While I had consulted women on pre and pregnancy eating for a number of years, it is always a different experience when it is actually happening to you. I found out I was pregnant with twins (conceived naturally) very early in the piece and was not overly surprised with twins running in both my fiancé and my own family. My family, including my mum who is a midwife, had joked about it being twins and the first thing I said to my sister before my scan was: ‘I’ll be fine as long as there is not 2!’. Then I was in the scan, Chris was outside, and the lady said: “Hmm you had better get your husband.’ “And since I could still see one heartbeat I just knew! She said: ‘Oh, there’s another in the back, let me make sure there are not three.’ I said: ‘Oh, c’mon!'
“Chris’ mouth dropped to the floor and trust me, he is never speechless. I saw my sister straight after she was like: ‘No way?!’ What can you do?' You have to laugh at the irony for a control freak like me and the wonders of nature. We think we are in control, but really have no control. And now we realise how lucky we are and are really excited!
One of the key things at the forefront of my mind was the importance of keeping my weight tightly controlled. I see women who fall pregnant much heavier than their ideal weight and not only is the pregnancy much harder but there are a number of risk factors for the baby as well so I really was onto it from the beginning, especially knowing that with twins I would not have that much control over my exercise, particularly during the last few weeks.
Early in the piece I felt quite nauseous in the mornings until about 15-16 weeks in which actually helped me a lot managing my appetite. Instead of feeling hungry all the time, I went off most things, even my coffee, so I was eating quite lightly – definitely not anything sweet, which was a nice change, instead I wanted anything salty like cheese with vegemite crackers and salmon sandwiches. Once the initial sick feeling had gone I found that I had far less room for food, I found eating 2 small lunches worked best and then I did not eat much at night.
That pattern continued until about 28 weeks, when I had gained about 8kg which I was pretty happy with. My appetite then increased and over Christmas I stopped being as strict as it was Christmas and secondly, there is always a risk with twins that they may come early. If they are small when they are born they don’t do as well so I was happy to gain a little more to try and get the twins over the magical 2kg mark so if they did come early they would do better. I ate a lot of extra foods like pasta, and desserts over this time that I would not usually a result of both being quite hungry and thanks to Christmas treats.
Over this time I gained a bit more, about 5 extra kilos which I was ok with as it was really centrally located and the baby’s seemed to be doing really well.
The biggest issue I had over the last 3-4 weeks was that my blood pressure had spiked a little, which is common in twins. That was a sign for me to take things a bit more seriously with my diet and I was having daily beetroot and vege juices as well as plenty of my detox soup which are both foods packed with potassium and known to help reduce blood pressure. It has only been in the last 2 weeks I felt quite uncomfortable which is not surprising knowing I was carrying 2 almost fully sized baby’s around inside me!
Obviously as a dietitian I do take what I eat seriously but I have to be honest, the biggest focus for me during this pregnancy has been keeping as active as possible for as long as possible. In my experience this is what differentiates women who gain too much weight in pregnancy, they simply stop moving. Now my obstetrician is quite conservative, and given I am expecting twins, his advice to me was to really take it easy when it came to exercise but for me, who was used to moving a lot, it was all about intensity and shifting higher intensity training to just plenty of movement so to keep my weight under control. In the beginning, until week 24 or so I simply did what I usually do - plenty of steps, at least 10000 per day plus a few big walks of 15000-20000 each week as well as gym workouts 2-3 x a week.
Initially I had thought that once I reached November and 28-30 weeks, I would not be able to do much and my doctor had said that I really needed to rest but I found that the less I did physically, the worse my body felt. My fluid retention and back all felt much better when I continued my usual training so while I took it down a notch eg shorter walks with fewer hills and light weights with just a little treadmill, I continued to do something most days in addition to a daily sleep to help deal with the extreme fatigue I was experiencing thanks to low iron levels. I continued this until Christmas which took me to 32 weeks at which time I did whole other than some basic walking. This is largely because I was quite heavy at that point and it hurt more to do the walking than not.
So my message is that exercise is a crucial aspect of a healthy pregnancy. Naturally everyone is different but stopping all activity simply because you are pregnant, unless under the advice of your doctor, makes no sense, is likely to see you gain more weight and ultimately you will cope better with your pregnancy and birth if you are fit, active and healthy for as long as you can be. Now I cannot wait to get back into my normal routine and take back some control of this belly!
What are the most common pregnancy food myths?
That you need to eat for two (or three in my case), and eating makes you feel better so you should do more of it. When you feel sick, you will feel sick regardless so it does still help to control the food a little and not let all your control go out the window; that is where we see 20kg plus weight gains which can be really challenging to lose.
Did you get many cravings?
Funnily enough, the only things I craved were salty foods - like chicken and cheese sandwiches but this is not my experience with my clients who always report craving sweet foods. My best tip is that if you are craving a certain type of food, watch your portions; there is a big difference between a single ice-cream and a tub of Cookies and Cream. If you get into the habit of overindulging early, it will continue and that is when a 10kg weight gain will become 20kg when you let yourself eat things you never usually would just because you are pregnant.
What are your nutrition tips for pregnant mums to be?
Keep a close eye on your weight, this will help you track whether you are overdoing things early. And most importantly, keep active in line with what your specialist recommends. I see so many women who literally stop moving the minute that stick turns pink. Initially, it’s because they are tired and then they never start again. You are tired regardless so at least keep walking! Not only does it help to keep your weight and glucose levels under control, but exercise helps keep the baby and aids birth. You at least want to be walking for 30 minutes a day for as long as you can throughout your pregnancy.