So, you found out you’re pregnant – congratulations! While the early stages of pregnancy offer many occasions for excitement and celebration for the new life you’re creating, there are a variety of pregnancy symptoms that might take new moms-to-be some getting used to. Though some symptoms will be a distant memory by the end of the first trimester – about 13 weeks after conception – others stick around for the full term of your pregnancy.
Bloating and Gas
The progesterone that may lead to heartburn and constipation also has an effect on the amount of gas your body produces, which can lead to bloating during your pregnancy. To minimize your discomfort, try eating smaller meals on a regular basis while sitting upright, and chew and swallow slowly. Avoid chewing gum or drinking while you eat to reduce the amount of air swallowed.
You’ll notice your breasts beginning to change, becoming more tender and swollen, at the three- or four-week mark. Your breasts will begin to grow as breastfeeding ducts and glands develop, and your nipples will become darker and wider. At this point, breast discomfort should subside, but a maternity bra can help you stay comfortable from these early weeks right through the end of your pregnancy. If nothing else, try to have a sense of humor – even if your larger boobs hurt a little more, your flat-chested 12-year-old self would be proud to fill such cups. Celebrate your new shape while it’s here.
The pigmentation of your skin is susceptible to change because of pregnancy hormones as well. Areas of your body that are already affected, such as moles, freckles, and nipples, will be the most visibly changed. It’s also possible for pregnant women to develop dark patches of skin on the bridge of the nose, cheeks and neck, which eventually fade postpartum. Though chloasma can’t be prevented, wearing sunscreen and avoiding UV light may lessen its effects.
The onset of pregnancy causes an increase in the hormone progesterone into your system, relaxing the muscles in your digestive tract and making it work less efficiently. If you’re feeling irregular, double-check that you’re taking in enough fiber every day (about 30 grams), either in your diet or as a supplement – try incorporating oats, beans, fruits, leafy greens and whole grains. Dehydration may cause constipation as well, so be sure to drink enough fluids to keep up with your increased blood volume. Never use laxatives without your doctor’s approval. Exercise may help as well, but consult your doctor about a safe workout that will keep you and your baby healthy.
Dizziness and Fainting
It’s possible to feel dizzy and faint early on in your pregnancy. Dizziness occurs most often due to lower blood sugar when you haven’t eaten in a few hours, or getting up quickly from a lying or sitting position. If you’re feeling dizzy, sit with your head between your knees, which will send blood to your brain and help alleviate your symptoms.
You’ve heard the stories before: late-night pickle binges, gallons of ice cream gone in an afternoon:Though it’s hard to say exactly what food you’ll be craving with a growing baby in your belly, it is likely you’ll want something a little out of the ordinary. Studies show that about 68% of pregnant women report having intense food cravings at one point or another during their pregnancy, most commonly during the first and last trimester. Though experts are unsure why this occurs, they believe hormonal changes, combined with your body’s need for extra nutrients, drives the cravings. Though you should listen to these cravings, eating junk food for every meal won’t keep you and your growing baby healthy – here are seven healthy ways to satisfy pregnancy cravings without skimping on nutrients.
Heartburn and acid reflux
An increase in progesterone can bring on other side effects during your pregnancy, such as heartburn, indigestion and acid reflux. This is a result of the increased progesterone levels relaxing the valve at the top of the stomach, which allows more gastric acid to escape up to the esophagus. Watch for this symptom at night in bed, as it is more likely to occur while you’re lying down.
Heartburn and acid reflux can begin in the early weeks of pregnancy, but it generally becomes more of a problem around the third trimester when the baby begins to push against your stomach. To alleviate these symptoms, try to stop eating about two to three hours before you plan to sleep, or sleep with your head slightly elevated so it is above your stomach.
Like morning sickness, this is another symptom of pregnancy that may have you seeing more of your bathroom than you’d prefer. You may feel as though you have to urinate more often than usual because of the increased hormones in your system or simply because the baby is putting pressure on your bladder. This feeling should subside as your uterus grows out above your pelvis, which takes some of the pressure off the bladder.
Another result of the extra pigment your body produces during pregnancy is the linea nigra, a dark line that runs from the belly button down to the public bone (occasionally crossing the navel and extending up towards the breasts). This line will continue to darken and grow throughout the length of your pregnancy. Like chloasma, this will fade after the birth of your baby.
Lower abdominal cramps
Unfortunately, the cramping that you’ve come to expect from your monthly period won’t completely disappear now that you’re pregnant. Some women experience lower abdominal cramping about a week after ovulation. This is known as “implantation cramping,” due to the recent implantation of the fertilized egg in the uterine wall, and is sometimes accompanied by spotting. Women may also feel cramping as the uterus stretches and grows during the early weeks of pregnancy. These are usually sporadic and can last for a few weeks. They shouldn’t be accompanied by any bright red bleeding, which could be a sign of miscarriage. To alleviate the discomfort of cramps, take a magnesium or calcium supplement that will help tone the muscles of the uterus and reduce pain. Doctors also say that acetaminophen, or Tylenol, is safe to take according to product instructions.
While your body is adjusting to the big changes going on, you may experience morning sickness. It can be difficult to manage the stresses of everyday life in addition to these frequent and unpleasant bathroom trips, but remember that you’re part of a longstanding tradition of pregnant women – about 50% of women experience nausea and vomiting during their pregnancy. More good news: most morning sickness symptoms improve by the end of the first trimester at the 13-week mark and are long gone by 14 to 16 weeks.
Nose bleeds and bleeding gums
About 30% more blood gets pumped through your body during pregnancy than when you’re not carrying a child. This increased blood volume, in addition to the effect of pregnancy hormones on your connective tissues and mucous membranes, may lead to nose bleeds and bleeding gums while you’re pregnant. Embarrassing, maybe, but this isn’t indicative of permanent damage or serious health problems. A thorough teeth cleaning from your dentist in the early weeks after conception may help prevent inflamed, bleeding gums and tooth problems.
If you thought the last time you would see a raging zit on your forehead was your tenth-grade school photo – surprise! Pregnant women are prone to a few extra pimples, again due to the influx of hormones in your system. Some may experience a full-blown acne attack, but this is rare. A couple hormonal zits are to be expected during the first trimester.
These marks appear on the skin as a result of the rapid stretching of skin that occurs as your body grows during pregnancy, usually on the abdomen, breasts and thighs. Though there is nothing you can do to stop them, experts suggest gaining weight slowly and consistently to minimize their appearance.
REMEMBER! Your best resource is your health professional. If you’re concerned about any of these symptoms during your pregnancy, consult your doctor for advice.