Janine Gard is a diploma qualified birth educator and founder of Bellies to Babies. She has taught more than 2900 parents to feel confident, informed, supported and prepared. This is the first of a new weekly column written by Janine.

Congratulations – I am so excited for you. You are about to embark on one of life's most exciting journeys – becoming a parent.

Once your pregnancy is confirmed, it's important to decide what health professional LMC (lead maternity carer) you would like to support you during your journey. Most families in New Zealand use a midwife — your GP may also be able to support you.

Finding your midwife website https://www.findyourmidwife.co.nz is a great place to start. You will be able to enter details such as your region, the month your baby is due, where you might be planning to have your baby (home, birthing unit or hospital), language requirements etc.

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Talk with your friends, family and colleagues as they may be able to recommend one but don't base their recommendation solely on this. Take some time looking, researching and talking to several, to help find an LMC that is a good match for you and your needs.

Eating the right foods, knowing what food and drink to avoid, regular exercise and quitting smoking and alcohol, are all important if you are to increase your chances of a healthy pregnancy. You don't need to "eat for two", you just need to have more of the nutrients your baby needs for their healthy development, and fewer foods that are high in salt, sugar and fat.

There are some foods you should not eat when you're pregnant because they might make you ill or harm your baby. Some foods carry a small risk of infections, such as toxoplasmosis (infection) or listeriosis (infection) and salmonella (food poisoning).

Pregnancy can mean the beginning of a new stage in a woman's life, with all the changes that new stage can bring. People talk about obvious ones – cravings, fatigue, nausea, body shape – but there may also be situations like negotiating new working arrangements and reworking your finances.

As well as physical, financial and social changes, many women experience emotional changes during pregnancy too. Mixed emotions are a normal and necessary part of preparing to become a parent. Mental health problems can also affect women during pregnancy. Talking about your feelings can be the first step towards feeling better.

Your body has a great deal to do during pregnancy. Sometimes the changes taking place will cause irritation or discomfort and on occasions they may seem quite alarming. If you are concerned with anything get in touch with your LMC.

You will be visited with various kinds of discomforts during pregnancy, some fleeting, some more permanent. Some may occur in the early weeks, while others emerge closer to the time of delivery. Others may appear early and then go away, only to return later. Some common discomforts that women can have during the early stages of their pregnancy include fatigue, stretch marks, nausea and vomiting, skin changes, vaginal discharge and constipation.

■ For information about antenatal classes near you, check out From Bellies to Babies www.hbantenatal-classes.co.nz or phone 022 637 0624. I'd love you to join me, Sign up today!

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Medical disclaimer: This page is for educational and informational purposes only and may not be construed as medical advice. The information is not intended to replace medical advice offered by physicians.