Congratulations! You are about to become a mother. Every pregnancy is different. Here are some things that you might experience during your 9 month journey. This page is intended to help you better understand the changes happening in your body as well as the changes in your developing child.
The ova has been fertilized by your partner's sperm and has implanted itself in your uterus. Sometimes there is a slight amount of bleeding when the egg is becoming implanted. This is perfectly normal.
Most people are not aware that they are pregnant until about four to six weeks after conception. Whether you're aware of it or not, hormone levels start increasing in your body as soon the ovum (egg) attaches to the inside of your uterus. This helps the uterus maintain the pregnancy. The walls of your uterus become spongy and thicker, creating the perfect environment for the growing fetus.
Some of the early signs and symptoms you might detect are:
•Missed menstrual period
•Tender or sore breasts
You are probably beginning to feel tired, and you may urinate more frequently, experience mood swings, and possibly have tender or swollen breasts. If you have not been avoiding environmental hazards, begin doing so now. The first trimester is the most critical time for formation of your baby. This also includes avoiding alcohol, smoke, street drugs, and limiting or avoiding caffeine. Taking a folic acid supplement is very important for your baby's development.
You may be extremely tired or sleepy. Don't push yourself! It's best to take your body's cues that you need more rest during the first trimester (first three months) of your pregnancy.
Make a few adjustments to your lifestyle by trying some of the suggestions below:
•Plan a nap during your day
•Go to bed earlier than you usually do
•Allow yourself to sleep late on weekends
•Eat a balanced diet
•Take your prenatal vitamins
•Cut out any unnecessary activities
•Ask a family member or other person to help you with any tasks that seem especially exhausting right now
•Relax your housekeeping standards until you have more energy
Some women may also get headaches from the rise in hormones. There are also a lot of women who will have none of these symptoms. They will sail through early pregnancy without vomiting or being light headed. For a lot of women this can be normal as well. Do not panic if you do not have pregnancy symptoms, although you should contact your doctor if you suddenly lose your pregnancy symptoms.
A urine pregnancy test (home pregnancy test) would probably be positive by now. It measures the amounts of the pregnancy hormone, HcG, in your urine. You may have morning sickness. During the first three or four months of pregnancy, you may experience nausea and vomiting. This is called morning sickness, although it can happen at any time of the day or night. Certain foods and smells might set it off without a moment's notice.
You may be feeling miserably sick, but don't worry! Morning sickness is perfectly normal. It is your body's way of adjusting to the hormones released during pregnancy. Your doctor can suggest some ways to minimize your symptoms. One of the best is to eat small, frequent meals, including one right before bed, one during the night if you get up to use the bathroom, and one about 30 minutes before you get out of bed in the morning.
Your breasts may tingle, feel heavy, the areola (dark nipple portion) may become darker. Avoid changing cat litter, because there is a risk of getting an illness (flu-like symptoms) called toxoplasmosis, which can cause genetic defects in your baby.
If your face breaks out now, it is probably due to the hormones of your pregnancy. Consult your doctor before taking any acne medication or applying any acne creams. One medication can cause serious birth defects.
You may have food cravings. Although many pregnant women never experience food cravings, you might be having these cravings as early as the first month. It's okay to give in to them once in a while, but watch that diet.
You should be consuming a healthful mix of food groups to maintain a balanced diet for your health and the normal development of your child. If you are craving non-food substances (starch, clay, ice, plaster, paint, hair or gravel), contact your healthcare worker immediately. You could have a condition called "pica," which signals that your body has a mineral deficiency. Your doctor can prescribe supplements to combat this problem.
You have probably scheduled the first office visit by now. Some medical providers schedule this appointment after you have missed 2 periods. This will decrease the number of doctor's visits for false pregnancies. There is also a possibility of an early miscarriage.
On your first visit the following will happen:
•Urine Sampled (protein, HcG, etc.)
•Blood Pressure (baseline)
•Pelvic Exam (size of uterus, cysts, coloring of cervix)
•Pap Smear (some practitioners do this now, others wait)
•Blood (Rh factor, iron levels, immunities, specifically rubella)
•Family History (complications that may be predictable)
The first visit is often the longest one in your prenatal exams. This is a good time to ask any questions that you may have.
You may find yourself with a stuffy nose. Nasal congestion and nosebleeds are fairly common during pregnancy. Try using a vaporizer or humidifier to help lessen the symptoms. You will continue to feel tired, nauseated and possibly dizzy.
You may be experiencing mood swings. If you find yourself laughing or crying for no apparent reason, or overreacting to a simple situation, don't be alarmed. It's your hormones talking. Due to the change in the quantity of hormones in your body brought about by your pregnancy, you may be feeling a lot more emotional than you normally do. If you are experiencing an unplanned pregnancy, some of your emotions may be brought on by your life situation.
Don't hesitate to get the help you feel you need right now, especially if you are feeling extremely depressed or suicidal. Contact your doctor or a counselor right away.
You are still tired and probably nauseated. Your abdomen may begin to pooch out, but it will be more from bowel distension than from an enlarged uterus. Your waistline is slowly disappearing. You may be urinating more frequently. Your uterus hasn't gotten big enough to press on your bladder yet, but you may find yourself going to the bathroom much more often.
This is just another symptom of the increased hormones in your body and can be one of the first symptoms you notice. Frequent urination will last through your whole pregnancy, with a marked increase during your last month or two when the baby will probably be pressing on your bladder most of the time. If you should have any burning or pain during urination, contact your doctor immediately. You could have a bladder infection and will need to take a prescription medication to clear it up.
Weight gain is a concern of a lot of women during pregnancy. By this stage of pregnancy most women have gained very little weight. Most women will gain about 1-2 lbs a month in the first trimester. Some women will actually lose weight and be perfectly fine, particularly if they were sick during the first few months. Some women will gain no weight at all, while others will gain 10 or more pounds in the first trimester.
However, your focus should be on nutrition rather than weight. You're not really eating for two, but be sure to make everything you eat count. You will only need about 300-500 calories extra a day while you are pregnant. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables and protein. Stay away from junk foods or foods with no nutritional value.
You may have headaches. If you had frequent headaches before you were pregnant, you will probably have headaches during your pregnancy. Check with your doctor or midwife before taking any pain medication. Ibuprofen (Advil, Nuprin, Medipren) and aspirin are all medications that you should not take while you are pregnant.
Ask your doctor what you can take when you have a headache. You can also try lying down in a dark room with a cool cloth on your forehead or on the back of your neck. This can sometimes diminish the pain of a headache. There is also a condition in which women get severe headaches or migraine headaches from sleeping too much. Try to decrease your nighttime sleep, and increase your rest during the day with a short nap.
You may actually start feeling better from your extreme tiredness and nausea (if you had any!) this week. However, it could hang on for several more weeks. Your abdomen may start expanding, especially if this is not your first pregnancy. Your placenta will take over the production of hormones around this time.
This begins the three-month period (second trimester) when most pregnant women start to feel less nauseated and tired, and suddenly have energy again.
You may feel hungrier than normal. If your nausea and vomiting have stopped, you may be experiencing a return of your appetite by the end of this month. Some women find that they get hungry more often when they are pregnant than they used to.
Eat a snack of some nutritious food if you're feeling hungry. You don't want to gain too much weight too soon.
Your appointments will now consist of:
•Fundal Height (Growth of the Uterus)
•Baby's Heart Tone
The hormonal changes in your body are becoming more apparent as you notice changes in your skin. You may have developed a dark line down the middle of your abdomen called a linea negra. The areola (dark nipple portion of your breasts) may have darkened and gotten larger. Your uterus is now the size of a grapefruit.
You may feel hungrier than normal. If your nausea and vomiting have stopped, you may be experiencing a return of your appetite by the end of this month. Some women find that they get hungry more often when they are pregnant than they used to. Eat a snack of some nutritious food if you're feeling hungry. You don't want to gain too much weight too soon.
Your heart is slightly enlarged with your pregnancy and has increased its output to supply the baby with oxygen. It is pumping about 20% more blood than before you became pregnant. This volume will increase to 30-50% by the end of your pregnancy.
It may be time to purchase some maternity clothes or at least start to wear looser pants and tops. Some women can make it up to their seventh month without wearing real maternity clothes, but you need to be the judge of your own comfort.
You may have constipation. If you are having trouble with bowel movements, try to alleviate this problem by eating more vegetables and other food items that contain fiber (Read nutrition information on food labels).
Drinking more fluids, especially water, will also help a great deal. If these things don't help, be sure to tell your doctor or midwife that you are still constipated.
You may begin to feel the baby move around this point. This is more likely to happen now if you are a multipara (someone who has had a previous child) or if you are very thin. Generally you will feel the baby move about one month earlier than you did in a previous pregnancy, mainly because you know what you are feeling.
It is not uncommon for first time mothers not to recognize fetal movements until 22-24 weeks. These first movements are called "quickening." They can also be used in helping to determine your due date.
Your secretions all over your body may increase, due to the increased blood volume. If you are sweating more, have nasal congestion, or are suffering from increased vaginal discharge this is nothing to worry about. It will go away after the baby is born.
It's possible that you may occasionally feel faint or dizzy. Many women during pregnancy experience fluctuations in their blood pressure when they stand up too quickly or when they stand in one place for too long.
You may be having these little dizzy spells yourself or feeling as if you might faint. Stand up slowly and hold onto something until you are sure you feel all right. If you feel faint, sit down again. If you are in a situation where you must stand still for a long time, periodically take a few steps or insist on a break where you can sit down. If this dizziness or faintness happens very often, be sure to check with your doctor.
Sleeping may be increasingly difficult now, as your body grows. Try propping yourself with pillows to find a better sleeping position. One of the long body pillows might help you get more comfortable. You might also try doing pelvic tilts before bed, and always be sure to go to the bathroom before lying down.
Medical research indicates that participants in childbirth classes tend to have easier, less stressful births. If you have not looked into childbirth classes, it's a good time to do so. Childbirth education is a good way of preparing yourself for labor and delivery.
There are many different types of classes available, and many different types of teachers. Call around to see if there are classes in your area that are sensitive to your situation.
Childbirth classes teach a variety of important things. You can expect to be taught topics such as:
•Making pregnancy comfortable
•Labor support suggestion
•Breathing for labor
•Stages of labor
•Pain medications in labor
•Birth center policies
As your uterus presses upward and outward, your belly button may pop out and stay that way until delivery. It is not unusual to have trouble breathing, since your internal organs and the expanding uterus are cramping your lungs. This can continue until the baby "drops" or engages into the pelvis. You are half way through your pregnancy!
Have you decided whether you want to find out the gender of your baby? Everyone is probably telling you what sex your baby is using different guessing methods. Some people find this fun, while other pregnant women find it annoying. People guess the sex of the child by how high or low you carry the baby or the Chinese Gender Chart, but these things are not always accurate.
If you are having an ultrasound examination, you can ask to be told or not to be told your baby's sex. The technician or doctor running the test will be happy to let you know if it is evident which sex your child is, but if you don't wish to know, he will keep it a surprise until delivery.
You are still feeling pretty good and active in this second trimester. If you are still having aches and pains or feel like you are slowing down you may want to look into some different remedies. Your breasts have probably enlarged during pregnancy, and this can be uncomfortable, especially if they are also sore and tender.
During your prenatal visits your doctor or midwife may feel your abdomen. The reason is to determine the position of the baby. A tape measure will also be used to measure your fundal height. This is the top of your uterus and is a good indicator of the continued growth of your baby. Some people will worry if they measure a bit too big or small, but it is completely normal to have slight variations from what is considered normal.
Always ask your doctor any questions if you are worried about any procedure or unsure about what the doctor meant. You may actually feel Braxton Hicks contraction, which are practice contractions most women feel during pregnancy. This is how your uterine muscle prepares for labor and delivery.
The top of your uterus will reach just above your navel this week. At this time most pregnant women are very aware of their baby's movements. You might even be able to tell when the baby is awake or asleep.
Since premature labor is potentially dangerous to a baby who is not fully developed, it is important to recognize the signs of labor. Premature labor is actually more common in the summer months. It is thought to be caused by dehydration in some women, so during the summer make sure you're drinking enough water.
Call your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:
•Contractions or cramps, more than 5 in 1 hour
•Bright red blood from your vagina
•Swelling or puffiness of the face or hands, which is a sign of pre-eclampsia (a dangerous condition for mother and baby)
•Pain during urination (possible urinary tract, bladder or kidney infection)
•Sudden gush of clear, watery fluid from your vagina
•Low, dull backache
•Intense pelvic pressure
At this point in pregnancy you probably still feel really good! Soon you will begin to see your doctor more often. When this happens, many women begin to get the feeling that they are "running out of time."
You have been able to feel the baby move for quite a few weeks now, but now others can feel the baby move to by placing their hands on your abdomen when the baby is active. It can be a wonderful experience to share this with others.
Finding a comfortable position for sleeping is a new task. Nighttime trips to the bathroom, or to get water or snacks, cut into your sleep, as do the midnight gyrations of the baby. Since you need all the sleep you can get, grab a nap during the day.
A body pillow is a good recommendation for this time of your pregnancy. It will allow you to support your legs and your growing belly. If you don't have a body pillow, try making use of several regular pillows.
You're now in the third and final trimester. From now until about week thirty-six you will probably gain the majority of the weight in your pregnancy. Weight gain at this time is a good sign that your baby is developing and gaining normally. The weight that you gain will be distributed in several places.
In the beginning of pregnancy you may have noticed that your breasts got larger. The average breast before pregnancy weighs only about 7 ounces, but during pregnancy each breast can weigh up to an average of 28 ounces. Some of the weight will go to body fluids (amniotic fluid, blood volume, etc.).
Remember that your blood volume increase by 30-50% during pregnancy. And some of the weight goes to the baby and the placenta. Add this to the few pounds put on as maternal fat storage, and you should average a weight gain of about 25-30 pounds.
The most important thing to remember is that a healthy diet is more important than what you gain. Some women will gain more, as in the case of women who were underweight to begin with, and those carrying multiple babies. Others will gain less. Pregnancy is not the time to go on a reducing diet. Even if you are overweight, reducing can actually harm the baby by burning your maternal fat stores. This can release toxins stored in your fat that are harmful to the baby.
You will probably begin to see your doctor every two weeks now. Some women really like the added visits, because they can watch their progress more closely. If you haven't discussed your labor and delivery plan with your doctor, now is a good time to start.
If you have taken childbirth classes you have a good idea of the pain and delivery interventions and alternatives associated in childbirth. If you haven't, please do some reading on the subject. The most common things that people have questions about are: episiotomy, fetal monitoring, and pain relief. Some women will want to use a birth plan to convey their wishes for their labor, birth and postpartum. This is a good communication tool between you, your labor coach and your doctor.
Your breasts may leak colostrums (a clear fluid) now, although if they do not leak, this is not an indication that something is wrong. You may also find out what your blood type is. Some women, if Rh negative, may need a shot called Rhogam to prevent complications. If you know the birthfather's blood type, and he is also negative, then you are safe.
Your internal organs are being crowded by your uterus and the growing baby. The movements that you feel will probably begin to change around this time. As the space becomes cramped you will notice smaller movements from the baby, which are probably from the infant's elbows and knees.
Most discomforts from crowding will occur in your back, your legs, and the amount of air you can take into your lungs.
The best way to deal with some of the discomforts of late pregnancy are:
To decrease the strain on your body as your center of gravity continues to change, try to remember to stand properly. Good posture can actually make your body feel better.
One of the things that you can do to help maintain your energy levels and to increase your stamina for the birth is to exercise. Don't overdo it, though, especially if you haven't exercised before this week. Try walking at a moderate pace or swimming short distances. Simply stretching a few times a day may help you feel better and reduce the numbers of aches and pains you're feeling.
As the baby gets bigger and fills up all the space in your abdomen, your rib cage may become sore. It is not unusual to have to get up at night and walk around for a few minutes to settle the baby back down into your lower abdomen again and out of your ribs. Some women will have more heartburn as the uterus displaces the internal organs, leaving less room for her stomach and its contents. This can be relieved by remaining upright after a meal.
Some women say that eating smaller, more frequent meals helps their heartburn. Always ask your doctor before you take any medications, even over-the-counter products. One of the most frequent complaints in pregnancy is back pain. This can start at almost any point of pregnancy and can continue well into the first postpartum year. Some back pain can be relieved by maintaining good posture, exercise and stretching. And you can always ask a friend to give you a back rub.
The pregnant body produces a hormone which is relaxing. This is what loosens the pelvis making it mobile to help the baby to be born. This is what causes the characteristic waddling in the last months of pregnancy.
As you begin to have more and more Braxton-Hicks contractions you may begin to wonder more about labor and what it will be like. You aren't alone in having these thoughts. Most women are very concerned about the pain of labor.
About 10% of women will say that labor is extremely painful, while 10% of the women feel that they experienced little to no pain. The other 80% will experience something between these two groups. Women who have taken childbirth classes tend to report less painful experiences and have fewer complications than women who have not taken classes.
You can now probably distinguish the baby's knee or foot and elbow, even though the movements are smaller. You may also notice small bumps that appear to be rhythmic in your uterus. This is usually caused by the baby having hiccups, which is nothing to worry about.
There are almost two pints of amniotic fluid in your uterus. You may have been told that you have polyhyrdamnios, or too much amniotic fluid. The opposite of which would be oligohydramnios, often associated with Intrauterine Growth Retardation (IUGR). However, it is important to keep in mind that everyone has varying amounts of amniotic fluid, and that simply having too much or too little does not necessarily indicate a problem.
Your body is really getting ready for labor and delivery. You may notice that you have more and more contractions, and that some of them feel real. This is a good sign that your body will be ready for delivery, but it can also mean pre-term labor. Talk to your doctor to be sure.
You might have trouble sleeping at night. There are several physical reasons that make sleeping more difficult. Between the hormones and the baby pressing on your bladder, you may need to get up to go to the bathroom several times during the night. Also, many women have a constant backache, which makes relaxing difficult as well.
You will probably start to see your doctor every week from this week until you finally give birth. Most babies will be in a head down position at this point. However, about 4% of the babies will be breech, which means the baby's buttocks will be down instead.
Don't worry if your baby is breech. There are special exercises that your doctor will give you to do that will encourage the baby to turn around into the head down position. If the exercises do not work, your doctor might try manually turning the baby. This is called an external cephalic version.
The pregnancy is considered a "term" pregnancy now. If you haven't already done so, you should take a tour of your birth facility or hospital. If you go into labor, nothing will be done to stop it now, since the baby is mature enough to survive outside the uterus.
There are several ways to tell the difference between true labor and false labor. Be sure that you talk to your doctor or midwife about knowing the difference between the two. Here are some indicators of false and true labor.
•Contractions don't get closer together
•Contractions don't get stronger
•Contractions tend to be felt only in the front
•Contractions don't last longer
•Walking has no effect on the contractions
•Cervix doesn't change with contractions
•Contractions get closer together
•Contractions do get stronger
•Contractions tend to be felt all over
•Contractions do last longer
•Walking makes the contractions stronger
•Cervix opens and thins with contractions
You may begin to feel electrical buzzes down your legs and inside your vagina. This is caused from the baby hitting nerves as it settles into your pelvis.
You have probably already met your midwife, and have attended childbirth classes. Be sure that you go over your birth plan with your coach, as well as with your doctor. Your coach will be your advocate if you are unable to assert your wishes during labor or delivery.
There are other ways that your body prepares for labor. The baby will descend into your pelvis, which is sometimes called engagement or lightening. This usually happens before labor in first-time moms, but with subsequent births it doesn't happen until sometime during labor.
Your cervix, which is the mouth of your uterus, will begin to soften and possibly dilate (open up). Some doctors will do routine vaginal exams towards the end of pregnancy, and they will be able to give you details of how much your cervix has dilated, if at all. Some practitioners will also strip the membranes (break your water) in an attempt to "get things going." If you do not want labor brought on early in this way, tell your practitioner before any pelvic exams.
In the days before labor begins you may also experience the following, although they do not necessarily predict when labor will begin:
•Loss of mucous plug
•Loss of weight
•Increase in appetite
While only about 4% of women actually give birth on their due date, 98% of all pregnant women, including those who give birth on their due dates, will give birth between two weeks before or two weeks after their due dates. For medical reasons, it is best not to let a baby stay in the uterus much beyond two weeks late. If you are late in delivering, your doctor might talk about inducing your labor.
Inductions are the artificial means used to bring about labor. This can be done with medicine, like pitocin, or by breaking your "bag of waters" (amniotomy) Congratulations on the birth of your child!
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