As you undoubtedly know, a missed menstrual period is the most common sign of pregnancy. You may also feel sore or tender, tired, bloated and nauseous; and find that you need to urinate more often than usual.
Perhaps you’ve already confirmed your gut feel and done a home pregnancy test which detects a hormone called HCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotrophin) in the urine. This is a hormone that your body produces seven days after you conceive and which pregnancy tests detect thirty days from date of conception.
So how do you feel? Thrilled and excited? Congratulations! You’re about to experience forty exciting weeks that lead up to the miracle of birth.
If you feel a bit nervous or anxious because suddenly expecting a baby is a reality, don’t worry. Those “scary” feelings are natural for any first time mom-to-be. They show that you understand the responsibility you’re undertaking introducing a new little person into the world.
Pampering yourself during this time is not a luxury but a necessity. The more comfortable you are, the better you will feel about yourself and the happier your outlook on your pregnancy will be. As a result of these good feelings, positive hormones circulate around your body and create a healthy environment for your baby.
Your body will go through many changes, some of them quite uncomfortable.
Your first trimester In the first trimester of your pregnancy, the fertilized egg develops into an embryo and begins to form a placenta – this is the vital link between you and your baby. As this happens, you’ll notice how your body begins to change. You may find that your breasts are still tender, you could feel nauseous, and you probably need to urinate more frequently.
During your first trimester, it is important that your medical aid (if you have one) is made aware that you are pregnant. It’s also important to decide where your baby will be born and choose who will deliver your baby, be it a midwife, gynaecologist, obstetrician or your GP. Discuss your diet and dietary supplements with your doctor.
Your second trimester These weeks are normally the easiest and most enjoyable times of pregnancy. You feel healthy and because you’re beginning to show, it’s also very exciting. As a first time mom-to-be, you’ll feel your baby move at about 20 weeks. If you’ve had a baby before, you may feel baby’s movements a few weeks earlier.
Because you and your partner are both facing the transition to becoming parents, it is important that you discuss your feelings with each other. In this way, your pregnancy will be a shared experience in which both of you feel involved and you’ll be able to support each other as both of you experience different emotions.
Your third trimester During this final phase of your pregnancy, you may experience painless Braxton Hicks contractions. These are “false contractions” or the regular hardening of your uterus. Think of them as you uterus practicing for labour.
To understand more about labour and help make giving birth a wonderful and memorable experience, you and your partner will get a lot of information and support by going to antenatal classes together.
If you have heartburn, eat smaller meals often and try not to drink any liquids with your meals. To make you more comfortable when sitting or sleeping, use extra pillows.
Pack your hospital bags by week thirty-six.
Help For Common Pregnancy Niggles
As you go through the various stages of your pregnancy it is quite natural to experience physical and emotional niggles and find yourself thinking about issues you’ve never thought about before. No matter what’s on your mind, know that your GP, gynaecologist, obstetrician, midwife, clinic sister or antenatal teacher are all there to help and support you before and after your baby is born. So don’t hesitate to talk to them.
Sleeplessness in pregnancy may be due to the following:
Pressure on your bladder and the necessity to urinate frequently
Difficulty in getting comfortable
How to cope:
Have a warm bath before bedtime
Practice relaxation exercises daily
Listen to calming, relaxing music while you bath. A candle lit bath together with soothing music is wonderful
Cat naps – rest and nap whenever you have an opportunity. Practice cat-napping while pregnant because you’re going to need to do this when your baby is born.
Find a comfortable sleeping position – use pillows behind your back, neck, under your tummy and between your knees
Many women suffer from “morning sickness” in the first trimester of pregnancy. Some may even have “evening sickness” or “all day sickness”.
Nausea may be due to:
Reflux and metabolic disturbances
Pressure from your growing baby
How to cope
Get your partner to bring you a light snack such as a dry biscuit and a hot drink such as Purity Mama Ginger Tea before rising
Don’t jump out of bed – take it slowly
To keep your blood sugar level constant, eat frequent, small meals throughout the day and eat last thing at night and first thing in the morning.
Pregnancy hormones relax the valve between your oesophagus and stomach, allowing acidic digestive juices back up into your oesophagus. As a result, the lining of your oesophagus becomes irritated, causing a burning sensation.
How to cope:
Eat small frequent meals
Avoid spicy foods
Avoid large meals
Decrease caffeine intake
Eat low fat meals
Drink lots of water
Sleep upright when possible – prop yourself up on pillows
Another common ailment in pregnancy is backache, as the abdominal muscles have to stretch from your back, right around your pregnant tummy, putting enormous stress on your back.
Backache may be due to:
Your ligaments softening in preparation for childbirth and breast feeding
Your posture has changed which can strain your neck and lower back muscles
How to cope:
Sleep on a firm mattress
Always bend from your knees (not your back) when lifting anything (don’t lift heavy objects)
Wear low heeled shoes
Check your posture, keep your back straight and tuck your bottom in
Always sit on an upright chair
Massage – a professional massage using strong pressure on your lower back can be helpful
Tired/Swollen legs & feet
The hormone progesterone is essential in your pregnancy as it helps prevent miscarriages by allow the uterus muscles to relax and not contract, thereby protecting your baby from being expelled. But is causes the blood flow to slow down which in turn causes the valves in the veins to work less efficiently.
This creates a fluid buildup in the body, which leaves you with tired, aching and swollen legs.
How to cope:
Sitting with your legs up as often as possible
Prop a pillow under your feet in bed
Cooling leg & foot sprays can help soothe and refresh tired feet and legs
Leg cramps or painful spasms that usually strike at night are common in the second and third trimesters.
They may be due to:
Decrease in calcium and magnesium and increased phosphorus levels in your blood stream
How to cope:
Supplement your diet with calcium and magnesium tables
Massage the calf or affected area firmly until the muscle begins to relax
Exercise your leg muscles for a few minutes each night just before getting into bed to increase circulation
Being pregnant, you will often feel tired and this is a normal part of pregnancy, and may be due to:
The fact that your body is working so incredibly hard producing a new life
How to cope:
Eating well is the first step – eat a well balanced diet with green vegetables, bananas, apricots, milk and nuts. Cut out refined and processed foods.
Take vitamins and supplements of iron, calcium and magnesium. (Check with your doctor which are safe to take)
Having an invigorating shower in the morning can also help wake you up and make you feel ready to face the day
A warm relaxing bath before bedtime is very calming
Rest whenever you have the opportunity
Mood swings may be due to:
Your hormones – these can make you feel very emotional and apprehensive
The thought of childbirth and parenting can be very frightening
Exhaustion and stress can compound your feelings
How to cope:
Talk to your partner about your feelings
Rest as often as possible
Antenatal classes help relieve the fears surrounding birth and parenting and provide a supportive group where we can share your feelings with other women going through the same experience
Shortness of Breath Shortness of breath, particularly in later pregnancy, may be due to:
Your baby’s growth and consequent pushing against your stomach, lungs and other organs
The natural displacement of your lungs and diaphragm
How to cope:
Deep breathing exercises
Keep cool – hot temperatures make you feel more breathless
Slow down and try to rest more often
Urinary incontinence, common in the last trimester, may be due to:
Your baby’s growth and consequent pressure on your bladder. This pressure can make you urinate when you laugh, cough or sneeze
Weak pelvic floor muscles
How to cope:
Kegel exercises can help strengthen your pelvic floor i.e. tighten and relax the muscles around the vaginal and anal area (as though you were trying to hold back urine). This needs to be done as often as possible (a few times every hour)
The skin is the largest organ in the body and therefore deserves time and attention spent on it. During pregnancy your skin will stretch to accommodate your changing shape, so it is essential that keep the skin moisturised and nourished in order for it to retain its elasticity and suppleness while your body grows and prevent it from becoming taut and inelastic resulting in the skin splitting and causing stretch marks. It is however, an unfortunate fact of life that if you are prone to stretch marks, they most likely will be unavoidable.
Your skin can become quite dry and itchy during pregnancy & massaging with a cream or oil gel can also help nourish and moisturise it.
How to cope:
Regular moisturisation will help retain elasticity and suppleness to avoid stretch marks developing
Purity & Elizabeth Anne’s Stretch Mark Cream contains Collagen & Vitamin E to retain the skins suppleness and moisture.
Once baby is born, a whole set of new problems can be experienced. Cracked and sore nipples are one of these and they are an incredibly painful experience as any mother who has experienced this can tell you. This is often a result of the baby being incorrectly positioned or latched on the breast, so if you experience sore nipples, speak to your clinic sister or childbirth educator.
The areola – the dark area around the nipple – has an important benefit to the baby as a newborn cannot distinguish colour, only light from dark. So the hormone melanin causes the areola to darken in colour during pregnancy which enables baby to identify this area more easily.
How to cope:
Prepare your nipples for breast feeding by using Purity & Elizabeth Anne’s Nipple Cream to soften you nipples while still pregnant. The more supple and soft the nipples are, the more pliable they are and thus easier for baby to latch.
A little exposure to the sun is also extremely beneficial (not more than 5 minutes a day with sunscreen containing UVA filters in it, applied before going into the sun)
Ensure baby is correctly positioned for breastfeeding
Use Purity & Elizabeth Anne’s Nipple Cream to soothe cracked and chaffed nipples. It does not need to be removed before breastfeeding
How Will I Know If I'm In Labour
The “show” or releasing of the mucous plug in your cervix, is a browny, mucous discharge which occurs when your body is getting ready for labour. When you have a show don’t panic, you may go into labour on the same day or you might only go into labour a week or two down the line.
Braxton Hicks contractions, known as “practice” contractions are relatively painless and may start from as early as sixteen weeks of pregnancy. Proper labour contractions, where your uterus contracts and your abdomen becomes rigid, are regular, longer, stronger and closer together.
The breaking or leaking of your water or amniotic fluid may occur before or during contractions, as a result of the rupturing of your membranes. This may seem like a gush or a slight leak. It is clear in colour and has a completely different smell to urine.
Call your doctor, midwife or clinic Whenever you are concerned and especially for the following reasons:
Decreased foetal movements (your baby should move 10 times within a 24 hour period)
Severe continuous pain (at any stage in your pregnancy)
Feeling dizzy, light headed, faint and/or seeing “spots” in front of your eyes
Vaginal discharge that is watery, smelly or bloody
When is it time to go to hospital?
It is time to go to the hospital when you contractions are strong and tight, coming every 5 minutes and lasting +- 45 seconds.
The first stage of your labour
This starts from the time of first labour symptoms to the time that your cervix (mouth of womb) is fully dilated (opened) to 10cm and fully effaced (thinned out). If you are a first-time mom, you should dilate at an approximate rate of 1cm every one-and-a-half hours.
The second stage of your labour
This stage, which can last for one-and-a-half hours, starts from the time that your cervix is fully dilated until the time that your baby enters the world. During this time, you’ll need to push, bearing down with your contractions, so as to help your baby move slowly down the birth canal and finally enter the world. This is painful yet constructive because you’ll be dealing with the pain of labour as well as pushing, It’s this pushing action that actually helps ease the pain.
The third stage of labour
This stage, which lasts between five and thirty minutes, starts from the birth of your baby until the placenta (afterbirth) emerges. At this stage, you’ll find that you have no real pain and that you’re hardly aware of what’s happening because now all your attention is on the little treasure that you’ve brought into the world.
Breaking the fear-tension-pain cycle
Fear of the unknown creates tension which causes you to feel increased pain. Because you are sore you may become more afraid and in turn tense. This becomes a vicious cycle causing muscular tension and contractions become longer, harder and more painful and slow down the process of labour.
You can break this cycle in two ways:
Through knowledge of the labour process and learning how to cope with the pain. This will reduce your level of fear
By using the relaxation and visvisualisation techniques taught at antenatal classes.