Pregnant women who come into close contact with sheep during lambing may be risking their own health and the health of their unborn child, from infections that can occur in some ewes. Although these infections are uncommon, and the number of human pregnancies affected by contact with sheep is extremely small, it is important that pregnant women are aware of the potential risks and take appropriate precautions”

To avoid the possible risk of infection, pregnant women are advised that they should:

  • not help to lamb or milk ewes
  • avoid contact with aborted or new-born lambs or with the afterbirth, birthing fluids or materials (e.g. bedding) contaminated by such birth products
  • avoid handling (including washing) clothing, boots or any materials that may have come into contact with ewes, lambs or afterbirth
  • ensure partners attending lambing ewes take appropriate health and hygiene precautions, including the wearing of personal protective equipment and adequate washing to remove any potential contamination

Dr Burns continued:

“While the number of reported infections and human miscarriages resulting from contact with sheep is extremely small, pregnant women need to be aware of the potential risks. If they do become ill – experience fever or influenza-like symptoms, and are concerned that they could have acquired infection from a farm environment, they should seek immediate medical advice.”

Farmers have a responsibility to minimise the risks to pregnant women, including members of their family, the public and professional staff visiting farms.

If a ewe aborts, farmers are advised to ask their veterinary surgeon to take a sample to their local Veterinary Investigation Centre to determine the cause. In the interests of hygiene, farmers should dispose of all afterbirths promptly and safely via an approved route such as rendering or incineration

Taking care of your health is essential to the well being of your growing baby. Prenatal care means finding the right care giver for you as well as attending regular prenatal medical checkups. Here you’ll also find information on finding a doula and midwife, as well as questions to be sure to ask your health care provider.

1. SLEEP. On this blog and throughout parenting communities we hear so much emphasis on how our babies and children are sleeping and how they should be sleeping. That said, as parents we are often terrible models for this behavior (present company included). Sleeping during pregnancy often gets terribly disrupted by frequent urination. leg cramps, an active baby, insomnia, and other common sleep-disrupters. Sleep disruption, coupled with the increased likelihood that a woman goes into labor at night, makes the daytime nap crucial. Women who begin labor after a long day of being awake often find it much more difficult to sustain their energy through an overnight labor. The average first time mom, for example, labors from 12-24 hours – a long time on little sleep.

2. EAT PROTEIN. There is much made of eating a healthy diet during pregnancy and many will offer competing visions of what such a healthy diet should include. Some women eat meat, others do not, some take fish oils or flax oil and others do not, some eat more greens than others, some get morning sickness or more food aversions — in the end, I only want to emphasis one key issue about diet: protein. Food aversions and nausea of early pregnancy start many women off onto a diet with more simple carbs than they had previously consumed. I find that women who start eating a high protein diet (aim for at least 80 grams of protein per day) feel better, they have less mood swings, less swelling, less headaches, less food aversions and less nausea. Good sources of protein include: meat, fish, dairy, eggs, soy products (including milk, fake meat products, tofu, protein powders or bars), nuts and nut butters, and beans (including things made with beans like hummus). Try keeping track for about 3 days to get an idea of what eating 80 grams of protein feels like.

3. RELAX. Spend some time doing the things that are relaxing for you. With some clients who have a very hard time making space and time for themselves, I encourage them to create a list of the things that they really like to do. Especially at the end of pregnancy (and in conjunction with napping) this down time and focus on relaxing can be really key for preparing for labor.

4. ENJOY EACH OTHER. If you have a husband or partner, spend some time together affirming yourselves as a couple. Great love hormones help make labor go well. What are the things you like to do the best? If you are a single mom, perhaps there are really important friends in your life who will be a part of your child’s life. Find time to go out and do fun things with them. Make time to connect with people in fun and enjoyable ways. This also might be a nice time for second-time moms to spend time with their kids before the baby arrives.

5. STAY ACTIVE. Pregnancy presents us with a number of body changes. Walking, prenatal yoga, swimming, playing with older kids, and dancing are all great options for staying active. If your hips are sore, swimming might help to alleviate some of the discomfort. Having a yoga ball at home (65 or 75) is a great way to do some gentle bouncing and some great wide pelvis sitting to help with back discomfort. Don’t overdo it, you need not exhaust yourself (see number one!), but bringing some gentle movement into each day makes women feel more comfortable through the end of pregnancy.

6. MAKE A BIRTH PLAN. We are accustomed to thinking of a birth plan as a list of things you do not want to have done to you during labor. I also encourage a different type of birth planning. I ask clients to imagine what their birth would look like if they got exactly what they wanted for their labor and birth. When would labor begin? Who would be with you? What would you do in early labor? How would you cope as it became more intense? How do you imagine yourself giving birth? The act of imagining what you would like from your birth, and not just what you would not like, is powerful.

7. COLLECT POSITIVE STORIES. So often pregnant women become targets for every horror story about birth that is circulating among us. People talk to pregnant women about rare complications, about how they suffered, or advise them on the specific choices they should make (and these are often motivated by fear). Take some time to find other stories to counter these. Ask friends who feel that they had a great birth to tell you about it, read positive birth stories online (such as on in the discussion forum called Birth Stories) or watch movies with positive births (such as the Business of Being Born or the oddly-titled Orgasmic Birth. Women often tell me how lucky they were to have had a a satisfying birth experience. I remind them that what they had was normal, not lucky. Women are often quiet with positive stories because they do not want to make others feel bad. While I acknowledge that very difficult births happen, and I have been at several, these stories are the exception, not the rule. Find the beautiful, powerful, transformative stories and savor those and the possibilities they offer.

Regular, moderate exercise, such as walking, has many positive benefits. It helps you keep strong for the birth, lifts your mood and helps maintain a healthy weight.

Healthy eating keeps you feeling good and gives your baby the essential nutrients he needs in utero. Overall, aim for a balanced diet, with an appropriate blend of all the five food groups. Foods containing protein help the baby grow. Meat, fish, chicken, eggs, milk, cheeses, nuts, beans and peas are all good sources of protein. Aim to drink 6-8 glasses of water every day – water contains fluoride, which helps your growing baby’s teeth develop strong enamel.

For your baby’s health and safety, it’s best to avoid certain foods, such as soft cheeses and raw fish. It is also best to limit caffeine, found in coffee, tea and cola drinks.

If you are taking prescribed drugs, check with your doctor that they are safe to take during pregnancy. Your doctor will advise you against smoking, recreational drugs and alcohol.

Some airborne chemicals can pass to your baby if inhaled. Stay away from people who are smoking, go easy on chemical household cleaners and avoid spraying pesticides. Ask someone else to fill up your petrol tank and don’t do any household painting while pregnant.

Folic acid: preventing spinal abnormality

Research shows that getting enough folic acid before pregnancy and for the first three months of pregnancy can reduce your chances of having a baby with spina bifida by up to 70%. Spina bifida is when the spinal cord, bones, muscle and skin that cover it do not form normally. Folic acid tablets are available in most supermarkets, chemists and health food shops.