Guest Blogger: Ellie Porterfield - Outreach Executive www.mominformed.com
Becoming pregnant for the first time can be an incredibly exciting experience, but it is also an overwhelming and nerve-wracking time. People have been having babies since human beings existed but that doesn’t mean that being pregnant will be easy and simple for everyone. There is only so much you can control over your pregnancy. Your baby is growing inside you and you can keep yourself as healthy as possible and do your best but you ultimately have to allow your body to do its thing and grow your little human being. Of course, there are things you need to do to help keep you and your baby as healthy as possible. There are also a lot of things that you need to know about having your first baby. Growing someone inside your body will be a life-changing experience. So read on for everything you need to know about being pregnant.
Table of Contents [show] Physical Changes To Expect During Your Pregnancy
Some of the physical changes that occur during pregnancy are obvious and well-known, such as your stomach becoming larger, your ankles swelling, and needing to urinate more often. But there are a few more things to expect. It’s important to research what will happen so that you know what to expect but also because you need to know what not to worry about and what is normal.
On average, pregnant people spend more than 1,400 hours researching how to care for their babies. It’s natural to feel nervous about caring for yourself and your baby but it’s also important not to worry too much and to enjoy the experience as well. While it is important to speak with your medical provider whenever you are concerned, here are some of the normal physical changes to expect during your pregnancy.
Feeling Nauseous And Potentially Vomiting This is one of the most well-known symptoms of pregnancy. It is always the way a woman in a movie or TV show discovers they are pregnant as they begin to experience morning sickness. Unfortunately, nausea and vomiting are not actually restricted to the mornings. Some people, experience a constant feeling of nausea throughout the first trimester of pregnancy but don’t actually ever vomit. For others, they vomit a few times in the first few weeks, and then the feeling fades. When you become pregnant, your body is flooded with hormones which causes the feeling of nausea. This is understandable as suddenly having another living being in your body can be very disruptive. Nausea is to be expected and will usually go away after the first trimester. There are ways to relieve nausea, the most popular of which is drinking ginger tea.
Swollen Breasts Tender and swollen breasts is something that you are very likely already used to from having periods. This is a common side effect of increased blood flow. When you’re pregnant, your breasts are preparing to produce milk and feed your baby. Your breasts are often a forgotten part of your body until after you give birth and attempt breastfeeding, but they are something that you need to focus on and care for throughout your pregnancy.
Along with swelling, your breasts will also become heavy and tender. This is also due to fluid retention and increased blood flow. By the end of their pregnancy, most pregnant people will have gained 2lbs in weight in their breasts alone. There are a few things you can do to help relieve pain and tenderness. The best is to wear a more supportive bra and loose-fitting clothing. A cold compress can also help with the swelling or completely alternatively a hot shower can also help. This depends on how your body responds to temperature.
An Increased Need To Urinate This is another well-known symptom of pregnancy. It is usually associated with the later months due to the baby getting larger and pressing down on the bladder. It is during the first trimester that the baby’s body begins to develop and in the later months they simply begin to grow bigger and more developed.
Unfortunately, needing to urinate more often is actually another early sign of pregnancy. The main difference between the early and later months of pregnancy is that you will simply need to urinate even more frequently. You will also likely find yourself needing to go to the bathroom during the night as well. The increased need to urinate is actually due to increased blood flow caused by the hormone hCG. This causes increased pressure on your lower stomach which gives you the urge to urinate more often. hCG also increases the blood flow to your kidneys which begin to work more efficiently to remove toxins. So, whenever you feel the need to urinate thirty seconds after you just went, remember that your body is doing it to look after you and keep your baby healthy (this should lessen the irritation a little).
Fatigue Not many people talk about just how exhausting being pregnant can be, even in the beginning. It’s common for women to feel as though they have to prove their ability to continue their lives as normal whilst they are pregnant. This is a difficult topic to broach as pregnant women should not be patronized or assumed to be incompetent, but acknowledging that pregnancy will impact your everyday life is the best way to allow women to retain their independence whilst not having to go into old-fashioned confinement.
Fatigue is a common side effect of pregnancy for several reasons. One is simply because you are growing a human being so your body is directing a lot of energy to this. Pregnancy fatigue usually occurs during the first and third trimesters. Once again, this is due to those pesky hormones that are taking over your body and disrupting everything.
Hormones can affect your mood, energy levels, blood flow, sleep pattern, and can even alter your brain and its functioning.
There are a few different ways to help improve your sleep and give you some more energy. One of the first is, unsurprisingly, to rest. Listen to the signals your body is sending you and rest when you need to. This doesn’t mean that you have to disrupt your day to take multiple naps, but if your body feels tired then sit down for a while or try and complete your tasks in a slower and more mindful manner.
To improve your sleep, try to make your bedroom perfect for sleeping. It should be dark, clean, and cold. These are the best conditions to allow you to snuggle down and get the best rest possible.
Food Cravings Wild food cravings are definitely a well-known side effect of pregnancy. Some people report having absolutely ridiculous cravings (sometimes for things that aren’t even food) and find themselves drawn to bizarre food combinations. For other people, they begin to feel ill at the thought of some of their previously favorite foods and find that they can only eat a plain and simple diet. Food cravings usually begin in the first trimester at around five weeks, get stronger during the second trimester, and eventually fade away during the third. Scientists don’t actually know why people get food cravings during pregnancy, but it’s thought that hormones are once again to blame. Food cravings can be bizarre but they can also be one of the more fun and silly aspects of pregnancy. As a pregnant person, it is your right to demand any kind of weird and wonderful concoctions that you and your baby are craving. Just remember to avoid anything potentially dangerous; unfortunately, a craving for half a bottle of wine and three cups of coffee should be avoided. (Read on or scroll down for which foods to avoid when pregnant).
Heartburn And Indigestion Heartburn and indigestion are irritating side effects of pregnancy, especially if your food cravings have included any sour or spicy foods. Once again, you mostly have hormones to thank for causing the heartburn, this time it’s specifically estrogen. Interestingly, heartburn has long been said to be a sign that your baby will be born with a lot of hair. This has often been dismissed as an “old wives tale” but it is actually true! (So maybe it’s a good idea to keep listening to those old wives).
There are lots of different remedies to heartburn, one of which is ginger which, as mentioned above, is also useful for morning sickness. Ginger is excellent for calming and settling your stomach. There are plenty of easy and natural ways to reduce heartburn.
Constipation Constipation is a very common side effect of pregnancy but it isn’t spoken about very much. This is likely due to taboos and people feeling uncomfortable discussing their toilet habits, but it’s important to know that other people are experiencing the same thing. If it is causing you concern or you are really having trouble going to the bathroom, then you should mention your constipation to your medical provider. But constipation is common and can usually be easily remedied. The best way to ease constipation is by adding more fiber to your diet. You can do this by eating more leafy green vegetables, whole grains, cereals, and pulses. If you’re already struggling with frequent urination this might not sound very appealing, but drinking more water can help to ease constipation. If you are taking iron tablets, these can cause constipation. If this is a side effect of your supplements, speak with your doctor to see if you can make some changes.
This is another side effect that you will likely be used to after years of having periods. Mood swings are, once again, due to the hormones in your body. Just as when you are menstruating, having someone imply that you are in a bad mood because you are pregnant can be insulting and infuriating. So you don’t need to accept people making such comments, but it’s important to be aware of why your emotions are changing. Pregnancy is a physical process but it is also an emotional one. You might find that you are more sensitive and get upset more easily while you are pregnant, which is completely understandable. Fear and anxiety are also common feelings in pregnant people. These are also completely understandable as you are now responsible for another human life. Forgetfulness is another irritating side effect of pregnancy. It is often referred to as “mommy brain” and can impact your memory and critical thinking. Negative body image is another problem that some pregnant women experience. This is common in women who have experienced body dysmorphia or eating disorders. Even for women who have overcome their illnesses and are recovering, watching their bodies get bigger and needing to eat more can be difficult and triggering. If this is something you experience, seeking help is definitely a good idea as there is support out there for you.
Foods To Avoid While Pregnant
As mentioned above, there are several foods and beverages that you need to avoid while pregnant. There are some that are well-known such as alcohol, but there are actually more that you need to restrict or cut from your diet. Some of these should be avoided on a “just in case” basis as they can potentially contain dangerous ingredients or bacteria. It’s best to use a “better to be safe than sorry” attitude when approaching food and drink while pregnant.
Coffee/Caffeine After reading about the intense fatigue you will likely experience while pregnant, hearing that you should avoid caffeine might sound a bit distressing. But there are lots of different ways to get an energy boost that doesn’t involve caffeine and you can still drink a small coffee every day if you need to. During pregnancy, your body takes longer to break down caffeine and some of it can be passed on to the fetus. Some people believe that drinking caffeine while pregnant will impact your baby’s sleep but this isn’t true. It’s still something that should be avoided or limited but doesn’t need to be demonized. If you do want to completely cut out caffeine, there are other ways to get an energy boost (which you will definitely be grateful for during your pregnancy and afterward).
Fish High In Mercury All people, whether pregnant or not, should be conscious of their mercury intake. Mercury can be found in king mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, shark, swordfish, tilefish, ahi tuna, and bigeye tuna. Eating too much mercury can lead to mercury poisoning which can affect the nervous, digestive, and immune systems, lungs, kidneys, and can even be fatal. So, when pregnant, it’s best to just avoid these fish altogether. Fish is a great source of omega-3 fats and iron and there are plenty of other fish which you can still safely eat. This does not include sushi or other raw fish, however. These are foods that are best to still avoid, just in case,
Raw Meat Raw meat probably isn’t a huge part of your diet but it’s still best to be conscious of exactly what you’re eating. Make sure that all of the meat you eat is cooked thoroughly all the way through. Some meat can be eaten a little on the raw side, the most common of which is steak and beef as you can technically eat this raw. But, as with most of the other options on this list, it’s best to avoid just in case.
Raw Eggs This is another food that you might feel as though you rarely consume, but that might actually not be the case. Think of how often you dip your finger into raw cake or cookie batter. Some people also eat or drink raw eggs as they believe it to be healthy or just enjoy the taste and texture. But raw eggs can contain salmonella so always make sure your eggs are fully cooked before eating them.
Unwashed Food Fresh whole foods are the best things you can eat while you are pregnant but they should always be washed before eating. This is because they can still be covered in small amounts of dirt and mud. If the food isn’t organic, then it can also be covered in pesticides and herbicides. If you scrape your nail over a piece of food, for example an apple, then you will see a waxy substance come off the skin. This needs to be washed off before you eat them.
Unpasteurized Milk Due to the rise of “clean eating” and raw food diets, some people have begun championing unpasteurized milk, also known as “raw milk”. But this is definitely something that you should avoid, especially when you are pregnant but also when you are not.
Raw milk is milk that has not been through the pasteurization process which removes harmful bacteria. Some people believe that milk straight from the udder of a cow, sheep, or goat is the healthiest way to consume it but this isn’t true. Raw milk can cause food poisoning and make you very unwell.
Alcoholic Beverages Guidance on drinking alcohol when pregnant changes every few years. Sometimes pregnant people are told that one glass of red wine a week is safe (if not beneficial) or are told to avoid it completely. Currently, the advice from the CDC is to completely avoid drinking alcohol when pregnant so it’s best to follow this advice. Drinking alcohol can have a range of negative effects on your baby and their development, so it’s best to be on the safe side. If you enjoy the flavor of certain alcohols and will miss it, there are lots of alcohol-free beers, wines, and spirits available.
Things To Do That Can Help Your Pregnancy
Now you know what to expect and what to avoid when you’re expecting, here are a few extra tips to keeping you and your baby healthy throughout your pregnancy and beyond.
Try To Eat Healthy And Avoid Junk Food If you’re craving a big cheesy pizza: eat it. There is nothing wrong with giving in to your pregnancy cravings and letting yourself enjoy food. If you manage to eat something in between bouts of morning sickness, trying to continue with your job, and managing the rest of your life then you are doing good. You should try your best to eat as healthily as possible but don’t go overboard. “Clean eating” and raw food diets are not for everyone and aren’t necessarily healthy. Restricting food groups for any reason other than the fact that you ethically oppose them or because they contain harmful ingredients. You do not need to restrict yourself to some absurd diet that is unsustainable and not enjoyable. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables but also remember that food should be enjoyable and you should eat as much as you want, whenever you feel hungry.
Stay Active Exercising while pregnant can be difficult and tiring. It can also be a little scary as you should not be doing anything strenuous or using heavy machinery when pregnant. You can continue working out when pregnant, even using weights. But the most important thing to remember is that you don’t have to do anything difficult or strenuous.
Keeping your body moving is important for staying healthy, both physically and mentally. This can mean going for a walk, doing yoga, going swimming, or joining a pregnancy exercise class. Staying active can mean moving slowly and gently, you don’t have to over-exert yourself. Just try to move your body every day.
Drink Plenty Of Fluids Drinking lots of fluids when you’re trying not to pee every five minutes can seem difficult and excessive, but you really need to drink fluids regularly. Try adding notifications on your phone to remind you to drink water throughout the day. Very few of us remember to drink enough water most of the time, let alone while you’re trying to carry on with your life and grow a person. It’s also a good idea to carry a reusable water bottle around with you. It will make remembering to drink water and staying hydrated much easier. You don’t have to stick exclusively to water but it should be your main source of fluid. Herbal teas are also great, especially for reducing nausea. They are also excellent alternatives for caffeinated beverages. Fruit juices are also healthy beverages but should be drunk in moderation. Try to drink fruit that is as fresh as possible and isn’t from concentrate or flavored or colored with artificial additives. It’s also best to avoid fruit juices with added sugars or sweeteners. They won’t have a negative impact on your pregnancy but there are healthier alternatives available.
Get A Massage This might seem like a luxury but it’s definitely a good idea. Your entire body will be tired and aching from not only creating your baby but also from physically carrying the extra weight, especially in such a localized area. A massage can be a great way to ease the aches and pains, especially in your feet and back. You can find spas and masseuses that specialize in massaging pregnant women so it can be completely safe and focus on exactly the areas that need it most. Remember that a pregnant person needs as much pampering as possible!
Get Plenty Of Sleep You are probably trying to get as much sleep as possible anyway, but it’s important to remember that you should prioritize your own rest and sleep. It might be incredibly difficult to get any sleep while pregnant, but as mentioned above, remember to listen to your body and rest whenever it asks you to. It’s definitely a good idea to prioritize your sleep now, especially as your baby will be waking you up for night feeds in a few months’ time. Remember to look after yourself as much as your baby.
How To Care For Your Mental Health During Your Pregnancy
Pregnancy can have such a major physical impact that it can be easy to forget the mental toll it can take. Taking care of your mental health is just as important as caring for your physical health. Here are some of the best ways to keep yourself mentally healthy throughout your pregnancy and beyond.
Consider Therapy Therapy can be one of the best additions to your life. Whether you have experienced trauma or not, therapy can be a helpful way to unpick your life. Therapy can be especially helpful if you have any fears, concerns, or anxieties about being pregnant, giving birth, or raising a child. Even just talking through these fears can help you overcome them and relieve some anxiety. This is a much better option than allowing them to go round and round your head, making things worse. Especially if you don’t feel as though your partner quite understands the experience of pregnancy. If one-to-one pregnancy doesn’t seem the best fit for you, parent groups can also help. Speaking with other pregnant people, especially people who have been through pregnancy and childbirth before, can be incredibly helpful.
Try Yoga Or Meditation Yoga and meditation are age-old techniques for stress relief and caring for your mental health. Yoga can help you to stay physically active and the breathing techniques and mindfulness that come along with the practice can be incredibly beneficial for your mental health.
Meditation can be a little more difficult for some people to get used to. But if you’re struggling with stress or anxiety then it can be incredibly calming and help to ease your anxiety.
Socialize With Your Friends Human beings are social creatures and need to be around each other. Even if you are introverted and tend to stay away from big groups, it’s still a good idea to spend time socializing with friends. Socializing can be a great distraction from any worries you have. It’s an especially good idea to socialize with other parents or pregnant friends. You don’t have to cut out anyone who isn’t a parent as spending time with people without children, especially after childbirth, can help recenter you and remind you of who you are. It’s also important to have a support network. The phrase “it takes a village” is completely true and you’re going to need all the help you can get. Ensuring that you have people around you, especially if you’re concerned, then you need to have people around you to help out.
Talk To Your Medical Provider If you suffer from mental illness or think you might have developed an illness while pregnant, it’s imperative that you speak with a professional. Your medical provider can give you support and information about the support available. Mental illness doesn’t stop when you’re pregnant and can even be exacerbated by it. So always make sure to reach out for help when you need it. Postpartum depression can also take people by surprise, so it’s essential to care for your mental health after giving birth as well.
Becoming pregnant is an exciting time (so congratulations if you have just found out!) but it can also be overwhelming. Your body is going to change a lot and it’s important to be prepared for this. You need to know exactly what to expect and how to cope with the difficult changes. Just because these physical changes are normal doesn’t mean that you have to just put up with them. Try to find ways to soothe and ease your physical pain and increased sensitivity. Remember that you are growing a human being with your own body!
Pregnancy and childbirth are simultaneously magical and terrifying life experiences, but if you have the right knowledge you can make it so much easier and more peaceful. While it is important to be as informed as possible, it’s also important not to spend hours trawling through horror stories on the internet. This is natural but not helpful. If you are ever concerned, speak with your medical provider and try to remember to actually enjoy your pregnancy!
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