Changes During Pregnancy
During the first weeks of pregnancy, changes are happening within your body that prepares it for your growing baby.
A common complaint during pregnancy, backaches happen due to weight shifts caused by the growing baby and uterus and muscle relaxation caused by a pregnancy hormone.
Things to do:
- Wear low heel (but not flat) shoes with good support.
- Use good body mechanics. For example, bend at the knees when lifting.
- Do exercises, such as Practice Pelvic Tilt, Overhead Stretch, Lower Trunk Rotation, and Cat Stretch.
- Notify your health care provider of back pain accompanied by urinary problems or any unrelieved back pain.
- Lifting heavy items.
- Bending from the waist to pick up things. Bend your knees instead.
During the early stages of pregnancy, the milk glands in your breasts are beginning to develop and more blood is reaching the breasts. This will cause your breasts to increase in size, tenderness and sensitivity in the early weeks of pregnancy.
Things to do:
- Wear a bra that provides good support. One with wide non-elastic straps is best.
- Cotton bras provide good support and will be non-irritating to your nipples. A maternity or nursing bra will work if you cannot find a well-fitting regular bra.
Around the fourth month of pregnancy, your breasts will begin to produce colostrum, a clear or light yellow fluid. Colostrum will provide nutrition to your baby immediately after birth, if you choose to breastfeed. Late in pregnancy, some women experience leaking of colostrum. If you do experience leaking of colostrum:
- Place a cotton handkerchief, gauze pad, or nursing pad (available at many department and grocery stores) in your bra; avoid using anything containing plastic; and change the pad whenever it becomes saturated or uncomfortable.
- Use plain warm water to wash your nipples and breasts; soap may irritate or dry your nipples.
Your growing uterus, changing hormone levels, and iron and vitamin supplements can contribute to constipation. If you experience this problem:
- Drink eight to 10 glasses of fluids daily.
- Include raw vegetables, fruit, whole grain cereals and breads in your meals (these provide fiber). Prunes, dates or figs may also be helpful.
- Exercise daily.
- Use the bathroom when you have the urge. Don’t “put it off.”
- Do NOT use laxatives, stool softeners, enemas, mineral oil or other over-the-counter remedies on your own. Instead, call your physician or nurse-midwife for advice.
You may begin to feel your uterus tighten and relax irregularly during the second trimester. These contractions are called Braxton-Hicks. These contractions are different than labor contractions in that they don’t get stronger over time, and they tend to go away with position change. You may:
- Continue your regular activities.
- Use a warm water bottle, warm shower, or bath to help you relax.
- Call your doctor or nurse-midwife if you feel the contractions are becoming regular and/or stronger.
Fatigue or tiredness
Tiredness is nature’s way of encouraging you to rest and take good care of yourself.
Things to do:
- Go to bed early and sleep late!
- Rest during the day if possible. If your work requires long periods of standing, try to schedule rest periods and put your feet up. If your job requires long periods of sitting, try to get up and walk around a little once an hour.
- Balance rest with mild exercise, such as a brisk walk. Exercise improves your blood flow throughout your body (circulation) and brings more oxygen to you and the baby.
- Cut down on caffeine so that you can go to sleep more easily and get more rest.
- Cut down on your fluids in the evening so that you get up less at night.
Being tired may also be a symptom of anemia, a condition in which your blood is low in iron. Your doctor or nurse-midwife will do a blood test to make sure you are not anemic. If anemia is a problem for you, your doctor or nurse-midwife may recommend changes in your diet or an iron supplement.
Pressure on your bladder increases as your baby grows. You may need to urinate more often. It is important for you to keep your bladder empty and to use good hygiene to avoid infection. If you experience burning, painful urination, fever, bleeding, back pain or cramping in your tummy, call your doctor or nurse-midwife. To avoid problems, try to do the following:
- Urinate frequently to keep your bladder empty.
- Do Kegel exercises at least 30 times per day.
- Drink six to eight glasses of water every day.
- Wipe from front to back after using the toilet.
Many women experience morning sickness during the first trimester of pregnancy. The term morning sickness comes from the fact that this nausea and vomiting is usually most severe in the morning, or whenever the woman first wakes up. However, nausea can happen at any time during the day, and for some women, it can last all day.
The cause of morning sickness is not known, but it is thought to be in part from the normal hormonal changes of pregnancy and may be a healthy sign. Many women are worried that the baby’s nutritional needs won’t be met; but, in fact, the nutritional needs of your baby in the first trimester are very small and the baby will continue to grow. Morning sickness usually goes away by the fourth month of pregnancy. In the mean time here are some suggestions to help you cope.
Things to do:
- Eat what sounds good to you. (Try to choose nutritional foods.)
- Keep soda crackers or dry cereal next to your bed. Eat them 10 to 20 minutes before you get out of bed.
- Eat four to six small meals per day instead of three big meals per day. An empty stomach can cause nausea.
- Have a snack with some protein, such as peanut butter or cheese, a couple of hours before bedtime.
- Separate solids from liquids. Minimize drinking fluids with your meals. You may even try waiting 30 minutes after eating to drink fluids.
- Try hot or cold foods to see if either of them makes your nausea any better.
- Try bland white foods such as rice, mashed potatoes or vanilla milk shakes.
- Try broth-based noodle soups.
- Try canned and fresh fruits.
- Use mouthwash just after rising to avoid early morning mouth odors.
- Avoid fatigue and stress.
- Talk to your care provider if prenatal vitamins make the nausea worse.
- Contact your care provider if the nausea becomes increasingly worse and you are unable to eat anything.
- Keep fresh lemon slices in your room.
- Drinking anything when first waking or just before getting up.
- Eating or smelling fatty, fried or spicy foods.
- Going into the kitchen when you are nauseated. Women have a sharpened sense of smell during pregnancy and being in the kitchen can make it worse.
- Activities that you find increase your nausea, i.e. driving, riding in a vehicle, bending over.
Toward the end of your pregnancy, you may experience some swelling, especially of your ankles and feet. This is normal, and is due to hormonal changes, the increased amount of water being held in your body and the pressure of your growing baby on the big blood vessels in your stomach and legs.
Things to do:
- Avoid standing for long periods. Sit down with you feet up for 10 to 15 minutes every couple of hours.
- Raise your feet and legs when you sit. Avoid crossing your legs.
- If you must stand for prolonged periods of time, try to move about.
- Walk to stimulate circulation.
- Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes and shoes.
- Continue to drink the recommended six to eight glasses of fluid each day.
- Notify your doctor or nurse-midwife if:
- Your hands and face swell
- Swelling in your ankles and feet does not go away within a week
- You experience sudden weight gain of more than 2 pounds in a week, not related to overeating.