October can be a busy time for maternity wards. When Igave birth to my son, a few years ago, the process of inducing him had to be postponed several times because there wasn't a delivery-room free. It seemed as though every expectant mother in the area had gone into labour at the same time. The midwives weren't surprised: they told me that maternity wards are always busy in the autumn, because of all the babies conceived during the Christmas holidays. If this is true, a lot of women must now be thinking they may be pregnant.
The first thing to do is to stop wondering and buy a urine test kit, which provides a reliable result within five minutes. Then see your GP. There are many decisions to be made, about the sort of care you want, where to have your baby, and whether to proceed with all the various antenatal tests available.
Immediate self-help steps are to cut down or, if possible, to give up smoking and drinking; cut out medicines, except those that are essential to control chronic conditions such as asthma (and consult your doctor even about those); and be protective about your sleeping time.
Above all, STOP slimming; eat a balanced, nutritious diet with plenty of fluids and don't skip meals. Avoid unpasteurised dairy products and undercooked foods, which can transmit listeriosis, a form of food poisoning that can be harmful to the foetus.
Teaching isn't the easiest job to do while pregnant. For one thing, you can't be shy: the children wil be interested and curious once your condition becomes obvious. The standing and stooping will make your back ache. You will probably feel even more tired than usual. And sickness, the commonest symptom of early pregnancy, is particularly hard to cope with when you are trapped in a classroom with 30 children. It's a good idea to to have a teaching assistant or administrator on standby, ready to rush to the rescue if you send a child with a message (either coded or straightforward: "Please come quickly, Mrs Smith is going to be sick!").
Some women find nausea can be prevented if they avoid having an empty stomach. This means nibbles, such as crackers, at regular intervals during the day, starting before you get out of bed in the morning. Studies have also found a direct correlation between sickness and the amount of saturated fat in the diet, so cutting down on the amount of animal and dairy fat in your diet may help.
Make your pregnancy the occasion for exploring the World Wide Web. There are dozens of sites, many of them providing good-quality detailed information. Here are a few to get you started: * www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk (has reliable information on many different conditions); * www.nct-online.org (the National Childbirth Trust website, with links to other helpful sources); * www.midirs.org (the Midwives Information and Resource Service) - useful for the public as well as for professionals; and lwww.dss.gov.uk (the Department of Social Security website, providing details about statutory maternity entitlements).