Category Archives: Being pregnant

Dressing for the final trimester

Final trimester

So now we’re into autumn and winter, By now, I need more maternity clothes but at least I’m only buying for one season. I invested in some maternity jeans. I did find the younger brands…Topshop, H&M just a bit too skinny for my older body. I tried on jeans from Mamas and Papas and Next but it was M&S that worked for me. Straight leg & a mid blue. Super comfy over my growing bump. And the overbump style added an extra layer of warmth. I found H&M were great for long sleeved vests and jumpers. I also already owned a couple of long sleeved tops that were cut loose enough to fit. My Ugg Chelsea boots had a lovely cushioned sole so helped me carry the extra weight.

Seven months pregnant:

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Eight months pregnant:

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At almost full term friends had an informal Christmas gathering:

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And finally, heading into hospital for my section in a standard Phase Eight top in a loosely gathered style and my Barbour jacket with a scarf to help cover the gap for my bump. Luckily, we had a mild winter & I didn’t get too big so no need for a maternity coat.

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Dressing for the second Trimester – maternity wear for older Mums

Second Trimester

It was around this stage I bought some bump bands. Just a couple of cheap ones from Debenhams and they got loads of use. If you don’t know what they are, they are stretchy bits of material that you put round your waist that cover any gaps if your tops ride up and also allow you to unbutton your trousers. Brilliant for getting more use out of your normal clothes. I also bought some of those popular printed trousers from Monsoon which handily had a stretchy waist band. I’m still wearing them. I also borrowed a pair of Mike’s jeans for a while – just rolled up the legs. And jackets and long cardi’s were great for cooler days.

Four months pregnant (yay for stretchy vests)

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Five months pregnant

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By now I’ve invested in some H&M maternity vests and t-shirts which were great value. I also bought some black maternity leggings from M&S when they had 20% off. Think they cost around £7 & they got worn loads.

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5 months

Exercise classes: aqua natal vs yoga

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Prior to being pregnant, I was taking a weekly yoga class which I loved. I kept going for the first 6 weeks of pregnancy but then did some research and realised I should stop. Most yoga teachers advise no yoga for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and thereafter no lying on your stomach, flat on your back or strong twists. My existing class would need too many adaptations so I began looking for a local pregnancy yoga class. I did loads of online research and made a few phone calls but couldn’t find any classes at all locally for pregnant women. Big disappointment.

In the original maternity information pack there was a scrappy photocopied leaflet advertising the local council’s aqua natal class which you could join after your 12 week scan. I wasn’t sure aqua natal was for me.  I did yet more research on ANY exercise classes for pregnant women and discovered that the one hour aqua natal class on a Wednesday evening was the sum total of the local offer. So much for encouraging pregnant women to keep active!

I don’t know how you feel about aqua natal but I was very unsure, it just felt a bit dated and only offers the benefits of exercise.  Given that lots of people don’t enjoy swimming and lots of women, pregnant or otherwise, feel self-conscious in swimming costumes, then it feels even more inappropriate as the one and only activity offered by my local authority and NHS. Pregnancy yoga on the other hand includes breathing, exercise and relaxation. It teaches positions to help with pregnancy side effects such as bad backs and swollen joints, it helps get the baby in the right position for labour and you learn breathing techniques to assist with both relaxation and during labour. I started by doing quite a few YouTube pregnancy yoga tutorials but ended up buying this Tara Lee dvd which I love doing and, as an added bonus, also includes a section on hypnobirthing. Much as though I really wanted to meet other pregnant women, I felt that practising yoga by myself was the only viable option. Such a shame when there is so much emphasis on keeping fit and healthy and, for us over 50’s, that feels even more important.

On the plus side, I’m really enjoying an active pregnancy and the yoga dvd, along with some walking, gardening and housework has definitely helped me maintain a level of fitness that I’m happy with and, so far (touch wood!), I’ve had a complications-free pregnancy.

 

 

 

 

 

Booking appointment

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Following on from that first midwife appointment, I’d been sent a huge pack of information in the post, including my maternity notes and two appointments (booking appointment & the 12 week scan).

The booking appointment turned out to be a longer introductory appointment which took at least an hour. I have no idea why they call it the booking appointment and I really had no idea what to expect.

We basically went through the green “pregnancy notes” booklet filling in the sections covering contact details, who my named midwife is, if I smoke or take drugs, my employment status, my medical history, my mental health, my estimated due date and my family history. I had “primip” written across the page on previous births which I had to Google to find out means this is my first pregnancy.

The midwife, Michelle, then took blood samples testing for iron, blood group, antibodies, sickle cell, thalassaemia, rubella, hepatitis B, syphilis and HIV. Some of these I’d already had as part of the GP check up or as part of my fertility treatment so I was pretty confident there would be no nasty surprises.

I also gave my permission for the standard scans and the screening for Down’s Syndrome which would happen at 12 weeks. We went through the reasons for having the flu and whooping cough vaccinations and if I would be happy for me and the baby to receive blood if required.

Michelle talked me through some symptoms that, should they occur, I should contact the maternity unit immediately and also did a “antenatal venous thromboembolism” assessment. Thankfully age was my only risk factor noted so I came out at low risk.

We discussed diet and the importance of exercise and that I would be consultant led.

Overall it was a long but positive experience and I felt I wasn’t treated any differently at all because of my age. Although this was only my second midwife appointment, I was beginning to feel as though I would just be classed as an older Mum and essentially lumped in with all the other over 35yr olds. Such a relief!

Early scans – 9 week scan

So two weeks later, we were back at EPAU for another scan, Mike as calm as ever, me as nervous as ever and praying we would still have a heartbeat. And we did, just the one. Although the second sac was still there, it hadn’t grown, so we were confirmed as a single pregnancy with a lovely strong heartbeat and growing as expected. Such a relief.

We also found out our baby was now measuring 8 weeks and 6 days (we thought we were 9 weeks, 1 day so near enough) and is 21.3mm long, amazing that in 2 weeks s/he had grown 15mm!

We didn’t get a picture this time, though, apparently they are not really supposed to in the EPAU so we got lucky last time.

So we were on track now for the normal NHS process ie. a booking appointment and a 12 week scan. I just could not wait to get to that 12 week scan.

Early Scans – 7 weeks

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Oh my goodness, how nerve wracking are those first scans?! The early days are just so difficult as there is no way of knowing if you’re still pregnant, you just have to hope for the best. Yes, you can keep repeating pregnancy tests but the hormone HCG can remain in your body even if the pregnancy has failed so they’re only reassuring up to a point. All IVF ladies will have read stories of people turning up at those first scans only to find no heartbeat, even in cases when there was a heartbeat previously, so those early scans are both lifesavers and something to be feared.

My first scan was at around 7 weeks so the sonographer should be able to find a heartbeat. It was a real make or break appointment although something inside kept telling me all would be well. The EPAU (Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit) staff could not have been more helpful and, after a quick chat with a midwife, Mike and I were called through for the scan, another internal scan at this early stage.

The relief when the sonographer said I’ve found a heartbeat was immense and we could see it pulsating on the screen. Just the most incredible sight and the first sign that this pregnancy really was happening. I was just a little shocked by her next words, though. It seems that the embryo had split and there were two gestational sacs! The second one appeared to be empty but she wanted us back in a couple of weeks to double check we weren’t expecting twins. Now that was a shock. Although we knew it was possible a single embryo could split, we had hoped that, by having a single embryo transfer, we had minimised the chances of twins.

We had a chat on the way home and both thought the chances of the second sac developing were probably slim and, even if it did start to develop, I knew that most twin pregnancies were a singleton by the time the 12 weeks scan came around. But if it was to be twins then, so be it, we would just have to find a way to make it work.

In the meantime we would just celebrate the fact that we had a heartbeat – so far, so good.

 

Early days & first visit to the midwife

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I was dreading the first visit to the midwife. I knew my GP was comfortable with me getting pregnant at my age but I was worried about the rest of the NHS staff. My first appointment was less than a week after I had tested positive but by the time it came round I was officially 5 weeks and 1 day pregnant – very odd. It’s strange the things you don’t know when you’re pregnant for the first time, I had no idea you are technically pregnant from the date of your Last Menstrual Period (LMP) – which was about 3 years ago in my case!

I went along with a small notebook which has become my pregnancy bible. On the front page, I have all the key dates ie fertilisation date, embryo transfer and from these I worked out my estimated due date (EDD) & the donor’s LMP. I also noted down the medication I was taking and key phone numbers. I used this online ivf calculator to work out the LMP and EDD. I had questions for the midwife written down and I was feeling a little bit of pressure to get some results.

Reprofit wanted my HCG levels monitored via blood tests done at regular intervals to check the hormone is increasing at the expected rate. Most people get these done at a local fertility clinic but I didn’t have links with any and was struggling to find a private provider locally. Reprofit also wanted an early scan, at around the 6-7 week mark when a heartbeat should be detectable. I understood the importance of this as heartbeat is a key measure of their success. In 2014, 70.3% of donor egg cycles at Reprofit resulted in a positive pregnancy test and 56.2% resulted in a heartbeat detected (blame those awful chemical pregnancies/early miscarriages for the difference). I also wanted to see a heartbeat as soon as possible as I was still worried at the prospect of a chemical.

Much to my relief my first appointment went surprisingly well. The midwife took my contact details and date of birth and explained the basics eg. which foods to avoid in pregnancy. She explained that, because of my age, they would want to take extra care with me so there would be an automatic referral for consultant led care. I would be sent a pack of information in the post, including my maternity notes, along with an appointment to go along for a longer meeting with a midwife called the “booking appointment”, during which they would also take some basic blood tests.

She explained that the NHS does not offer HCG testing but she understood why I would want an early scan. She gave me the number of the EPAU (Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit), based at the hospital, and said to give them a call and see if they would consider an early scan on the grounds of my age and it being an IVF pregnancy.

I sat in the car park of the GP surgery and phoned the EPAU and was hugely relieved when they agreed to scan my and gave me an appointment for a couple of weeks time. Reprofit would just have to do without their HCG levels.

Now I just had to sit and wait and hope that everything continued to go well.

OMG, I’m pregnant, I think?

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You would think getting a positive pregnancy test would be all you need to believe you’re pregnant but that’s not my experience.

I found it took a long time for the news to sink and then I started to question if this pregnancy was real.

One of the downsides to online forums is you hear about “chemical pregnancies” which were news to me. And they’re scary. Chemical pregnancies are an early miscarriage and take place before anything can seen on an ultrasound scan – so before 6 or 7 weeks. The cruel thing is, you have produced enough of the HCG hormone to give you a positive test but the pregnancy fails almost immediately. Within a few days HCG levels have dropped sufficiently that you no longer get a positive test. Chemical pregnancies are more prevalent among women who have been through IVF as we test early. Most women who conceive without assistance don’t realise they are pregnant until they miss a period and, at that stage, you are much less likely to have a chemical pregnancy. The problem is exacerbated by the current home pregnancy tests with their ability to detect a pregnancy early on. Knowledge of chemical pregnancies puts a new slant on your positive pregnancy test – will this embryo stay with me?

The thought of a chemical pregnancy was exacerbated in my case by my continued lack of symptoms. Some women start to feel nauseous (or may even vomit), need to wee more often and/or feel unusually tired early on in their pregnancy and these are reassuring signs. But I continued to be free of symptoms. How do you know you’re pregnant when you don’t feel any different?

So I did what I suspect most women do…..kept testing. I went and bought another twin pack of tests and re-tested a few days apart. Thankfully, as you can see, the second line on the test kept getting darker and darker as my HCG levels began to rise. I was slowly starting to believe I may be pregnant but, even then, at the back of my mind, I was still dreading a miscarriage.

I did start the ball rolling, though, and made that first appointment with the midwife at the GP surgery which was one of the most surreal phone calls I’ve ever made. I never ever thought I’d be going to see a midwife and I was worried about the reaction I might get. At this point I was just about still 49yrs old but my 50th was looming. How would NHS employees react to my age?