EARLY SIGNS OF PREGNANCY
What are the earliest pregnancy signs of a new pregnancy? Just how pregnant do you have to be to experience the first signs of early pregnancy? Are there specific symptoms that only occur in early pregnancy?
If being pregnant is your fondest desire, you will be anxious to learn how to spot the signs that your dream has come true and you are harboring a brand, spanking new pregnancy. It’s not enough to stand in front of the mirror mouthing the words, “I’m pregnant! I’m pregnant!” You need some signs!The earliest pregnancy signs can be broken down into ten specific groups. Some of these symptoms arrive before the much heralded missed period, while other signs (including the aforementioned missed period) come two weeks or more after conception has occurred. Part of being pregnant is the expectation of having symptoms or signs of pregnancy, but don’t assume you’ll have all ten signs. You may have one or two or many.
And now, drum roll please for the 10 earliest pregnancy signs:
• Light Bleeding or Spotting—several days after the egg is fertilized, implantation occurs. This will be before your next menstrual period is expected. The bleeding from implantation tends to be lighter colored, pink or brown, and much lighter than a period. This type of pregnancy discharge is very limited in duration. Don’t be surprised if the spotting is accompanied by early pregnancy cramping.
• Frequent Urination—Yup. Peeing all the time is one of the hallmarks of early pregnancy. Most women will start needing to go all the time before they even miss a period. The frequent urination begins 7-12 days after the slight spike in basal body temperature that occurs with ovulation. The constant need to pee is due to hormone fluctuations that occur during implantation of the fertilized egg. The main hormonal culprit responsible for keeping you close to the toilet is human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG)
• Spike in Basal Body Temperature—A very small spike in your resting body temperature (basal body temperature or BBT) occurs at the time of ovulation. Once the spike occurs, your temperature will remain at that higher level until you either get your period or until (having conceived) you have a baby. If the spike remains past the time you should have had your period, it’s a good bet you’re pregnant!
• Missed Menstrual Period—Missing your period is one of the most obvious of the 10 pregnancy signs. However, it’s possible to miss a period for reasons other than pregnancy such as stress, reactions to medication or food, illness, or a hormone imbalance. Still, if you’re as regular as a clock, missing your period is likely a sign of pregnancy. Even if you miss your period, you may have some pregnancy discharge that is pink or brownish. This is due to implantation should be quite limited.
• Fatigue—One of the earliest signs of pregnancy is extreme exhaustion that you just can’t seem to shake. Fatigue is due to your changing hormone levels. As your body adjusts to its changing hormonal balance, the fatigue should disappear.
• Cramping—Many women have early pregnancy cramping during which the uterus will contract quite often and with some regularity. Early pregnancy cramping may be triggered by exercise, orgasms, or by just moving around.
• Nausea—Ahhh, good old morning sickness. This well known sign of early pregnancy occurs in only half of all pregnant women. But morning sickness isn’t such an apt term for this sign of pregnancy. The nausea can hit at any time, day or night.
• Breast and Nipple Tenderness—Sometimes the very first sign a woman has that she may have conceived is breast or nipple tenderness. The discomfort should dissipate as the body accustoms itself to its changed hormonal balance.
• Darkened Areolas—The darker skin that surrounds the nipples is called the aureola. During pregnancy, this area becomes even darker. The color-change may take place as early as one week after a woman has conceived. If the aureola is bumpy, these bumps may take on a more prominent appearance.
• Constipation and Gas—It’s common to have changes in bowel function during the early weeks of pregnancy. This is due in part to the hormones that serve to soften and relax the pelvic ligaments to make carrying a baby and the delivery of the baby a bit easier. These same hormones affect other parts of the body as well and one of the results of this may be a sluggish digestive tract.
Once you’ve experienced some early signs of pregnancy, you can go ahead and purchase a quality home pregnancy test and confirm what you know in your heart. Go ahead and say it, “I’m pregnant!”
A great many of the first trimester symptoms mimic the symptoms that some women experience just before they get their menstrual periods. You might experience these symptoms within one or two weeks of conception. Some of the earliest first trimester symptoms include:
*Food cravings (often for something unusual)
*Nausea (morning sickness)
As time elapses, you will find that your aureolas, the area surrounding your nipples, will swell and darken. At this time, some of your early pregnancy symptoms will disappear. While many women say they have intense fatigue in the earliest stages of their pregnancies, the fatigue leaves fast and then most pregnant women will experience a wonderful sense of energy until such time as late pregnancy arrives.
There may be some implantation bleeding at the time your fertilized egg implants within your uterine wall. This occurs 6-12 days after a woman has conceived. There may be some light spotting and cramping. If you should experience these symptoms, report them to your doctor, since these signs are identical to miscarriage symptoms. Miscarriage symptoms should never be ignored.
Women may find they have extreme mood swings early on during their pregnancies. They may feel euphoria one moment, followed by great sadness. The experience is much like premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
By 2-3 weeks into the pregnancy, a woman may experience symptoms such as morning sickness, frequent urination, and strange food cravings, though these symptoms may not be experienced until 4-6 weeks gestation. It’s also important to note that not every woman misses a period during early pregnancy. If you do get a period during this time it may look like every other period you have, or it may be lighter or shorter than usual. Of course, if you know you’re pregnant and you have any type of vaginal bleeding, you must see a doctor right away.
Pregnancy headaches during the first trimester are thought to be due to a surge of hormones and an increase in the amount of blood circulating in your body during this time. These pregnancy headaches are sometimes exacerbated by poor posture, stress, or vision changes. Here are some of the other causes of pregnancy headaches:
*Not enough sleep
*Low blood sugar levels
*Not drinking enough (dehydration)
*Going off coffee (caffeine withdrawal)
The good news is that many women who suffer from migraine headaches often find they have fewer migraines during the time they are pregnant, though this is not always the case. If you take migraine medication, it’s important to mention this to your doctor and ask if your medication is safe for your fetus.
You may not expect to experience pregnancy weight gain during the earliest days and weeks of your pregnancy. But it is very important that you gain and not lose weight while pregnant. Maintaining a healthy pregnancy weight gain even at the earliest stages of pregnancy is crucial to a successful pregnancy outcome.
An average-sized woman can expect to gain a maximum of 25-35 pounds during her pregnancy. If you were on the heavy side before you conceived, your healthy pregnancy weight gain will be from 15-25 pounds. If you weighed too little before conception, you’ll need to gain from 28-40 pounds during pregnancy.
However, the smallest proportion of your pregnancy weight gain will occur during your first trimester. Your first trimester weight gain should be from 3-5 pounds only. You may not even notice the weight until you step on your doctor’s scale. In fact, most of the weight will be noticeable only in your breast size which may undergo a sudden increase.
The Stages of Pregnancy
Congratulations on your pregnancy! Now that you know you’re pregnant, you’ll definitely be interested in finding out what is happening to your body through these stages of pregnancy. You may even want to start a pregnancy journal to help keep track of all the changes that are going on now.
During the first trimester, you can expect a host of pregnancy symptoms including breast changes, tiredness, nausea and vomiting, frequent urination and many more. At the end of the first trimester, your uterus will have grown into the size of a grapefruit, while the baby inside is the size of a cherry. The baby will grow from being a mass of cells to having a heartbeat, reflexes and the ability to move it’s tiny limbs! Now is the time to start prenatal care and a nutritious, healthy diet. Regular exercise will keep you and your baby safe and ready for a healthier birth.
Throughout the second trimester, you’ll grow more scatterbrained and your belly will start to show the baby growing inside you. You’ll experience pregnancy discomforts such as sleeping problems and notice Braxton Hicks contractions. During the second trimester, your baby will grow hair all over its body and the senses will begin to develop. At the end of the second trimester, your baby will measure about 10 inches (25 cm) and will frequently practice their kicking movements.
The third trimester brings many changes to your body; you will need to urinate frequently and your belly looks like it’s ready to explode. Now is the time to start taking childbirth and breastfeeding classes. The finishing touches are being placed on your baby, and the two of you are looking forward to delivery day! Don’t forget to include your partner and prepare him for the hefty responsibility of fatherhood!
The first trimester (from 0-12 Weeks) will see your body undergoing many changes as it adjusts to your growing baby. It is important to understand that these are all normal events and that most of these discomforts will go away as your pregnancy progresses. Further, you may not even experience any of the symptoms listed below. Included here are some of the symptoms you may experience during your pregnancy and how best to deal with them.
The mammary glands cause the breasts to swell and become tender in preparation for breastfeeding. This is due to an increased amount of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. These changes are aimed at preparing you to feed your baby when she arrives. A supportive bra should be worn. This will minimize stretching and sagging of the breast tissue.
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A woman’s areolas (the pigmented areas around each breast’s nipple) will enlarge, darken and may become covered with small, white bumps called Montgomery’s tubercles (enlarged sweat glands that look like large goose bumps). You’ll also experience an increase in sensitivity in your breasts, but they should not remain tender to touch past the third or fourth month. In some women a network of bluish lines appears under the skin as blood supply to the breasts increases. After delivery, if you breastfeed, your breasts may increase another cup size.
A woman may experience fatigue due to the physical and emotional demands of pregnancy. During your pregnancy, you might feel tired even when you’ve had a lot of sleep at night. Many women find they’re exhausted in the first trimester. Don’t worry, this is normal! This is your body’s way of telling you that you need more rest. Tiredness will pass over time and be replaced with a feeling of well being and increased energy.
When you are tired, get some rest. Try to get eight hours of sleep every night, and take a nap during the day if you can. If you feel stressed, try to find a way to relax. You might want to start sleeping on your left side, if you find it more comfortable. This will relieve pressure on major blood vessels that supply oxygen and nutrients to the fetus. Using a body pillow can help to comfortably support your body.
Once your body has adjusted to the increased demands placed upon it, you should have more energy. Until then, you may need to work fewer hours or take a few days off if you’re really fatigued. Once your body is back to some semblance of normality, there is no reason why you shouldn’t return to your job. You will probably find that you are happier and less anxious if you keep busy.
Tips to Help You Deal With Fatigue
- Get eight hours of sleep or more each night
- Ensure your following a proper diet. Fatigue may be aggravated by a deficiency in iron, protein, or just not getting enough calories.
- Baby yourself and let others baby you. By getting adequate rest and relaxing while making sure your spouse is doing his fair share of the chores, you will be able to focus on taking care of yourself and your baby.
- Fatigue is often worsened by your environment. Be alert of inadequate lighting, poor air circulation, poor air quality, or excessive noise and try to get them corrected.
- Get some exercise. Often a nice walk or even a slow jog can help with fatigue. Too much rest can actually heighten fatigue but be sure not to overdo the amount you exercise.
Partly due to surges in hormones, a pregnant woman may experience mood swings similar to premenstrual syndrome (a condition experienced by some women that is characterized by mood swings, irritability and other physical symptoms that occur shortly before each menstrual period). You may also experience emotions such as fear, joy or elation.
Nausea and Vomiting
Increased levels of hormones that sustain the pregnancy may cause morning sickness, which is feelings of nausea that can sometimes lead to vomiting. In addition to the increased levels of hCG and estrogen, the rapid stretching of the uterine muscles, the relaxation of muscles in the digestive tract, an increase in acid in the stomach and the enhanced sense of smell pregnant women develop can all contribute to morning sickness.
Just over half of all expectant women experience the nausea and vomiting associated with morning sickness. However, morning sickness does not necessarily occur just in the morning and rarely interferes with proper maternal and fetal nutrition. Even those women that actually lose weight during the first few months of pregnancy because they have a hard time keeping any food down are not hurting their baby, as long as they make up for the lost weight later on. Also, if you are experiencing morning sickness, the symptoms usually don’t linger much beyond the third month.
Tips on Getting a Grip on Your ‘Morning’ Sickness
- Eat frequent, small meals (6 to 8 small meals a day, rather than 3 large meals). An empty stomach, as well as the low blood sugar caused by long stretches between meals can both contribute to morning sickness symptoms. Be sure to carry nutritious snacks with you for snacking.
- Eat a diet that is high in protein and complex carbohydrates, both of which help to alleviate the symptoms of morning sickness
- Drink lots of water, especially if you’re losing liquid through vomiting
- Consuming carbonated drinks in between meals may help with your symptoms
- A prenatal vitamin supplement may help to compensate for nutrients that you may not be getting due to vomitting. Remember, do not take any medication for morning sickness unless it is prescribed by your practitioner.
- Avoid fatty, fried or spicy foods
- Avoid the sight, smell and taste of foods that make you nauseous
- Try starchy foods, like toast, saltines, cheerios or other dry cereals. Keep some by your bed and eat them before you get out of bed in the morning and when you get up in the middle of the night. Also keep some with you at all times, in case you feel nauseous.
- Get some extra sleep and relaxation and take it easy in the mornings. Minimizing your daily stress will help you cope better with morning sickness. While you rest, consider listening to some specially formatted cds that can help ease your symptoms.
- Although you will likely want to brush your teeth after vomiting, try to avoid it for at least an hour. The contents of your stomach are acidic and this acid can coat your teeth when you vomit, causing some of your tooth enamel to dissolve. Instead of brushing, get the taste of vomit out of your mouth by smearing some toothpaste on your teeth and rinsing with water.
Frequency of Urination
The uterus is growing and begins to press on the woman’s bladder, causing the need for her to urinate more frequently. Further, the increased volume of body fluids and the improved efficiency of the kidneys, help to rid the body more quickly of waste products. The pressure on your bladder is often relieved once the uterus rises into the abdominal cavity around the fourth month and doesn’t return until the third trimester when the baby “drops” back down into the pelvis in the ninth month. By leaning forward when you urinate, you will ensure that you empty your bladder completely and reduce trips to the bathroom.
It is important to remember that if you notice pain, burning, pus or blood in your urine to see your health care provider right away. You might have a urinary tract infection that needs treatment.
As the growing uterus presses on the rectum and intestines, constipation may occur. The muscular contractions in the intestines, which help to move food through the digestive tract, are slowed due to high levels of progesterone. This may, in turn, cause heartburn, indigestion and gas.
With gas, some women become so bloated that they are prevented from eating regularly and properly. By ensuring you have regular bowel movements (see below), eating many small meals instead of few big ones and eating slowly, you will avoid the risk of bloating and minimize your own discomfort. Also, be sure to steer clear of gas-producing food such as onions, cabbage, fried foods, rich sauces, sugary sweets and beans.
High levels of certain hormones circulating during pregnancy cause the muscles of the bowel to relax making bowel movements more sluggish. Also, the growing uterus puts pressure on the bowel, cramping its normal activity. The result is constipation. To prevent constipation, try to eat fresh or dried fruit, raw vegetables and whole grain cereals or breads everyday. Also, try to drink eight to ten glasses of water everyday. Some of these servings can be substituted with fruit or vegetable juice. Try to avoid caffeinated drinks (coffee, tea, colas, and some other sodas), since caffeine makes your body lose fluid and won’t help with constipation. Also, holding in bowel movements can weaken muscles that control them and lead to constipation. So when you have to go, go!
Dizziness, feeling lightheaded, and even fainting can occur at any stage of pregnancy, since there now is extra blood going down towards your uterus and legs. Thus, sometimes there’s not an adequate blood supply to fill the rapidly expanding circulatory system. This coupled with the pressure of an expanding uterus on the mother’s blood vessels can lead to dizziness and sometimes faintness. If you experience dizziness when you get up too quickly this is due to a sudden shifting of blood away from the brain as you change positions. If this is the case, be sure to get up very gradually.
Another culprit might be low blood sugar levels. Ensure that you get some protein at every meal and that you eat frequent, smaller meals or try to snack between your meals. Another possible cause of your dizziness may be dehydration, so ensure that you’re getting at least eight cups a day of fluids. Sometimes just getting some fresh air by going outside or opening a window may bring some relief. You can help relieve these symptoms by lying down on your left side. Or to help prevent them, try moving around more instead of sitting or standing in one position for a long time. Be sure to let your practitioner know about your dizzy spells at your next visit as it could be a sign of an underlying problem such as anemia.
Normal veins carry blood from your extremities and organs back to your heart. The veins contain a series of valves that prevent backflow of blood. If these valves are missing or faulty, blood will pool in the viens where the pressure of gravity is greatest, usually in the legs, but sometimes in the rectum or vulva, resulting in bulging. Varicose veins are more common in those who are overweight.
During pregnancy, pressure on the large veins behind the uterus and leg veins causes the blood to slow in its return to the heart. This, coupled with the pregnant woman’s expanded blood volume and hormone-induced relaxation of the muscle tissue in the veins, can lead to varicose veins in the legs and hemorrhoids (varicose veins in the vagina or around the anus).
Varicose veins look like swollen veins raised above the surface of the skin. They can be twisted or bulging and are dark purple or blue in color. They are found most often on the backs of the calves or on the inside of the leg, anywhere from the groin to the ankle. Also, veins become more prominent on the surface of the breast. There may be a mild achiness or severe pain in the legs, or a sensation of heaviness, or swelling. In sever cases; the skin overlying the veins becomes swollen, dry, and irritated. In most cases, the problem will clear up or improve spontaneously after delivery, or by the time pre-pregnancy weight is reached.
Varicose vein symptoms can be treated with various techniques. From natural supplements surgery, there are a variety of effective varicose vein treatments.
Tips to Prevent Varicose Veins and Minimize Symptoms During Pregnancy
- Avoid tight knee-highs or garters
- Avoid excessive weight gain
- Sit with your legs and feet raised when possible. If you work at a desk, you can prop your feet up on a footstool, box or several books. Or when relaxing at home, keep your feet up on a footstool, some pillows on the couch, or another chair. Try to avoid long periods of standing or sitting.
- Avoid heavy lifting
- Avoid straining during bowel movements as this can lead to hypertension and hemorrhoids
- Try to exercise twenty to thrity minutes a day; this can be something like a brisk walk or a swim
- Vitamin C helps to keep veins healthy and elastic
Some women get spidery purplish-red lines on their thighs called spider veins. These result from the hormone changes of pregnancy and should not be confused with varicose veins. They usually fade and disappear after delivery. If not, they can be treated easily by a dermatologist.
At different times during your pregnancy, you might have cramps in your legs or feet. This is due to a change in the way your body processes, or metabolizes, calcium. One way to prevent these cramps is to make sure to get enough calcium through nonfat or low-fat milk, and calcium-rich foods. You also get some calcium in your prenatal vitamin, but you might need to take a calcium supplement if you don’t get enough through your diet. Talk with your health care provider first about taking calcium supplements.
Fatigue and fluid accumulation in the legs are also thought to be contributing factors to leg cramps. You can limit the effect of fatigue and swelling by wearing support hose during the day and alternating periods of rest with your feet up, with periods of physical activity.
You can relieve leg and foot cramps by gently stretching the muscle. If you have a sudden leg cramp, flex your foot towards your body. If you point your foot to stretch your leg, the cramp could worsen. Wrapping a warm heating pad or warm, moist towel around the muscle also can help relax the muscle.
Rectal bleeding during pregnancy can be caused by internal or external hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids are varicose veins of the rectum, and can cause itching and pain as well as bleeding. Constipation often causes or compounds both problems. If you do have bleeding from your rectum, make sure it is evaluated by a physician.
Tips on Preventing or Alleviating Hemorrhoids Symptoms During Pregnancy
- Prevent constipation by eating plenty of fluids and getting lots of fiber in your diet
- Decrease pressure by sleeping on your side, not standing or sitting for long periods and not straining when having a bowel movement
- Warm sitz baths can help reduce discomfort
- Laxatives, stool softeners, suppositories or medications should only be used if prescribed by a doctor
- Even if you get hemorrhoids, they will probably disappear postpartum if you follow these preventative measures
Increased Heart Rate
Cardiac volume increases by approximately 40 to 50 percent from the beginning to the end of the pregnancy, causing an increased cardiac output. An increased cardiac output may cause an increased pulse rate during pregnancy. The increase in blood volume is needed for extra blood flow to the uterus.
Early in pregnancy, it is common for women to experience overproduction of saliva. Though unpleasant, it’s harmless and normally disappears after the first few months. It is more common in those women that also experience morning sickness. To try and dry things up a bit, try brushing your teeth frequently with mint toothpaste, rinsing with a mint mouthwash or chewing sugarless gum.
Heartburn and Indigestion
Due to large amounts of the hormones progesterone and relaxin that are produced during pregnancy, the smooth muscle lining in your gastrointestinal tract will relax, allowing food to move more slowly through your system, resulting in bloating and indigestion.
Heartburn occurs partly due to relaxation of the ring that separates the esophagus from the stomach. This allows the harsh stomach acid to come up and irritate the sensitive espophageal lining, causing a burning sensation.
Tips on How to Avoid or Minimize Heartburn Symptoms
- Avoid gaining too much weight as this puts excess pressure on the stomach contents
- Don’t smoke
- Eat six small meals rather than three big ones and eat slowly
- Stay upright for several hours after eating and try not to eat big meals prior to going to bed
- Try to minimize fatty foods, processed meats, chocolate, coffee, alcohol or spicy foods
- Don’t wear clothing that is very constrictive around your abdomen or waist
- Ask your practitioner to recommend an antacid. Always check with your practitioner before taking any medication or supplement, even if it is over-the-counter medication
Appetite Increase and Cravings
Due to your body’s increased need for more nutrients and energy to sustain your growing baby, you may find that your appetite may be increased during this trimester. You will probably find that your taste in food will change somewhat during pregnancy. This is mainly due to hormone changes. It is completely normal and will probably continue until your birth. If you find yourself craving something that you know you’d probably be better off without, then seek a substitute that satisfies the craving but without filling you up on empty calories. Occasionally giving in to less nutritious cravings is fine, as long as they don’t include something risky. Most cravings disappear or weaken by the fourth month.
The second trimester (13-28 Weeks) is the most physically enjoyable for most women. While some pregnancy symptoms, such as a morning sickness and nausea can abate, new ones can begin. If you’re one of the women whose morning sickness is still in full swing, using nausea cds can help ease your symptoms and make it easier to deal with the new ones that occur during the second trimester. What follows is a list of changes that you may see in your body during this trimester.
Skin Changes, Stretch Marks and Increasing Belly Size
The uterus has grown to the height of the belly button, making the pregnancy visible. You may notice that skin pigmentation may change on the face or abdomen due to the pregnancy hormones. This usually disappears after pregnancy. If you continue to experience pigmentation problems after birth, though, make an appointment with a dermatologist or a cosmetic surgeon who can help treat the problem.
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Due to the stretching of the skin, some women may develop stretch marks. Stretch marks occur in approximately half of all pregnancies and appear in the second half of pregnancy as the belly expands. Expectant mothers who have good, elastic skin tone may not even get any stretch marks. If you do, don’t worry too much about these since most stretch marks fade away after delivery and are barely noticeable.Here are some tips to help minimize or prevent stretch marks:
- keep your weight gain steady and under control
- promote elasticity in your skin by nourishing it with a good diet
- drink plenty of fluids, especially water
- use a stretch mark cream or a prevention cream
The increased secretion of oils brought about by hormonal changes can result in pregnancy acne breakouts. Be sure to follow a proper diet, drink plenty of water and make sure to wash your face regularly while using an oil-free moisturizer. This will ensure your skin is hydrated and will help keep your complexion problems at a minimum.
Abdominal and Low Back Pain
As your uterus and abdomen expands, you might feel pains in your abdomen, groin area or thighs. You may feel backaches due to your increasing weight. You’ll also experiencing aching near your pelvic bone from the pressure of the baby’s head, your increased weight and the loosening joints in these areas. The lower abdomen may ache as ligaments stretch to support the uterus. Lying down, resting or applying heat can help resolve some of these aches and pains. Also, wearing a support girdle can help relieve your back pain while offering your stomach some support. If pains do not get better after rest, it is best to call your chiropractor or other health care provider.
The need to urinate frequently may decrease as the uterus grows out of the pelvic cavity, relieving pressure on the bladder.
Nosebleeds and Gum Bleeds
Increase in hormones such as estrogen and progesterone can affect the mucous membranes in the nose and gums. The hormones cause an increased blood flow to the mucous membranes of the nose and gums, causing them to soften and swell. This can lead to nasal congestion, nosebleeds, spongier gums and gums that bleed more easily.
In addition to stuffiness, you may also develop sinus congestion and a postnasal drip, which can occasionally lead to nighttime coughing or gagging. Remember not to use medication or medicated nasal sprays unless your practitioner prescribes them.
You may find that your congestion and bleeding are more common in winter, when heating systems force hot, dry air into the house, drying your nasal passages. A humidifier may help overcome this dryness.
To stem a nosebleed, sit or stand leaning forward, pinch the area just above your nostrils and below the bridge of your nose using your thumb and forefinger. Hold this for five minutes and repeat if the bleeding continues. If the bleeding isn’t controlled after three tries or if the bleeding is frequent and heavy, call your doctor.
You may notice a white-colored vaginal discharge called leukorrhea. It is normal. However a colored or bloody discharge may signal possible complications and should be examined immediately.
Tingling and Itching
Due to the swelling of tissues in the narrow passages of your wrists, tingling and numbness in the fingers is a common occurrence during pregnancy. The swollen tissues put pressure on nerves which can cause numbness and tingling. If the numbness is accompanied by pain and is located in the area of the thumb, index finger, middle finger and half of your ring finger, you may be suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome.
Since fluids tend to accumulate in your hands and feet throughout the day due to gravity, you may find that your symptoms are more severe at night. Avoid sleeping on your hands and try elevating then on a separate pillow when you go to sleep. You can also try hanging the affected hand over the side of the bed and shaking it when numbness occurs. If the numbness persists, check with your practitioner.
Also, due to the stretching of your skin, it is common to experience some itching over the stretched tissue, particularly over the abdomen. Not to worry though, these symptoms should disappear after you deliver your baby.
Difficulty sleeping is a common complaint of women in their second trimester of pregnancy. Here are some tips to help you get a better night’s rest:
- Exercise: If you get enough exercise during the day, you’ll feel more tired at night and get to sleep quicker; however, you shouldn’t exercise too close to bedtime, since the exercise-induced high may keep you up
- Napping: Try not to nap too much in the daytime
- Bedtime Routine: Develop a bedtime routine and stick to it; some people like to indulge in light reading or television, soothing music, stretching, yoga, a warm bath, a backrub or some lovemaking
- Bedroom: Make sure your bedroom is a comfortable temperature, that your mattress is firm and that your pillows are supportive or you use a body pillow
- Bed: Use your bed only for sleeping and making love; if you do a lot of reading, watch TV or work on the bed frequently, this may interfere with sleep
- Nighttime Urination: If you are constantly getting up from bed to urinate, try to limit your intake of fluids after 6pm
- Common Sense: Stay away from sleeping pills and alcohol
- Caffeine: Caffeine isn’t good for your baby or for your ability to get to sleep, so stay away from coffee during your pregnancy
- Timing is Everything: Don’t go to bed until you’re tired; if you’re tossing and turning in bed for a long time, get out of bed and do something
- Patterns: It’s important that you follow a regular sleeping pattern; you can do this by ensuring that you get up at the same time each day, even on weekends and holidays
Quickening and Fetal Movement
The mother may be able to feel the movement of the fetus for the first time. This is a phenomenon called quickening and is typically felt by the end of the 5th month. On average, quickening is felt first between the 18th and 22nd weeks. Variations are normal and women who have had a baby before are likely to experience movement earlier. This is probably because she knows what to expect and because her uterine muscles are more lax, making it easier to feel a kick. This fluttering will give way to actual movement and kicking, which is normally felt by the end of the 7th month. She will also likely undergo an ultrasound around this time – a 3D ultrasound can provide a particularly vivid image of exactly what baby is up to!
Continuation of Other Symptoms
Heart burn, indigestion and constipation may continue.
Congratulations, you’ve reached the home stretch. As your fetus continues to grow, you should prepare for the delivery of the baby. You may also want to set up a baby pool and have a little fun with your family and friends guessing just when your new addition will arrive.
You may feel a little uncomfortable as you continue to gain weight and your false labor contractions continue. It is a good idea to start taking childbirth classes and breastfeeding classes around this time. Included below is a list of some of the changes and symptoms you can expect during this, your final trimester:
Increased circulation and metabolism caused by pregnancy hormones nourish your skin very well. You may notice that hair is beginning to grow at a faster rate and on your arms, legs, and face due to increased hormone stimulation of hair follicles. You may also find that your hair feels coarser. The good news is that most of this excess hair will disappear within six months after birth. If it doesn’t, though, permanent methods of hair removal are available for unwanted hair.
As your fetus continues to grow, she will radiate heat, causing you to feel hotter. Also, your basal metabolic rate can increase to greater than 20 percent of normal. You may find that in addition to feeling overheated you may also perspire more, especially at night.
Try some of the following tips on staying cool:
Dress lightly in breathable fabrics, like cotton
Avoid exercising outside in the heat of the day. Take your strolls before breakfast or after dinner, or attend exercise classes in an air-conditioned facility.
Stay out of the sun as much as possible, especially on very hot days.
Take a cool shower or bath.
Go for a swim
Stay air-conditioned when possible. If you have no air-conditioning at home, spend time at the library, a museum, or mall.
Drink lots of fluids; at least eight glasses of water a day, more if you’re exercising or perspiring a lot.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol, which can dehydrate you.
The Increased Frequency of the Bladder
As your fetus grows, there is increased pressure being placed on the bladder, causing an increase in urinary frequency. Make sure you don’t cut back on fluids in an attempt to cut back on your trips to the bathroom. Also, as before, whenever you feel the urge to empty your bladder, do it.
As you near the end of your pregnancy, you might notice more swelling than you had before, especially in your ankles, fingers and face. This is called edema and is due to fluid retention. Continue to drink lots of water and rest when you can with your feet elevated.
Some other things that you can do to battle swelling in your ankles and feet include:
Avoid extended periods of standing
Elevate your legs when you’re sitting
Lie down for brief periods when you can, preferably on your left side
Wear comfortable shoes or slippers
Avoid elastic-top socks or stockings
Take regular, practitioner-approved exercise breaks throughout your day
Support panty hose may also bring relief
Paradoxically, drinking at least eight to ten glasses of water a day can help avoid water retentikon by flushing out waste products
If you notice sudden, extreme swelling in any of these areas, or have a rapid significant weight gain, call your health care provider right away. This could be a sign of preeclampsia or toxemia. Preeclampsia (also known as toxemia or pregnancy-induced hypertension) is characterized by high blood pressure, fluid retention that first shows up in the second half of pregnancy, and protein in the urine. It can be either mild or severe, and in more serious cases can restrict blood flow to the placenta. Should the blood flow to the placenta be restricted it could seriously harm your baby.
Preeclampsia is more likely to occur in first pregnancies and beyond the 20th week of gestation. Although preeclampsia is a rare pregnancy complication, if you ensure that you are getting all the right prenatal care and keeping all of your prenatal appointments the chances that your health care provider will pick up the problem early enough to treat it.
Breast Tenderness and Colostrum
Colostrum, a fluid in the breasts that nourishes the baby until the breast milk becomes available, may begin to leak from the nipples. Colostrum is the first milk that your breasts produce for your baby. It is a thick, yellowish fluid that contains antibodies that protect new babies from infections. If leaking becomes a problem for you, you can purchase disposable or cloth nursing pads (that you can use when nursing your newborn) to place inside your bra.
Your breasts have most likely increased in size and fullness as your pregnancy has advanced. As you near the end of your pregnancy, hormones in your body cause your breasts to increase even more in size, to prepare for breastfeeding. Your breasts can feel full and heavy, and they might be tender or uncomfortable. Wearing a well-fitting maternity or nursing bra will help you be more comfortable, because these types of bras offer extra support.
Since you are carrying around more weight than before, you may be having trouble sleeping at night, and you may have responsibilities other than carrying and nurturing for you new baby, fatigue is an issue during the third trimester. The fatigue you are experiencing is a signal from your body that you should slow down. Make sure that you get enough rest and try to cut back on nonessential activities. By relaxing and resting you will ensure that you have all your strength for labor and delivery.
You may also find that you experience periods of shortness of breath. This is because your body is trying to take in more oxygen to use with the development of your child. This will be particularly evident in the last trimester when the expanding uterus presses against the diaphragm and crowds the lungs. You might that you can obtain relief by sitting up straighter rather than slumping, avoiding overexertion, and sleeping in a semi-propped-up position with two or three pillows.
If your fatigue is extreme and doesn’t ease up with extended rest, make sure to report it to your doctor. This may be a sign of anemia which can sometime strike at the beginning of the third trimester. Anemia is an iron deficiency in your body. Unless your anemia persists without treatment, you need not worry too much about your baby – he or she will ensure that they get enough iron from you. You will in fact run short of iron long before your baby does.
A woman’s libido (sexual drive) may decrease, or sex may simply become uncomfortable due to the increasing belly size. Of course, this does not mean that all sex during pregnancy is unsafe or comfortable. It means you have to listen to your body – and your doctor’s advice.
Braxton Hicks Contractions (False Labor)
Braxton Hicks contractions may begin to occur at irregular intervals in preparation for childbirth. These uterine contractions begin sometime after the 20th week of pregnancy and usually feel like a painless tightening of your uterus. They last about fifteen or thirty seconds. As you near your delivery, the Braxton Hicks contractions become more frequent and intense and are even confused for the beginning of labor by some women.
To relieve any discomfort during these contractions try changing your position and moving around. Many women find that they can use this time to practice their breathing exercises in preparation for the delivery. If you find that the contractions are very frequent or are accompanied by pain or vaginal discharge, report them immediately.
Continuation of Previous Symptoms:
- Leg cramps may become more frequent.
- The increased pressure of your growing baby on the veins of your rectum may cause or worsen your hemorrhoids. You might also be constipated which will worsen your hemorrhoids. Try to avoid hemorrhoids by drinking lots of fluids and eating plenty of whole grains, raw or cooked leafy green vegetables, and fruits. Try not to strain for bowel movements, and always talk with your health care provider before taking a laxative.
- Dry, itchy skin may persist, particularly on the abdomen, as the skin continues to grow and stretch.
- Skin pigmentation may become more apparent, especially dark patches of skin on the face.
- Heartburn may worsen as your baby gets bigger and your uterus pushes on your stomach. Remember to avoid greasy and fried foods and eat six to eight smaller meals instead of larger meals.
- Increased white-colored vaginal discharge (leukorrhea) which may contain more mucus.
- Backaches may persist and increase in intensity. Try using a support girdle to relieve any back pain.
- Varicose veins in the legs may persist and increase in severity. Visit our varicose veins website for tips on getting rid of them!