From peeing on a stick to seeing that first blip of a heartbeat at your gynae visit – finding out what you are pregnant is one of life’s most exciting milestones! While you are celebrating and looking forward to having your baby, some feelings of anxiety can creep up very quickly, just when you least expect it.
You go from an adrenaline loving junkie to a worrywart, obsessing incessantly about your food intake. Am I getting enough calcium for my baby? Should I take fish oil to help with brain development? Is my body strong enough to carry the child to term? What other supplements do I need? Should I be taking blood tests? Do I have a family history of specific conditions?
You start to read up on all sorts of things, from the types of tests you need to take, to the best confinement nannies and recommendations on all baby related things from the mothers you know; cribs, prams, bottles, nappies, baby carriers, the best creams to prevent those horrid stretch marks and foods to prime your boobs to optimise breast-feeding.
There is so much literature out there, that it can be overwhelming and a lot to take in. Everything is happening all at once that it is normal to go from being overjoyed to anxious, sometimes even a little depressed, all in a day. It is natural to feel some anxiety about your baby’s health, becoming a mother, and the huge financial demands and responsibilities of bringing up a child. Many also worry about balancing the demands between family time and career progress. All these feelings are normal, so share them with your spouse and close friends and family.
Making sure that you are emotionally healthy is the most important first step to establishing a healthy pregnancy. Stressing out can wear on your mind and that is not good for your body. Studies have shown that it can lead to underweight foetuses or premature birth. So give yourself a break and take care of your mental health.
You will also begin to notice changes in your body due to increased hormone production. Tender breasts, mood swings and having less energy are just a few of the changes to expect as your body prepares to support the pregnancy. It is an exhilarating time as you approach this major milestone in your life, so what are some of the physical changes you can expect, and when should you seek professional help?
If you have always wanted a fuller cup, congratulations, because one of the earliest symptoms is just that. Your breasts may start to feel fuller, heavier and become more sensitive, while the area around the nipple, or areola, gets darker. If it is starting to feel uncomfortable, bras that offer more support, or a sports bra, will help to alleviate that soreness.
Many women also experience nausea and vomiting in the early stages of pregnancy. This varies from woman to woman, some report that it is worse in the morning while others are plagued with it all day long. There may be changes to your sense of smell and taste, developing aversions to specific scents. If so, drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration and go for smaller meals rather than one large one.
Your heart pumps faster and harder when you are pregnant, so your pulse quickens and your breathing increases. This can cause you to get tired easily, so try to get as much rest as you can. Such changes in circulation may also cause you to feel dizzy, so try to sit down often or lie down. Sudden movements may also cause your blood pressure to drop as well so don’t rush to get up when you are sitting or lying down.
You may urinate more often too as the volume of blood in your body increases, causing more fluid to be processed, while the growing uterus may press on your bladder, causing embarrassing leaks when you cough, sneeze or laugh. If frequent trips to the bathroom is affecting your sleep quality, try to avoid caffeine, drink more during the day and less before going to bed.
Heartburn is another common issue for pregnant women. Scientifically, this is caused by the progesterone hormone produced by the placenta that relaxes the muscles of the valve separating the tube that carries food from the throat to the stomach. Gastric acids start to seep back up causing that uncomfortable burning sensation. If this is an issue, avoid fried food, carbonated drinks, citrusy fruits and spicy food. Pregnancy is an amazing thing, and no matter what the changes are, remember that there are people cheering you on. Your spouse, family, friends and colleagues are there to lend a helping hand, and your gynae will ensure both the baby and you are safe. So enjoy the process and all the good and not-so-good changes that come with it, knowing that you will soon be welcoming a happy a healthy little miracle into your life.