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How to stay healthy and safe when pregnant at Christmas

Being pregnant at Christmas can be a bit different to your usual festive affair. Instead of enjoying Prosecco and parties, it can be draining to navigate festive fun when you're feeling exhausted and achy. However, there are lots of ways to make the most of the holidays while staying healthy and safe.

Pregnancy at Christmas

Christmas is often a busy period packed with social events, work parties and family gatherings. When you're pregnant, though, it's common to feel fatigued and lacking in energy - which can make a full diary seem daunting. Instead of organising your social life and planning party outfits, you may find yourself wanting to spend more time on the sofa in your pyjamas.

"Pregnancy can be tiring, especially at a busy time like Christmas, so try not to put pressure on yourself and let people know if you need help," says Tina Prendeville, a midwife for the pregnancy charity Tommy's. "Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness, because you're doing what you need to look after yourself and your baby."

Overindulging in food and drink

It is also fair to say that alcohol often plays a part in festivities for many of us. However, with experts still unsure exactly whether any amount of alcohol is completely safe for women to have while pregnant, doctors recommend that you avoid it completely if you can. Suddenly, you may find yourself wanting to go home early from your work Christmas party, while others make the most of the free bar.

Christmas is also a time when we tend to overindulge in rich foods too, which can cause problems if you are pregnant. Eating too much - or indulging in heavy meals - can cause indigestion and heartburn, which are already common problems in pregnancy.

It's also advised to avoid certain festive foods too. Cheese boards are everywhere during the festive period, but mould-ripened soft cheeses like Brie, Camembert and blue can contain listeria bacteria which can be harmful to unborn babies.

Mood changes during pregnancy

Being pregnant is also a big life event and it's common to feel anxious, overwhelmed or sad. However, these feelings and emotions can be difficult to deal with over Christmas, when you're surrounded by celebrations and joy. Hormone changes can also wreak havoc on your mood and the way you feel, making you feel less than festive.

How to stay healthy and safe over Christmas when you're pregnant

Make stress relief a priority

Small changes can make a big difference to the way you feel and help to relieve stress over Christmas and the New Year.

"Have a think about ways to take some of the stress out of the season," says Prendeville. "If it's tiring to walk around the shops, could you buy presents online, or get Christmas dinner groceries delivered? Can anyone help peel the parsnips or put a wash on, to free up some time and space for you?

"If it's uncomfortable to wrestle with wrapping paper around your bump, maybe invite someone over to help you, or pay extra for gift wrap services? Make sure there is someone you can phone if things get a bit much."

Don't be afraid to turn down invitations

It's tempting to say yes to every single invitation you receive, but it's important to think about how you feel and whether you are really up to socialising. You may feel guilty about saying no, but remember you have a good excuse to stay in if you want to.

"It's OK if you can't get into the festive spirit, or don't have the energy to celebrate. However you feel, you shouldn't judge yourself," Prendeville says.

However, it's still important not to isolate yourself during pregnancy. There are other ways to enjoy the holidays, such as meeting friends for coffee, having people over to watch Christmas films, or getting stuck into alcohol-free mocktails.

Look after yourself

It can be a challenge for anyone to eat healthily and avoid alcohol during the Christmas party season, but it's vital to keep looking after your health throughout pregnancy.

"Remember you don't actually need to eat for two, no matter how tempting the mince pies may be," Prendeville adds. "Stock up on your favourite non-alcoholic drinks for celebrations at home, or ask bartenders to make virgin versions of your favourite cocktails. Try to eat regular, balanced meals and stay as active as you can."

Foods to avoid during pregnancy at Christmas

It is advised to avoid certain foods, including mould-ripened soft cheeses like Brie, soft blue cheeses and unpasteurised milk. Unpasteurised dairy products may contain listeria, a type of bacteria that can cause problems in fetuses.

You should also avoid raw or undercooked meats, liver, pate, vegetarian pâté and game meats such as goose, which can cause a parasitic infection called toxoplasmosis. Don't eat raw or partially cooked eggs that don't have a British Lion stamp on them, and limit the amount of oily fish and tuna you eat, as they can contain pollutants and mercury.

Be gentle with yourself

This time of year can be very emotional, as we might be reminded of lost loved ones we wish we were celebrating with. Pregnancy can also be a difficult time in general, particularly if you're struggling with your mental health.

"We often want special occasions to be picture perfect, but it's important to set realistic expectations and give yourself permission to let Christmas be just like any other day if that's what you need," says Prendeville.

"We're all different so the only advice that will apply to everyone is to be gentle with yourself, try not to let the holiday season disrupt any routines that you find help your mental and physical well-being, and ask for support if you need it."

If you are experiencing anxiety, depression or any other mental health problem in pregnancy, it's important to speak to your doctor. They can advise on the best course of action for you, whether it is talking therapy, medication or specialised antenatal care.

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