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Congratulations! Pregnancy is an exciting time in any parent’s life. It’s a time of change, growth, discovery and a lot of questions. To help you find some answers, in this section there is information on topics ranging from maintaining a healthy lifestyle and prenatal tests to things you should avoid while you are pregnant.

Nutrition During Pregnancy

 Healthy eating plays a very important role in a healthy pregnancy. You need to eat foods from a variety of sources to make sure you get all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients you and your developing baby need. Eating well will also help you feel better, give you more energy and help keep your weight in check - and it will contribute to your baby's healthy growth and development!

Know what you need. During your second and third trimesters of pregnancy, you need more calories each day to support the growth of your baby. For most women, this means an extra two or three Canada's Food Guide servings daily. You can add them in as an additional snack or as part of your usual meals. For example, for a snack, try a salmon salad sandwich with a glass of milk.

Remember: during pregnancy, take a prenatal multivitamin every day. Make sure it has 400 micrograms (0.4 mg) of folic acid and also contains iron. A health provider can help you find the multivitamin that is right for you.

Fruits and vegetables are a must! Pregnant women need fruits and vegetables every day. Brightly coloured vegetables and fruit contain more of the kinds of vitamins you and your baby need. You should eat at least one dark green and one orange vegetable each day. Make sure your fruits and vegetables are prepared with little or no added fat, sugar and salt, and choose vegetables and fruit more often than juice.

Grain products are important. You need to include grain products as part of your daily diet. This includes foods like bread, rice and pasta. Try to choose grain products that are lower in fat, sugar and salt, and look for the "whole grain" variety since at least half of your daily grain intake should be whole grain.

Milk and Alternatives for strong bones. Milk and Alternatives are important for your growing baby. Opt for the low-fat variety, which will give you the high quality protein, calcium and Vitamin D you need but with less of the fat and calories. Have two cups (500 ml) of skim, 1% or 2% milk every day and go for a variety of yogurt and cheese! Drink fortified soy beverages if you do not drink milk.

Include Meat and Alternatives. Eating Meat and Alternatives each day will help you and your baby to stay healthy. Choose lean (less fatty) meats and meat alternatives - like dried peas, beans, tofu and lentils - made with little or no added fat or salt. Fish is also important and should be eaten each week. Visit the Brant County Health Unit resource A Guide To Eating Fish For Women, Children and Families for the most recent information on mercury levels in fish.

 (Government of Canada, 2007)
For more information:

Too much caffeine isn't good for you or your baby. Start trying to limit how much coffee, strong tea and soft drinks you consume. Water, 100% juice and milk are good alternatives that will provide you with more of the nutrients your baby needs.
Health Canada recommends that women of reproductive age consume no more than 300mg of caffeine per day.
(Health Canada, 2005)

At this time there is not enough scientific information about the safety of various herbs and herbal products to recommend their general use during pregnancy and lactation. Women should talk to their healthcare provider, use these products cautiously and critically examine any information about their proposed benefits. Care should be taken to ensure that herbal teas do not displace more nutrient-dense beverages, especially milk, because this could jeopardize calcium intake.  (Health Canada, 1999)
Herbal teas generally considered safe if taken in moderation (up to 2-3 cups/day):
  • Citrus peel
  • Ginger
  • Lemon balm
  • Linden flower *
  • Orange peel
  • Rose hip
*Not recommended for persons with pre-existing cardiac conditions.

Evidence suggests that consumption of aspartame by pregnant women is safe and does not pose a health hazard. However pregnant women should be cautioned against excessive consumption of products containing aspartame and other artificial sweeteners since such foods could be replacing nutrient-dense, energy-yielding foods.  (Health Canada, 1999)

Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by a parasite found in cat or sheep feces, raw or undercooked eggs and meat and vegetables grown in contaminated soil. Anyone who gets this infection becomes immune to future infection. The symptoms may be so mild an adult may be unaware of the infection. Toxoplasmosis during pregnancy can cause severe mental and physical problems for baby.
  1. Avoid bringing a new cat into your home
  2. Wash hands and cooking surfaces well after handling raw meats and vegetables
  3. Avoid eating raw or undercooked meat and raw eggs
  4. Wear gloves while gardening
  5. Wash hands after handling a cat
  6. Pregnant women should not empty the litter box. Have someone else empty the litter box and dispose of it in a garbage bag (not the garden). 
(Grey Bruce Health Unit, 2004)

 Physical Activity

There was a time when pregnant women were encouraged to avoid physical activity. Fortunately, attitudes to pregnancy have changed and medical experts now recommend regular physical activity as part of a healthy pregnancy.

Regular physical activity during pregnancy is great. It can:

  • improve your mood and self-image
  • help ensure appropriate weight gain
  • help you relax and reduce stress
  • promote better sleep
  • increase your muscle tone, strength and endurance
  • help build your stamina for labour and delivery
  • speed up your recovery after labour and delivery
  • help increase your energy levels

Start easy and progress gradually. If you’ve been inactive, start with mild activities like walking and swimming. Even five minutes a day will help. Gradually increase the time you’re active to 30 minutes a session. Before starting a new exercise program, you should talk to your doctor.

Don’t overdo it! You should be able to carry on a normal conversation during physical activities. If you’re feeling more tired than normal, take it easy and rest for a day.

Keep cool and hydrated. Drink lots of water before, during and after physical activity to avoid overheating and dehydration. You should also refrain from being active outdoors on overly hot or humid days.

(Government of Canada, 2007)

For more information:

How is My Baby Growing?

There are 40 weeks in pregnancy and this is calculated from the beginning of your last menstrual period (before conception) to the time of delivery. These 40 weeks are called gestational weeks.

**The following information is based on gestational weeks, not your baby’s growth from the time of conception**

First Trimester – first 12 weeks

Weeks 1 & 2
The ovum or egg is ripening. It is usually released from the ovary 10-14 days after day one of the last period. This is called ovulation.

Weeks 3 & 4
Conception has occurred. One sperm from the male has gone inside the egg released at ovulation by the female. It is now “fertilized” and called an embryo. The cells of the embryo divide quickly to become a cell cluster. This travels down the fallopian tube and implants in the uterine lining. The lining nourishes the embryo. The cell cluster becomes three special layers with certain cells having specific functions. These layers will generate every organ and tissue in baby’s body. Some cells will become the amniotic sac and others the placenta.

Weeks 5 & 6
Cells continue to divide rapidly. The spine, brain, ears, eyes, nose and digestive system begin to grow. The placenta develops to provide nourishment and oxygen.

Weeks 7 & 8
The brain is growing rapidly. The head is large compared to the body. Buds that will eventually become arms and legs appear. The backbone looks like a tail right now because of its rapid growth. The tube that becomes the heart begins to beat and pump blood. Eyes and ears begin to take shape.

Weeks 9 & 10
At week nine, baby is called a fetus. Muscles, bones and blood vessels are developing under thin, wrinkled skin. Tooth buds are now starting to form. The heart is beating rapidly. Fingers and toes are developing as well as the sex organs. The placenta now covers about 1/3 of the uterine lining.

Weeks 11 & 12
Major organs continue to grow. The fetus floats, moves and kicks weightlessly in the amniotic fluid that surrounds and protects it.

Second Trimester (13-28 weeks)

Weeks 13 & 14
Some major organs now begin to function. Kidneys excrete urine and the pancreas is producing insulin. Lungs are moving in preparation for breathing. The fetus has learned how to suck its thumb and swallow. The organs and systems that have taken shape will continue to grow and change until baby’s birth.

Weeks 15 & 16
Muscles and bones are developing and the nervous system has some control over movements. Fine, downy hair (lanugo) begins to grow and eyebrows show above tightly closed eyelids. Blood vessels continue to develop rapidly.

Weeks 17 & 18
Fingernails and toenails begin to grow. Baby’s face has unique features.

Weeks 19 & 20
An oily coating (vernix) protects your baby’s body. Mother may feel the fetus move. Your baby can hear music and other sounds and may react to them.

Weeks 21 & 22
Hair, eyelashes and eyebrows are all in place. There is a regular pattern or schedule of sleeping, turning, sucking and kicking.

Weeks 23 & 24
Movement can be felt by touching mother’s abdomen. Activity may increase while mother is at rest.

Weeks 25 & 26
Eyelids open and close. The fetus gains more body fat to protect it from temperature changes at birth.

Weeks 27 & 28
The senses of sight, taste and smell are developing.

Third Trimester (Week 29 – birth)

Weeks 29 & 30
The fetus may hiccup often. Mother feels these as rhythmic sensations. A hormone called surfactant is formed in baby’s lungs to prepare for breathing.

Weeks 31 & 32
Your baby’s skin is less wrinkled as more fat is stored.

Weeks 33 & 34
The fetus may move into birth position, which is head down. The digestive system and lungs are almost mature.

Weeks 35 & 36
The blood develops a high concentration of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen. The downy hair begins to disappear. Organs continue to mature.

Weeks 37 to 40
Many of the antibodies against illnesses such as measles, mumps, rubella, and whooping cough are passed from mother to baby. The fetus does not move around as much as the head settles into the pelvis in preparation for birth. The newborn’s systems function on their own at the moment of birth. After adjusting to life outside the womb, baby seeks mother’s breast. Through breastmilk, mother continues to provide the nutrients baby needs for healthy growth and development in the first year of life.

(Grey Bruce Health Unit, 2004)

Maternal Changes

Every mother experiences some discomfort during pregnancy. Most symptoms go away quickly or can be easily relieved. If any of these problems persist, or cannot be relieved easily, talk to your health care provider. Fathers who understand the physical changes of pregnancy and the common discomforts are more able to help minimize them.

(Grey Bruce Health Unit, 2004) 

 Maternal Change   Cause   Remedy
  • Appears to be caused by an increase in pregnancy hormones
  • Can be caused by poor dietary habits and/or maternal tension and anxiety
  • Relaxed muscles of the digestive tract causes delay in emptying of the stomach and slows down digestion
  • Usually ends by the 4th month
  •   Eat small, frequent meals
  •   Dry foods such as crackers, dry toast, baked potato, white chicken meat
  • Drink fluids before or after meals (not with)
  • Eat every 2 hours while awake
  • Avoid spicy, greasy foods
  • Avoid contact with cooking odors, brushing teeth (around times most likely to vomit)
  • As uterus grows, stomach is pushed upwards 
  • Progesterone relaxes the upper sphincter (flap) of the stomach and allows acid to travel back into the esophagus
  • Nervous tension, fatigue and anxiety may make it worse
  • Avoid spicy, fried foods
  • Try to remain sitting upright for 1-2 hours after eating
  • Eat slowly
  • Eat smaller portions, more frequently
  • Some antacids are ok, Tums, Rolaids etc. (check with your physician)
  • Hormonal changes may lead to relaxed muscles in the intestine
  • May be caused by diet (eg. lack of fruit, fluids, fibre)
  • Some iron supplements (prenatal vitamins) 
  • As the baby grows, extra pressure on the bowel # Lack of exercise
  • Drink adequate amounts of fluid (8 cups a day), water is excellent
  • Walk and exercise
  • Diet: increase whole grains (bread, cereal,), fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Laxatives reduce certain nutrient absorption (use only if instructed by physician)
  • Located in the lower bowel and rectum
  • Are caused when pressure from the enlarged uterus pushes on the bowel and decreases the circulation of blood
  • May be caused as a result of straining from constipation
  • Ask physician for cream/medication for relief
  • Sitz baths
  • Try to increase fiber, fluids and exercise, to prevent constipation
  • Bacterial breakdown of sugars and starches during digestion can produce gas
  • Avoid sugars, candy, honey, cakes, soda pop, etc.
  • Chew foods well to aid in digestion
 Frequency of  urination
  • Caused by increased production of estrogen and progesterone, which increase the amount of blood circulating through the pelvic area
  • As the baby grows, uterus pushes on the bladder and creates less room for urine to be stored in the bladder
  • Symptoms include increased frequency and urgency to empty the bladder
  • Contact physician for medication (UTI)
  • Increase amount of fluids (water)
  • Eat yogurt with active cultures
  • Cranberry juice
 Stretch marks
  • Stretch marks on breasts, thighs, abdomen due to rupture of elastic fibers and increased activity of hormones
  • Fade to silver after pregnancy but never disappear
  • Creams may be used for dry skin (usually does not fade stretch marks)
  • Avoid excess sunlight (use sunscreen)
 Linea Nigra
  • Changes usually start around week 12 
  • Mask of pregnancy (darkening of skin) on the face
  • Dark line running from the navel to the pubic area (linea nigra)
  • Caused by changing hormones
  • Darkened skin, usually fades after pregnancy
  • Very common in the first trimester, and often returns in the third trimester
  • “nature’s way” of making you slow down
  • Energy needs are greater than before
  • Need to allow for extra rest and sleep 
  • Put feet up whenever possible
  • Learn limitations
  • Change positions often
  • May be due to posture
  • May be caused by stretching of the ligaments across the abdomen (round, broad ligaments)
  • Hormone “relaxin” causes joints in the pelvis to soften
  • Growing uterus alters spine curvature
  • Wear comfortable, supportive footwear 
  • Be aware of your posture
  • Avoid sitting for long periods
  • Try some exercises such as pelvic tilt and stretching
  • As the uterus grows, it is harder for the heart to pump blood from the lower part of the body back up to the heart (dilation of vessels)
  • Avoid standing or lying on your back for long periods of time
  • Hot tubs and saunas should be avoided (over heating)
  • Cold cloth on the forehead, sit and bend over with head pointing down
  • Common early in pregnancy, usually diminish or disappear by mid-pregnancy
  • May be caused by increase in blood volume, which puts pressure on blood vessels
  • Later in pregnancy may be a sign of toxemia (contact physician)
  • Get proper sleep and rest
  • Limit medication to acetaminophen if approved by health care provider
 Increased breast  size
  • Hormones cause gradual increase in size in preparation for nursing
  • Tingling and tense at times
  • Wear a good, supporting bra without elastic straps
 Bleeding gums
  • Gums become hyperemic and soften due to estrogen
  • Regresses spontaneously after delivery
  • Regular dental care during pregnancy
 Shortness of breath
  • Due to reduced progesterone and enlarging uterus
  • Sitting up straight and sleeping propped up with pillow helps

 (hands and feet)

  • Almost universal in late pregnancy because of occlusion of pelvic veins as a result of pressure from enlarged uterus
  • Avoid prolonged standing, elevate lower extremities, wear support hose, avoid crossing legs
 Varicose veins
  • Bulging veins in the legs and perineum
  • Caused by the pressure of extra circulating blood and enlarged uterus, which makes it harder for blood to be pumped back up to the heart
  • Keep feet elevated
  • Wear support stockings
  • Avoid crossing legs or sitting with thighs pressed against chair edge
 Foot cramps
  • Cause unknown
  • Avoid hyperextension of foot
 Mood swings
  • Can be due to fatigue, hormones or socio-economic stresses (eg. Financial, career, lifestyle change)
  • Talk about feelings as a couple
 Reduced sex drive
  • Sexual appetite varies from person to person during pregnancy and during certain stages in pregnancy 
  • Some women find sex becomes uncomfortable as their bodies get larger
  • Many women find that they lose desire/motivation for sex late in pregnancy because they’re preoccupied with the impending delivery and the excitement of becoming a new parent
  • Open communication is key
  • Talk about other ways to satisfy each others needs for intimacy
  • May need to experiment with other positions for sex to find those that are the most comfortab



The Pregnant Worker
Most women continue to work during their pregnancy, whether they work from home, or travel to a workplace. If you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, it is important to think about how your work may affect your health and the health of your unborn baby.

Making changes early
An unborn baby develops quickly in the first few months of pregnancy. You can help your baby by planning ahead and making changes before pregnancy, or by making changes as early as possible during your pregnancy.

For most, it just means a few small changes ...

In general, pregnant women who work have no extra problems during their pregnancy. Most jobs do not pose concerns during a pregnancy. A few small changes at work can make a big difference to your health and the health of your unborn baby. Continuing to work while pregnant can provide you with confidence as a productive worker, access to medical benefits, support from coworkers, self-esteem, plus that important paycheque!

For some, there are bigger changes ... 

Some women should stop working or change to a different type of work during their pregnancy. This can be due to serious risks at work, problems with a previous pregnancy or problems during pregnancy.

Steps to a Healthy Pregnancy at Work

1. Talk to your health care provider to:

  • Provide you with advice and additional information about your work
  • Assess your health and your pregnancy 

2. Talk to people at work to:

  • Find out about possible risks at work
  • Find out about special programs, services, leaves and benefits

 (Best Start, 2004)

For more information:



The Pregnant Worker
Most women continue to work during their pregnancy, whether they work from home, or travel to a workplace. If you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, it is important to think about how your work may affect your health and the health of your unborn baby. 

Making changes early
An unborn baby develops quickly in the first few months of pregnancy. You can help your baby by planning ahead and making changes before pregnancy, or by making changes as early as possible during your pregnancy.

For most, it just means a few small changes ...

In general, pregnant women who work have no extra problems during their pregnancy. Most jobs do not pose concerns during a pregnancy. A few small changes at work can make a big difference to your health and the health of your unborn baby. Continuing to work while pregnant can provide you with confidence as a productive worker, access to medical benefits, support from coworkers, self-esteem, plus that important paycheque!

For some, there are bigger changes ...

Some women should stop working or change to a different type of work during their pregnancy. This can be due to serious risks at work, problems with a previous pregnancy or problems during pregnancy.
Steps to a Healthy Pregnancy at Work

1. Talk to your health care provider to:

  • Provide you with advice and additional information about your work
  • Assess your health and your pregnancy 

2. Talk to people at work to:

  • Find out about possible risks at work
  • Find out about special programs, services, leaves and benefits 

 (Best Start, 2004)

For more information:

When you or the people around you smoke, your baby smokes too. A smoke-free environment is best for both you and your developing baby. 

When you smoke, your baby gets less oxygen and nutrients. This can cause your baby to grow more slowly and gain less weight in your womb. Babies with a lower-than-average birth weight tend to have more health problems. And the more you smoke, the higher the risk that your baby will have complications during the perinatal period (just before, during and just after birth). This is true for babies exposed to second-hand smoke too.

Cigarette smoking exposes your baby to over 4,000 chemicals found in tobacco smoke. Fifty of these are associated with cancer.

Exposure to tobacco smoke affects your baby for life. Your baby may have learning problems, more ear infections, and more colds and breathing problems. Being born small can affect your baby's health into adulthood.
Smoking during pregnancy will increase the risks to your own health too. For example, you have a greater chance of having a miscarriage than a non-smoker. During the birth, you are more likely to have complications.

Second-hand smoke is just as bad. Second-hand smoke contains the same toxic chemicals and carcinogens that smokers inhale. Children regularly exposed to second-hand smoke are at least 50% more likely to suffer damage to their lungs and to develop breathing problems such as asthma. When you breathe in second-hand smoke, you have a greater risk of developing lung cancer, heart disease, breathing problems and irritation of the eyes, lungs and throat.

(Government of Canada, 2007)

For more information:


Alcohol and pregnancy don’t mix!  There is NO safe amount or safe time to drink alcohol during pregnancy.  Whether you are trying to get pregnant or are pregnant already, stop drinking alcohol.  No alcohol is the best (and the safest!) choice for having a healthy baby.  If you need help to stop drinking, you should talk to your doctor, community health nurse, midwife or other health care professionals for advice. Tell your partner, family, friends, and community members who can all support you with this decision (Government of Canada, 2007).

For more information:

Drugs (prescription/over-the-counter)

Over-the-counter drugs, prescription drugs and some herbal preparations and medications can hurt your baby. Some can cause birth defects; others can cause your baby to be born too small or very sick.  Prescription drugs may need to be changed and over-the-counter drugs are not always necessary. 

What you can do:

  • Check with your health care provider before taking any over-the-counter drugs (including aspirin) or herbal teas, pills or other supplements.
  • Don’t take someone else’s prescription drugs.
  • Take only medications prescribed to you or recommended by a health care provider who knows you are pregnant. However, don’t stop taking a prescription drug without your health care provider’s okay. 

For more information:

Environmental hazards
People come into contact with many things in their day-to-day environment which they are not aware of that may affect their health and their ability to have a healthy child.  Most people are familiar with and try to reduce their exposure to products such as cigarette smoke, alcohol and use of some medications during pregnancy.  However, there is not as much awareness of the possible effects of many other things that can be found in the day-to-day environment. 

Most babies are born healthy, but it is important to improve the chances of the happening.  Be aware of the things around you, as some substances may have immediate or long-term health effects.  You can be exposed to them when you breathe (eg. air with solvents), eat (eg. food with pesticides), drink (eg. water from lead pipes) and touch (eg. surfaces cleaned with harsh chemicals).  They are called “hidden exposures” because you are unaware that you came in contact with something that may affect you. 

Chemicals in things like paint, plastics, cleaning products, dry cleaning fluids and insect repellant may also have harmful effects. 

(Toronto Public Health, 2003)

For more information:


Preterm Labour

Preterm (premature) labour is labour that starts before 37 weeks of pregnancy.  Preterm labour may lead to a preterm birth, which is your baby being born too soon.  Preterm babies:

  • May have trouble breathing, feeding and keeping warm
  • May be more likely to get infections
  • May need special care in the hospital
  • May have to stay in the hospital after their mother goes home

Preterm labour can happen to anyone.  Even if you are healthy and do “all the right things”, there is still a chance that preterm labour can happen to you. 

Although it is not possible to prevent all preterm labours from happening, there is still much you can do to help your baby be born at the right time:

  • Start prenatal care as early as possible in pregnancy and see your health care provider regularly
  • Go to prenatal classes early in your pregnancy
  • If you smoke, try to quit or at least cut down
  • Take time to lie down or put your feet up during the day
  • Follow Canada’s Food Guide
  • Listen to your body – notice when things feel “different” and talk to your health care provider about it
  • Talk to your health care provider about how to deal with any stress in your life
  • Learn everything you can about preterm labour!

It is not always easy for a woman to tell if she is having preterm labour.  Many of the signs of preterm labour can feel the same as some of the normal things that happen in the second half of pregnancy.  There are important signs to watch for, especially if they are “new” or “different” from before:

  • Bad cramps or stomach pains that don’t go away
  • Bleeding, trickle or gush of fluid from vagina
  • Increase in amount of vaginal discharge
  • Lower back pain/pressure or a change in lower backache
  • A feeling that the baby is pushing down
  • Fever, chills, dizziness, vomiting or bad headache
  • Blurry vision or spots before your eyes
  • Sudden or severe swelling of your feet, hands, or face
  • Contractions or changes in strength of contractions
  • A significant change in your baby’s movement 

**Some women may just feel that “something is not right”.

If you have any of the signs of preterm labour – GO TO THE HOSPITAL RIGHT AWAY to be assessed if you are in preterm labour.

For more information:


This condition is also known as gestational hypertension, toxemia or high blood pressure during pregnancy.  When a woman has preeclampsia, her blood vessels constrict, which may reduce the blood supply to her placenta.  This, in turn, may reduce the blood supply to her baby and slow the baby’s growth.  In addition to the high blood pressure, this condition often causes excess protein to spill over into the urine, and swelling of the face, hands, feet and ankles.

If you are diagnosed with preeclampsia, every attempt will be made by your health care provider to allow your baby to remain in the uterus for as long as possible provided this doesn’t cause an increased risk to you or your baby. 

In mild preeclampsia, bed rest is usually enough to bring down the slightly high blood pressure.  Severe preeclampsia results in extremely high blood pressure and can cause problems in the mother’s kidneys, liver and brain.  Drugs will be given in an attempt to lower the mother’s blood pressure.  When this condition is sever, the best thing to do is to deliver the baby.

(SOGC, 2005)

For more information:

Gestational Diabetes

Pregnancy is a time of promise and expectation, but it can also raise the possibility for some women that they will develop gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM).  GDM, like other forms of diabetes, is defined as glucose intolerance, but with its first onset during pregnancy.

Risk factors for developing this condition include:

• a previous diagnosis of GDM

• age over 35 years

• obesity

• a history of polycystic ovary syndrome

• hirsutism (excessive body and facial hair)

• acanthosis nigricans (a skin disorder characterized by the appearance of darkened patches of skin)

• being a member of a population considered to be at high risk for diabetes, including women of Aboriginal, Hispanic, South Asian, Asian or African descent.


Although some are at greater risk than others, the Canadian Diabetes Association 2003 Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Prevention and Management of Diabetes in Canada recommend that all women be screened for GDM between 24 and 28 weeks' gestation using a glucose tolerance test. For women with multiple risk factors, this testing should be done during the first trimester, then again during the second and third trimesters, even if the first test is negative.

(Canadian Diabetes Association, 2005-2007)

For more information:

Labour & Delivery

Some women realize they are in labour right away, but others may not be so sure.  Sometimes, it is even hard for the experts to tell.  If you are in doubt you should go to the hospital. 

The beginning of labour feels different for every woman. You’ll know you’re in labour when you feel frequent and regular contractions, the only true sign that labor has begun. The length of labor varies for all women.

Stages of Labour

Signs labour is beginning

You may have:

  • Loose bowel movements
  • Contractions which feel like menstrual cramps, gas pains, or lower back ache
  • Contractions which come and go
  • Bloody or pink “show” (mucous plug from cervix)
  • Leaking of amniotic fluid

Stage 1: Labour
This stage begins when the pregnant woman has regular contractions that open (dilate) her cervix. This stage lasts until the cervix is fully opened to 10 centimeters (about 4 inches). This stage can occur gradually with no noticeable contractions over a period of days, but it can also happen in just a few hours with very clear contractions. Every labor is different.

Stage 2:
Pushing and Delivery

This stage begins when the cervix is fully open and ends with the birth of the baby. The average length for this stage is one to two hours, but many women have shorter or longer experiences.

 Stage 3: Delivery of the Placenta

This stage begins immediately after the birth of the baby and ends with the delivery of the placenta. This stage usually lasts between 10 minutes and one hour.

(March of Dimes, 2007)

For more information:

Dads to Be

Congratulations!  So you’ve been told that you are going to be a dad. Welcome to the fun and exciting emotional roller-coaster known as fatherhood. The “father” role has changed significantly over the years. Today’s dad is more likely to be involved with the delivery as opposed to pacing the floor in the waiting room. But that’s not all! We expect more from today’s dad even before the baby is born. Women want men to experience the ups and downs of pregnancy with them. So hang on because it can be a wild and unpredictable ride!

(Region of Niagara Public Health, 2007)

For more information:

Resources / Support

Prenatal Resources 

  • Brant County Health Unit 519-753-4937 ext 259
  • March of Dimes Foundation www.modimes.org
  • Motherisk 1-416-813-6780 www.motherisk.org  Provides evidence-based information and counseling on the potential risks to the developing fetus. For women planning a pregnancy, pregnant, and breastfeeding.
  • Sunnybrook and Women’s College Health Sciences Centre www.womenshealthmatters.ca
  • St. Joseph’s Women’s Health Concerns 1-905-521-6102
  • Telehealth 1-866-797-0000 24-hour telephone information and assistance from Registered Nurses.

Labour & Delivery

  • Brant Community Healthcare System, 519-752-7871 ext 2359 (Brantford General Hospital, Women’s Health Clinic) Series II prenatal classes are about labour, delivery with a hospital tour.
  • Beautiful Beginnings 519-757-1254 Fee for Service, Labour preparation, Doula services.
  • Community Midwives of Brantford 519-751-6444
  • Loving Choices 519- 752-2566 Fee for Service, Labour preparation

Postpartum and Parenting Resources

Health Related Questions

  • Brant County Health Unit - 519-753-4937 ext 259. Public Health Nurses are available to answer your questions 8:30 - 4:30 Monday to Friday on the Health Information
  • Family Doctor: Your family doctor should see your baby within 5 - 7 days post discharge for weight and a physical assessment.
  • Canadian Paediatric Society: Has a website with health advice for parents
  • www.caringforkids.cps.ca
  • www.investinkids.ca   See their “we recommend” section for an excellent list of parenting websites.
  • www.pregnancy.com
  • www.pregnancy.org
  • www.babyzone.com


Last Updated ( Monday, 25 July 2011 )