The couple stared intently at their home pregnancy test. They had been trying for months to no avail, however, this time it felt different. She had shown many of the early signs of pregnancy, but after several false alarms, they needed confirmation. Tension filled the air as they both silently pleaded for their desired results. Minutes felt like hours, and time slid to a standstill once the result revealed itself.
The couple embraced, overjoyed and terrified all at once. Pregnancy marked a substantial change in their lives, and with it came a mixture of emotions. The next several months would be filled with doctor visits, classes, and reading to prepare them for this life-changing moment.
Whether it’s from months of trying or an unexpected surprise, pregnancy can be a stressful time. Some pregnant women have a support network of family, friends, and loved ones, while others are left to face this monumental task alone. No matter the circumstances, every woman has the ability to learn about pregnancy and prenatal care. The aim of this article is to educate pregnant women and ensure the health care of both themselves and the growing baby inside of them.
Early signs of pregnancy
How do you know you are pregnant? There are a number of early signs women will experience in the beginning stages of their pregnancy. Perhaps the most common, as well as one of the earliest signs of pregnancy is missing a period. While a missed period is not always a reliable measure of pregnancy, especially in women with irregular periods, it is a good indicator of possibly being pregnant.
Women are also likely to experience morning sickness early on. Nausea frequently starts in the first few weeks and can continue throughout the first several months of pregnancy. In addition to morning sickness, many women will experience cravings or aversions to several different foods. They may hate foods they previously loved or love foods they previously hated.
There is no one size fits all in terms of signs of pregnancy. Different women experience different things but common signs include breast tenderness, body changes, fatigue, and pelvic cramping. If you think you’re pregnant the first step is to buy and take a home pregnancy test.
There are some pregnancy complications that could occur at inception, and it is vital to speak with your OB/GYN if anything feels abnormal. Perhaps the most dangerous complication that could occur early is an ectopic pregnancy.
An ectopic pregnancy is dangerous to the woman’s body. The fertilized egg implants outside the uterus, most commonly in the fallopian tube. If this occurs, it must be taken care of immediately. The pregnancy cannot continue to full term, and a growing baby outside of the uterus could have life-threatening implications.
Severe pelvic pains and vaginal bleeding are good indicators that something is not right. If you experience these symptoms, call your Ob/Gyn and seek out medical attention immediately. The fertilized egg could cause irreparable damage if not taken care of early.
Pregnancy week by week
After verifying you are pregnant and there are no immediate complications, you can break down your pregnancy week by week. The first fourteen weeks represent the first trimester. During this time, the fertilized egg undergoes a rapid development process, forming bones, muscles, and vital organs.
The second trimester lasts until week 28. During this period, symptoms experienced during the first trimester (such as nausea) will subside and the baby will begin to show. The most important part of the second trimester is to have your OB/GYN monitor your growing baby via office visits, blood tests and ultrasounds to ensure there are no pregnancy complications or fetal abnormalities.
The third and final trimester goes from week 28 through the due date. During this trimester, expecting mothers should remain vigilant of their baby’s health by staying active and healthy. They must work with their doctors to ensure things are going smoothly and according to plan.
Your plan should include what hospital you want your delivery to take place. Some high-risk pregnancies will require extra attention from specialists that may not be at a standard hospital. You will also need to work out any maternity or paternity leave options you may have. Most importantly, you should develop plans to ensure a healthy pregnancy for both yourself and your baby.
During each trimester, it is important to stay proactive in leading a healthy lifestyle and ensuring proper prenatal care. Part of a healthy lifestyle is maintaining a regular exercise regime. Exercising regularly throughout your pregnancy has many benefits, including building energy, improving your body image, and mitigating weight gain. A healthy mom generally translates into a healthy baby. Be mindful of any exercises that may put the baby in harm’s way, such as contact sports, fall risks, or extreme environments.
Different trimesters require varying degrees of exercise and intensity. The first trimester has little effect on your ability to exercise. You may continue doing any exercises you routinely do, or work new activities into your routine. Walking, swimming, and light weight lifting are all great exercises to engage in during the first weeks of pregnancy.
The second trimester requires slight tweaks to your routine. You can definitely continue some cardio but it’s also good to also focus on controlled movements via weight machines, or resistance training. It’s okay to push yourself, but listen to your body and monitor your vitals if possible.
During the third trimester, the growing baby may make it difficult to perform certain exercises you’ve done in the past. Many of the exercises can be adjusted to address your bodily changes. It is also a good idea to gradually reduce the weight and intensity of some exercises. At this stage in the pregnancy, preparing for the due date should be your main priority, however, most exercises are safe in moderation.
Eating your way through pregnancy
Equally important as maintaining a regular workout routine is monitoring your diet. Not only does diet affect the body of pregnant women, it also has a significant impact on the baby’s health and development. A proper diet promotes strong brain development, healthy birth weight, and a reduction in risk of birth defects.
A pregnant woman requires about 200-300 extra calories per day (equivalent to about 2 apples) totaling about 2000 calories per day. You should eat small frequent meals and not skip meals to minimize the chance of nausea.
During pregnancy, it becomes imperative that expecting mothers increase their intake of select vitamins and minerals. These nutrients are typically best consumed through a balanced diet and prenatal vitamin, but additional supplements may be necessary.
Folic acid is essential to the healthy development of a growing baby. It helps to prevent birth defects related to the baby’s nervous system. The best sources of folic acid for pregnant women are leafy vegetables, beans, and bread. It is often recommended to include vitamin supplements in your diet to ensure you are getting the proper amount of folic acid.
Calcium, iron, and protein are also very important for pregnant women. They help to ensure that babies develop properly by strengthening their bones and providing appropriate oxygen and nutrients to tissues and organs.
There are numerous suggested foods that provide the most benefits during pregnancy. A colorful mix of fruits and vegetables are essential. Produce will provide a great variety of nutrients for the baby, as well as fortify the body of the mother. Lean proteins, grains, and dairy all come as highly recommended during pregnancy. Speak with a specialist to determine the portion sizes that work best for you.
There are some foods that should be avoided. Eating too much of certain types of fish could introduce high levels of mercury to the body and may be harmful to the baby. Unpasteurized foods and lunch meat should also be avoided. They may cause infections that could lead to birth defects or even death in newborns. Raw foods must be avoided as well. Raw meats, fish, and eggs can have unpredictable side-effects on the growing baby’s health.
Outside of food, there are several other things that should be avoided during pregnancy. Smoking and alcohol consumption can have devastating and long-term effects on the health of a newborn baby. These things should be cut out of your lifestyle completely.
It is OK to consume caffeine during pregnancy but intake should be limited to about 200 mg/day (equivalent to about 1-12 oz cup of coffee). Studies have shown that more caffeine than that can increase risk of miscarriage. There are lists of caffeine-containing foods/liquids on the internet. For instance a can of Coke/Pepsi has about 50 mg caffeine.
As with everything else, there is a flipside to taking vitamins and supplements during pregnancy. Vitamin A, while essential to development, could have detrimental effects if taken in excess. Most women will be able to get enough through their diet and prenatal supplement. Likewise, Vitamin E could have damaging effects if there is too much. Be sure to speak with your doctor about adding supplements to your diet before taking them.
You’ve spent nine months eating right, exercising, and planning for your due date. As your pregnancy draws near its conclusion, you will need to be able to identify when you are going into labor.
Many women experience pain and pressure leading up to labor. Braxton-Hicks contractions are irregular cramps/tightening of the uterine muscles prior to the onset of true labor. These contractions help to prepare the uterus and cervix in the weeks leading up to delivery. “Labor” is defined as the time when contractions are strong and consistent enough to result in progressive cervical dilation. As the gateway to the uterus, the cervix has to dilate completely before it’s time to deliver the baby. For some women, their bag of water breaks before contractions start. For others, their water breaks as contractions strengthen.
Pregnancy is an exciting time but it can seem long and arduous. There are a number of factors you need to be aware of during the weeks spanning from inception to the due date. Working with your doctor will be essential in planning your pregnancy. No matter your circumstances, you are not alone and there are many resources available.
Preparation is key. Develop a diet and workout routine that works best for you. Manage your expectations. Your doctor will be able to help you, but you may also decide to meet with a specialist such as a nutritionist or personal trainer. A good plan will facilitate the healthy development of your growing baby, while simultaneously keeping you fit and energized.
Few things can match the joys of bringing life into this world, and few things are as stressful. Take some time to prepare, adjust your lifestyle, and most importantly, take the time to fully enjoy appreciate the miracle of life.