I'm pregnant! What to expect.

Thursday, December 1, 2011
Pregnant woman in gym
Every pregnancy is different, and listening to your friends' stories may provide some comfort — however know that your experience will probably be different. If you have questions, there is always lots of information available that you can get from your health provider, libraries and/or the Internet.

Here's what you can expect over the next nine months.

Pregnancy is often referred to in three different stages, called trimesters, each lasting roughly about three months.

The first trimester (conception up to 13 weeks) is a time when your body undergoes profound changes. Everyone will experience these changes in different ways and at different times.

Here is what you might experience:

  • nausea. You may feel tired and emotional. Unless you are really lucky you will also experience nausea and occasional vomiting. This is often termed 'morning sickness' although many women find that the nausea occurs at other times of the day as well. Nausea is common but can vary in severity from mild queasiness to a complete inability to keep any food in the stomach. In extreme cases you may need to be admitted to the hospital because of dehydration.
  • cravings. Many women also have strong food cravings and/or food aversions. Suddenly food you have always loved makes you feel sick and you have cravings for things you've never enjoyed in the past or for bizarre combinations.
  • breast changes. Another change you may notice in the first trimester is increased breast fullness and sensitivity. Increasing levels of oestrogen and progesterone stimulate the milk producing glands in the breasts. The areola (the pigmented area around the nipple) may also enlarge and darken. Some women also notice small bumps appearing on the areola. These bumps are normal; they are actually glands that help lubricate the breast during breastfeeding.
  • weight gain. Weight gain during pregnancy can be worrying for many women. As a rough estimate, you should gain between 11 and 15 kg during the pregnancy. How much is appropriate for you will depend on your body size and nutritional needs. If you are overweight or underweight, you should discuss your weight gain with your doctor or midwife.

The second trimester (from the 13th week to the 27th week), is usually an easier time for most pregnant women. You will probably experience fewer pregnancy concerns or effects compared to the other trimesters. You may, however, experience some

  • aches and pains
  • skin changes
  • constipation

In the beginning of this trimester, you will be able to feel your uterus extending above the pubic bone if you gently, but firmly, press on your lower abdomen. By 20 weeks you will probably have felt your baby move for the first time. This is an exciting time but it is also important information to remember and relay to your doctor or midwife to help determine the age of the foetus as accurately as possible.

The third trimester (begins at the 28th week of pregnancy and lasts until birth).
This is usually a time of heightened pregnancy affects as your body adapts to accommodate the developing foetus. You may experience:

  • heartburn
  • gas
  • constipation
  • sleeping problems
  • incontinence
  • haemorrhoids
  • increased vaginal discharge
  • nasal stuffiness
  • occasional shortness of breath
  • varicose veins
  • light-headedness.

Your doctor or midwife will be able to offer suggestions for how to cope with these changes. Remember that everyone's experience is different.

Childbirth is often the most feared and/or unknown quantity relating to pregnancy. Again remember that everyone's experience is different, so don't let others' childbirth "stories" unsettle or scare you off.

There are many options for women during labour and childbirth. These include but are certainly not limited to:

  • Where you have the baby — hospital (public/private), birthing centre etc
  • What you do while in labour — active labouring, pain relief (including natural therapies), type of care (shared care, midwife lead care etc), whether you have a support person present
  • How you have the baby — vaginal or caesarian
  • Post-birth — pain relief (including natural therapies)
  • Feeding — breast or bottle
  • How long can you stay in hospital/birthing centre and domiciliary service
  • Post natal support — maternal and child health nurse, new mothers' groups, partner, family, friends, etc

It is important to discuss all of your options with your GP or health care provider to determine the best possible outcome for you and your baby.

Information kindly provided by Family Planning Victoria.

ThinkstockMorning sickness means a healthier and smarter baby: study ThinkstockBabies can smell mother's fear ThinkstockHospital calls authorities after woman insists on natural birth Getty ImagesQuick conception could increase risk of pre-term birth: study