A-Z of pregnancy and nutrition: M is for...

What does M stand for in pregnancy? Find out in the latest edition of our pregnancy A-Z series

When it comes to pregnancy and nutrition, what does the letter M stand for? From milk to the dreaded morning sickness to the dreaded pregnancy symptom that will exhaust you, we find out...

Make sure you catch-up on our pregnancy alphabet so far - A / B/ C / D/ E / F / G / H / I / J

Meat: Meat provides protein and iron but make sure you cook all meat thoroughly so that there is no trace of pink or blood and wash all surfaces and utensils after preparing raw meat. This will help to avoid infection with Toxoplasma, which may cause toxoplasmosis, which can harm your baby. Make sure that raw foods are stored separately from ready-to-eat foods, otherwise there is a risk of contamination which may cause other types of food poisoning from meat including Salmonella, Campylobacter and E.coli 0157. Also make sure you use a separate chopping board for raw meats. Always wash hands thoroughly after touching raw meat and keep raw meat away from meat that is already cooked. Wash down surfaces and utensils after use.

Menstrual cycle: Breastfeeding delays your periods returning or restarting. If you have a baby who sleeps through the night from an early age, your periods are likely to return sooner — typically in three to eight months. In other words, the more often your baby nurses, the longer it will be before you get your period again. However breastfeeding is not a reliable form of contraception so don’t rely on this if you want to avoid unexpected surprises! Make sure you read all of our breastfeeding posts...

Migraine: If you are prone to getting migraines you may experience stronger headaches or find that they diminish whilst pregnant. Some women also experience a migraine for the first time when they are pregnant. Some studies have found a slight correlation between migraines and hormones. Common triggers may include but are not limited to:

• Stress • Chocolate • Cheese • Coffee • Weather • Hormones

Common home remedies for migraine headaches include:

• Applying a cold towel to your head • Taking a cold shower • Taking a nap • Exercise • Biofeedback (ask your doctor) • Relaxation such as meditation or yoga • You may need to consult your GP about the best form of pain relief medication for your migraines.

Milk: There’s no need to switch from skimmed or semi-skimmed milk to whole milk as the only nutrient whole milk contains that skimmed milk doesn’t, is fat. And while fat is important during pregnancy, you’re probably getting enough unless you’re consciously eating a low-fat diet. To get adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D during pregnancy, drink four 8fl. oz (236ml) glasses (32fl. oz or 946ml) of skimmed milk each day, or eat a variety of other calcium rich foods such as 1 cup (245g) plain skimmed milk yoghurt, 1 cup (225g) non-fat cottage cheese, and 1 cup (250ml) calcium-fortified orange juice.

Minerals: Minerals help your body use the energy provided by food for both yourself and your baby. They also help repair and maintain cells and tissues. You can get most of the vitamins and minerals you need from a healthy diet, however many women find it difficult to get enough iron, folic acid and calcium from food and choose to take a pregnancy specific vitamin every day.

Mood swings: It is quite common to have fluctuating moods and emotions during pregnancy. Although progesterone and oestrogen are thought to be partly responsible, much of your moodiness is simply due to the fact that pregnancy is a time of tremendous change. About 10% of expectant women battle mild to moderate depression throughout their pregnancies. If you often or consistently feel blue, you may fall into this category and it would be wise to consult your GP or midwife.

Morning sickness: It is estimated that approximately 80% of pregnant women experience discomfort from the nausea and vomiting associated with pregnancy, which can actually occur at any time of the day. Most cases spontaneously resolve by the end of the third month of pregnancy, however one in five of women experience nausea and vomiting for a much longer period of time. A small number may develop hyperemesis gravidarum (severe nausea, vomiting and dehydration) which requires specialist care. If you are at all concerned about morning sickness speak to your GP or midwife.

There are a great deal of theories on why women suffer from morning sickness during pregnancy, the most popular being:

• A combination of the changes in the body - rapidly increasing oestrogen levels, an enhanced sense of smell, excess stomach acids and fatigue. • Increased stress and emotion levels. • The build-up of hCG (human chorionic gonadotopin) in your system.

hCG is a hormone produced after implantation takes place. It continues to increase until about the 12th week of your pregnancy, at which point the levels of hCG start to decrease. This is usually when morning sickness ceases.

Morning sickness will not affect your baby as long as you eat a well balanced diet and avoid dehydration by drinking lots of fluids. The best approach to morning sickness is to eat plain carbohydrate foods frequently. Eating crackers or ginger biscuits before getting out of bed in the morning also helps some women.

Make sure you also catch-up on our posts on what to wear to give birth in and our advice on pain relief in labour

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