These are some of the things that you can expect during your pregnancy.
What to look for
Your pregnancy is divided into three sections or trimesters:
from the start of your last period to week 14;
weeks 14 – 28; and
week 28 to birth.
You can expect some or all of these conditions in a normal pregnancy:
in the first trimester – your period will stop; you may notice a strange taste in your mouth; increased need to urinate; minor weight gain; enlarged breasts; morning sickness or nausea.
in the second trimester – more weight gain; stretching of the abdominal wall and pelvis; backache, constipation, heartburn, and foetal movement.
in the third trimester – swollen limbs from fluid retention; leaking breasts; constipation; haemorrhoids; insomnia.
Pregnancy is a time of tremendous changes both physically and emotionally. These changes may come as a surprise or shock, but if you know in advance what is going to happen to you, you will be more prepared.
Now is the time for you to start seeing a qualified doctor specialising in conception and childbirth. He or she will step you through what to expect as your baby grows, the labour and how to cope with a newborn.
You must strive to keep as well as possible throughout your pregnancy. That means you need a balanced diet, appropriate exercise, plenty of rest, and a stress-free environment.
Never smoke or drink alcohol while you’re pregnant, and avoid all drugs except those prescribed by your doctor.
We have listed some of the common complaints that are felt during your pregnancy and the treatments that you can have to ease them. If you are concerned about anything you are experiencing, do not hesitate to call your doctor.
To relieve pains or cramps particularly, use a hot water bottle on the affected areas. You can also gently massage the areas with lavender oil. If you exercise regularly, you will strengthen and tone your abdominal muscles.
Do not gain too much extra weight as this can put extra pressure on your back as well as hinder the birth. Do the appropriate exercises. Try not to take medications to relieve the pains; instead, use a hot water bottle. Special exercises to strengthen abdominal muscles can also help reduce backache.
Also be very particular about your posture – don’t slouch or lean too far back. Lie down or sit down wherever possible later on in the pregnancy. Wear special shoes or shoe inserts.
Sleep on a firm mattress.
Be careful when lifting heavy loads.
Massage… Sit backward on a straight chair. Lean over the back with your head resting on your crossed arms. Have someone massage with lavender oil.
If your breasts leak fluid, use nursing pads in your bra. Wear a bra that gives your enlarged breasts proper support.
Increased hormone levels can cause your digestive system to slow down and this causes constipation. To keep stools soft and bowel movements regular, get plenty of dietary fibre. Avoid using over-the-counter laxatives. Drink lots of fluids and exercise regularly.
Mild, painless uterine contractions usually start sometime after the 20th week of pregnancy. If they cause discomfort, try changing positions. If contractions start coming at regular intervals, notify your doctor.
See your doctor about the appropriate treatment for any urinary infection. However either drinking cranberry juice every day or taking the supplements can prevent this from occurring. (See also Urinary Problems.)
Always check with your doctor before taking any new supplements.
DIZZINESS AND FAINTNESS
Always try to work and place yourself where there is free air available such as near windows and doorways. Stand up or get out of bed slowly. If you’re in a crowd and start feeling dizzy, step away and get some fresh air; if possible, lie down with your feet elevated or sit with your head between your knees.
Do not gain too much weight during your pregnancy. Try to avoid too much salt as this causes you to retain fluid. Put your feet up whenever possible. Wear support pantihose and avoid standing for long periods. Wear shoes that fit well and give good support – not high heals.
Get a full night’s sleep and rest with your feet up for at least 15 minutes several times a day. This can also be the result of a lack of iron in your system. If you notice you have cravings for red meat, spinach and eggs, see your doctor.
Make sure you get enough rest – in fact these headaches are best treated by sleep, eat regularly, and drink six or more glasses of water daily. Avoid over-the-counter painkillers;
Try techniques such as yoga or meditation. Drink herbal teas and gently massage your temples with lavender oil.
Eat smaller, less spicy meals, avoid, greasy, sugary, and acidic foods. Stick to a bland, high-fibre diet, drink lots of fluids, and exercise daily. Don’t lie down right after a meal. You may wish to raise the bedhead up a little as well.
After meals, drink tea made from chamomile, ginger, or fennel.
Haemorrhoids may develop but they usually disappear after the birth. Avoid getting constipated. Eat a high-fibre diet to keep your movements soft, drink lots of fluids, and don’t strain during bowel movements. To relieve haemorrhoidal itching or pain, try a warm bath. If they persist see your doctor who may prescribe a special cream.
LEG PAINS AND CRAMPS
Wear support hose during the day, and elevate your feet when resting, if possible. Have your legs massaged with lavender oil. Use a hot water bottle. If painful cramps persist, ask your doctor about calcium or magnesium supplements. It is comforting to know that they won’t last long.
You may feel nauseated at any time of the day during the first trimester. Eating frequent light meals rather than three large meals. Keep your diet low in sweet and fatty foods. Drink plenty of fluids, and eat fresh fruits and vegetables, which are high in water content. Do not take antacids, but try vitamin B6.
Aromatherapy… Add the essential oils of lavender and mandarin to your bath. Peppermint and sandalwood are also good for nausea. Put on a handkerchief and inhale the scent.
Herbal teas are also very good.
MOUTH AND GUM DISCOMFORT
See your dentist before you get pregnant if possible or at least early in your pregnancy for a checkup and cleaning. Brush your teeth and tongue at least twice a day, and floss regularly.
Supplemental vitamin C, calcium, and coenzyme Q10 will strengthen your own teeth and ultimately your baby’s. Always check with your doctor before taking supplements.
NASAL CONGESTION OR NOSEBLEEDS
Petroleum jelly or Vaseline inserted in each nostril may help. Otherwise see your doctor if it becomes too uncomfortable. This problem should not last too long.
Chloasma, a darkening of the pigmentation on your face can be alarming but be rest assured it will disappear after the baby is born. It is best to stay out of the sun and to wear sunblock.
Lubricate dry skin around your abdomen with a moisturising cream and especially vitamin E cream; stretch marks usually fade and decrease after the birth.
It is normal to have cravings for strange foods during your pregnancy. Use mouthwash often; chewing gum or mints may to get rid of the strange tastes in your mouth. Iron supplements may leave a bad taste in your mouth.
A thin, mild-smelling discharge is normal in pregnancy. Use sanitary napkins, but do not douche without your doctor’s approval.
If your discharge is red or brown call your doctor immediately. Vaginal itching and soreness may indicate an infection, which requires treatment by your doctor.
Thrush is very common in pregnancy and may disappear without treatment after the baby is born. But if it is uncomfortable there are a number of home treatments that may help you. (See also Vaginal Problems.)
Pregnancy puts extra strain on your legs. You can get the most benefit from wearing support pantyhose or stockings.
Exercise regularly, but don’t stand for long periods. Raise your legs above hip level when sitting, if possible. Lie on your side in bed, or put a pillow under your feet. (See also Varicose Veins.)
Ask your doctor or a nutritional specialist about taking vitamin C supplements to strengthen blood vessels.
If your eyes swell or change shape from fluid retention and hard contact lenses become uncomfortable, switch to soft lenses or glasses.
When to seek further professional advice
- you have severe nausea and vomiting
- you have vaginal spotting or bleeding.
- you have a fever and chills, backache, or blood in your urine.