nuts and your favourite dried fruits.
  • The healthy picks for the trail mix are: almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries and apricots.

 

Fresh fruit salad

  • Mix apples, pears, bananas, kiwi and other favourite fruits with low-fat yoghurt.
  • The benefits you’ll get are vitamins, calcium, water and energy throughout the day.
  • It is recommended to eat fruits especially in the first half of the day, after at least half an hour from the previous meal.

 

Avocado dip

  • Mush one avocado together with a small yoghurt, lemon juice, tahini paste, one scallion and a pinch of salt.
  • Avocados contain more folic acid than any other fruits, and tahini is a powerful combo of iron, calcium and magnesium.
  • Serve it with red bell peppers and eat it within a few hours at most, before the avocado will oxidise.

 

Low-fat cottage cheese

  • Cottage cheese is rich in proteins and it’s a delicious source of calcium.
  • Spread it on whole wheat bread or crackers.

Top 5 Activities and Events for Pregnant Women and New Parents in London

Having a baby for the first time can be an overwhelming experience. You’re preparing for a challenging journey and many changes are going on with your body, mood and lifestyle. Now is the time to meet people who are going through the same thing as you do. Workshops, classes, meetups and other fun activities and events can help you connect with expecting mums or new parents in the UK.

Antenatal classes

Antenatal classes are a great place to start preparing for the journey ahead of you. It’s a place where you can ask any questions about pregnancy and issues related to pregnancy, consult with professionals and share experiences with other mums to be.

Exercise classes

Go to a pregnancy yoga class or other exercise classes dedicated for pregnant women. Besides the health benefits you get out of exercising, you will be offered support and information related to pregnancy and get the chance to socialize with other mums to be.

Meetups

Meetups are a great opportunity to get in touch with people you have something in common with and make new friends. What do you do at a meetup? You share thoughts and experiences with others, participate in workshops and join fun activities and classes. A popular online platform in the UK is Netmums Meetups. This can help you meet expecting parents and new parents living in your area. If you’re expecting, check out the Due Date Clubs, where you can meet mothers to be who have the same due date as you. Can’t find a meetup in your area? You can easily set up a new group through the platform.

Support groups

Somewhat similar to meetups, support groups are a little less casual and a little more organised, focusing on activities designed to stimulate interaction and information exchange among participants. London Mums is a fruitful peer support group, organizing both online and offline activities for mums (or dads) based in London. Signup to the newsletter to get all the updates and enjoy activities where you can meet other like you face to face: meetups, conferences, workshops, movie nights, parties and more.

Swap and sales events

Events where you can swap or sell clothes and items are now trending among mums to be and parents of toddlers. NCT Nearly New Sales are local events everywhere in UK organized through the NCT platform. Babies grow fast, so it becomes costly to keep buying new clothes and accessories. You can also find or sell pregnancy essentials, so be on the lookout for these local events that are closest to you. You’ll be helping the environment and the fundraising organized by NCT to support other parents in the UK.

The 10th Week of Pregnancy

Your baby is now just over an inch long and continues to grow fast. The foetal period begins, during which vital organs and systems will mature and develop complex functions. Fingernails and toenails begin to appear during the 10th or 11th week, and elbows and knees will soon start to form, although you won’t feel any kicking for another month or two. At the next scan you might be able to see your baby bending hands and kicking his or her legs. Look out for your little one’s hands on the monitor and maybe you’ll even spot the no longer webbed fingers.

Your baby’s spine, bones and cartilage are forming continuously, shaping a more and more human-like aspect. Teeth begin to form under your baby’s gums at this stage already, though they won’t come out until he or she will be six months old.

How your body changes

Your uterus has grown to about the size of a grapefruit during the 10th week, and your bump should also be visible by now. It’s time to shop for more comfortable, stretchy clothes or maternity wear. Save up money by adding elastic waist bands to your pants and skirts, an efficient method preferred by most expecting mums. You might be experiencing fatigue, dizziness and headaches. Make sure that you get plenty of rest while sticking to an exercise routine. Swimming, walking, and light stretching exercises are suitable for most pregnant women. Fresh air is a daily must. To reduce symptoms of dizziness, carry water and fruits or light snacks around you to keep hydrated and boost your blood-sugar when needed.

Pay special attention to what you’re eating and how much you’re eating. Include plenty of fruits, vegetables and leafy greens in your meals. During the 10th week you should be eating with about 300 calories more per day than before pregnancy. If your symptoms include constipation, fix it with fibre and fluids. Get your fibre from whole grain products and fresh and dried fruits. Choose raw vegetables over heavily cooked meals.

Pregnancy symptoms can be strong and influence your daily mood, while causing diverse symptoms. Focus on what you can do to relieve some of the symptoms, but you might have to just wait for others to go away. You’ll find many of these symptoms will reduce or disappear during the second trimester, which is getting closer.

One Delicious Pregnancy Smoothie for Every Trimester

Blend all the essential vitamins and minerals for your current trimester in a tasty and healthy power combo smoothie.

First Trimester: The Mango Avocado Power Up Smoothie

Start your day with this fresh and thick green smoothie. Avocado and mango are rich in folate, which plays an important role in cell growth during your first trimester. Pumpkin seeds and spinach contain iron, while yoghurt contains calcium, both essential during the first months of pregnancy.

You need:

  • 1 avocado
  • A spoonful of pumpkin seeds (raw)
  • 1 mango
  • 1 small yoghurt
  • Optional: 50g (2 oz) spinach (for extra leafy points)

Peel the avocado, remove the seed and split it in 4 or 6 cuts. Blend it all together with the sliced mango, the pumpkin seeds and the yoghurt. Add fresh spinach leaves to increase iron intake. If the mango is not very ripe and sweet, add one tablespoon of honey and squeeze a lemon half. That’s it! You’ve got one large, energizing smoothie for you and your baby.

Second Trimester: Almonds and Pineapple Smoothie

This is mouth-watering and healthy smoothie, perfect for your nutrition plan during the second trimester of pregnancy. Raw almonds are the key ingredient, as they are rich in Vitamin E and Calcium, essential for these months of pregnancy. Pineapple completes the vitamin intake with its rich amounts of Vitamin C (though you can also replace it with orange juice). Bananas are energizing and make a delicious thick base for your smoothie. Use non-sweetened coconut milk instead of milk: it contains plenty of saturated fats and adds an exotic taste to your smoothie.

You need:

  • ½ cup of raw almonds
  • ½ pineapple
  • ½ banana
  • 1 cup of non-sweetened coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon of honey

Grind the almonds into fine bits and blend it in with the coconut milk and fruits. Add honey. Set aside a pineapple slice for decoration. Enjoy this smoothie in the morning or as a brunch snack.

Third Trimester: Energizing Banana Smoothie

Bananas are rich in Vitamin K, which needs to be in sufficient values when you’ll go into labour. To top this with Vitamin E, Calcium and Iron, add apricots, spinach leaves and almond milk.

You need:

  • 1 banana
  • 2 small apricots
  • 1 cup of almond milk
  • 10 to 20 fresh spinach leaves

Cut the fresh spinach leaves in fine bits. Peel the banana and the apricots and slice them. Blend it all together with the almond milk. This smoothie will keep your energy levels up during the day, while providing essential nutrients for you and your baby during the third trimester of pregnancy. As a bonus, the Vitamin E contained in almond milk helps prevent stretch marks.