Claire Sweeney, 43, is eight months pregnant with her first baby – a boy. She has said she's planning to call her son Gabriel 'because he's my little angel sent from heaven'.
Claire, who found out she was expecting a month after splitting with her fiancé Daniel Riley, recently told OK Magazine that she and Daniel have become closer again in recent months, hinting that a possible reunion could be on the cards.
She said: "We've been spending lots of time together and the priority really is to get the baby born and healthy and we'll see what happens after that.....He's been so supportive. He's been brilliant, he really has. So, yes, we've grown a lot closer. He's been helping me out with things, he's been wonderful."
We caught up with Claire, who played Lindsey Corkill in Brookside and on the first series of Celebrity Big Brother, to find out how she's been enjoying her pregnancy, how she's kept looking fit, healthy and glowing throughout, plus how she relieves chafing thighs!
As the birth rapidly approaches, how are you feeling?
I'm excited now it's very close. I'm kind of ready. I'm going to miss my bump though. I've grown used to having it around!
We know that, very sadly, you had two miscarriages in the recent past, so has this been a nerve-wracking pregnancy?
I started to relax after my 12-week scan. And I've looked after myself; I've been careful, I've been as good as gold, so I am chilled. You still get neurotic though. You still panic about little things – and that's when Google can either be your best friend or your worse enemy. But if there's anything I've been unsure about, I'll always give my midwife a call.
Have you had many pregnancy woes?
I've loved being pregnant. I've heard horror stories about being sick throughout or women saying that anyone who says they enjoyed their pregnancy is lying – but I have enjoyed it! I've had a few niggles. No morning sickness, but headaches and sinus problems. And I got carpal tunnel syndrome (a condition causing pain, numbness and tingling sensations in the hand).
It was a relief to know it can be a symptom of pregnancy and that I wasn't getting DVT! My midwife gave me a splint to wear on my arm in bed – bit of a passion killer, but it did the trick. I also have a bit of hip pain from SPD, but I can deal with it.
I've had a wonderful pregnancy – I've waited long enough for this and I can't grumble about a few niggles.
You tried acupuncture with Zita West. Did that help?
Yes, that helped with the carpal tunnel syndrome, hip pain and has also helped me sleep better. I'd been waking up early – but I guess that might just be nature's way of helping you adjust to the fact that you're going to get lots more disturbed sleep to come.
Not really. Just Cadbury's chocolate, but that's nothing new! I've avoided the usual foods that are restricted during pregnancy and switched to decaffeinated coffee – I might not go back to drinking caffeine afterwards too.
You look amazing - have you put on any weight, or is it just all baby?
I don't really know. I'm about three stone heavier and I think I've put on weight. I was watching myself on telly the other day and I have six chins! But I haven't been calorie-counting through the pregnancy – the important thing has been to eat healthily and give the baby great nutrition.
How important has it been for you to stay fit during pregnancy?
Really important. I've always loved hot yoga and Pilates, but during the first trimester I was too terrified to exercise, so I avoided everything except walking and swimming.
But then I hooked up with Vicky Holmstock, a yoga instructor who was working with Lucy Mecklenburgh, co-founder of online fitness platform, Results with Lucy. My baby's daddy Dan does their online social media and they were putting together a new platform for pregnant women, Results with Bump, so I started training with them and ended up filming my favourite workouts.
When you're pregnant you release a hormone called relaxin, which makes the joints more flexible, so it's really important you learn how to exercise safely and not to overstretch, so the workouts and tips on this platform are great.
Any other top tips for other pregnant mums out there?
Yes! I always keep talc or baby powder in my bag because I've had real problems with chafed thighs. I've also found that wearing tights - which I cut off above the knee - helps. So, whenever you've seen me at premieres in gorgeous, glamorous long dresses, you'll know that underneath I'm wearing cut-off tights and loads of talc!
As you're 43, you're classed as an 'older mother'. How does that label feel?
There are far more important things to worry about than labels. I've had a fantastic life, a great career and I'm ready now. The time is right.
Will you breastfeed, bottlefeed or mix?
I want to breastfeed. I want to give it a go.
Will you be a Gina Ford type mum or let your baby find his natural rhythm?
I've read every book under the sun. I've read Gina Ford and, yeah, on paper, it's great. But I don't know until he arrives. I'll just go with my instincts.
You're booked in for a Caesarean at Liverpool Women's Hospital at the end of September?
Yes, I was kind of advised to do that because of my age. I'll have a great support system in Liverpool after the birth, too – my mum, Dan's mum and Dan.
Will you have much time off work? We know you're back on tour with your Sex & The Suburbs show in March (Claire has co-written the show with Mandy Muden – a story of men, dating and Mr Right.)
I'm actually in panto at Christmas. So I'll get a couple of months off but then back to work. Some people may frown, but I've got to pay my bills and my mortgage. And it's not as if I have a 9-5 job – I'm lucky in that I can take my baby to rehearsals and I'll have friends and family around helping out. There'll be a lot of love and support around me.
What are you most looking forward to about becoming a mum?
The first moment I hold him, skin on skin. When I read about that, I started crying. It's so emotional. I can't wait.
You can see Claire's pregnancy tips, stretches and workouts at the new online antenatal fitness platform www.resultswithbump.com, launching today (26 Aug).
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