From the moment you conceive there will be seen and unseen changes
going on in your body. It is important to know what to expect and
that almost all the aches and pains you will begin to experience
are actually very normal. You should also be able to judge what
adjustments you may need to make to your lifestyle to cope with
In the first few weeks of pregnancy there may be few outward signs,
although some women will experience morning sickness ranging from
mild nausea to severe vomiting and swollen, tender breasts from
quite early on. As the first couple of months progress you are likely
to get tired easily and may even feel faint. If you normally suffer
with spots when your period is due, you may carry on experiencing
them or alternatively your skin may become dry and itchy. Less obvious
changes are that your blood volume begins to rise, with about 25%
of it being used by the placental system. Also the blood supply
to the vagina and vulva increases causing them to develop a purple
colour. Your vaginal walls gradually soften and relax and a watery
substance is produced, which increases in volume. This, plus the
shedding of vaginal cells increases the total discharge from your
vagina while you are pregnant.
If you have been suffering with morning sickness, it will probably
have started to ease off by the end of your third month and you
will start to feel generally better. You may have started to gain
weight, unless sickness has been severe. Your erratic hormones will
begin to settle down, leaving you feeling less emotional. Physically,
the developing baby is causing the fundus of your uterus to grow
through your pelvic brim, so that it can be felt when examined.
The output from your heart has almost reached the maximum level,
which will remain so until the end of your pregnancy. In order to
balance your blood pressure, the arteries and veins in your hands
and feet relax, leaving them feeling warm nearly all of the time.
For most women, their advancing pregnancy will now be starting to
show, although you may not have put on much weight. You will also
probably be feeling rather more energetic. You will notice that
your nipples are darkening in colouration and they may feel tingly
and sore. Also, the surface veins on your breasts will have started
to become more obvious. By now your heart will be working twice
as hard as usual as it supplies adequate blood (6 litres per minute)
to sustain the greater requirements of your vital organs. It is
about now that a dark line, called the linea nigra, may begin to
appear down the centre of your abdomen. By the end of the fourth
month you may begin to feel the first flutterings of your baby moving,
although this is often later in first time pregnancies.
You are now into your second trimester and should by now be feeling
much healthier and energetic. If you have not felt the baby's movements
before, you should now. Unfortunately, your waistline will have
disappeared and you may begin to notice stretch marks. Also, dilated
blood vessels may cause tiny red marks to appear on your face, shoulders
and arms however, these should disappear after the birth. You may
start to experience heartburn and constipation and the risk of bladder
infection increases. You may find that you are perspiring more,
as you thyroid gland becomes more active. Your breathing will become
deeper and you may experience shortness of breath, especially after
exercise. It is essential that you visit your doctor at this time,
as your gums can become spongy, due to hormonal influences.
You should be feeling quite strong movements from your baby every
day now. Your weight gain will probably be about 0.5kg (1lb) per
week although your general size will depend on your individual build.
As your baby and uterus grow they will now begin to push up into
your ribcage, causing it to rise by up to 5cm(2in) and you lower
ribs to spread outwards, which can sometimes be painful. You may
also start to have attacks of indigestion and heartburn and stitch-like
pains down the sides of your abdomen.
You are now at the end of your second trimester. You will probably
be feeling quite tired and beginning to feel rather anxious about
the impending birth of your baby. Sleeping can now be uncomfortable,
especially if you are big, increasing the general feeling of tiredness.
backache can become a problem, due to your change of posture and
the slight loosening of your pelvic joints. You will also find that
your growing baby will be putting a lot of pressure on your bladder,
causing you to pass water more often. Colostrum will now be forming
in your breasts, which provides your baby's first meals, before
the milk comes in.
You may possibly begin to experience Braxton Hicks contractions
during this month. These are 'practice' contractions caused by your
uterus hardening and contracting. They only last for up to thirty
seconds at a time and you may not even be aware of them. Your pelvis
will have expanded and may ache from time to time. Your baby has
grown to the point where the uterus is pushing hard against your
lower ribs, causing them to feel quite sore. Your abdomen is so
enlarged that your navel is forced outwards and the increased colouration
of the linea nigra can make it appear very conspicuous.
At around thirty-six weeks, your baby's head will drop down (engage)
into the pelvis, although it is quite normal for it not to engage
until as late as the onset of labour. Once this has happened you
will feel much more comfortable and your breathing should be easier.
It may be harder to get a good night's sleep as your size makes
finding a comfortable position more difficult. You should compensate
for this by ensuring that you get plenty of rest during the day,
preferably with your feet up. Within the last week or so, you make
get an unresistable urge to spring clean the house. This is known
as the nesting instinct, as you prepare for the imminent birth of
your baby. While it keeps you active you should not overdo it, as
you need to conserve your energy for giving birth.
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