What they don’t tell you about pregnancy

There is a wealth of information on pregnancy out there in the form of books, CDs, DVDs, websites and hordes of pamphlets which seem ubiquitous in doctor’s waiting rooms. This dizzying array of information is helpful, but can seem a huge amount to take in, especially as it is passed your way at the very moment when you have been told your life is about to change forever.

Naturally, your doctor will endeavour to ensure you are as perfectly informed as possible, breaking down the course of the pregnancy into trimesters and detailing what will be expected to occur in each and the tests which will take place.

However, some topics may fall under the radar. What follows is a guide to some symptoms and ailments which may occur during pregnancy and which may not be commonly discussed by the doctor. It is intended to raise awareness of the conditions and it is crucial you discuss all such conditions with your doctor who will give you professional advice.

What the Doctors May Not Mention

There are a number of topics which may not be mentioned during your visits to the doctor. Of course, this is not intentional neglect, but rather the simple consequence of each pregnancy being different and therefore a complete set of guidelines impossible to deliver from day one.

Doctors will rather give guidance as symptoms arise, which makes it extremely important that you inform your doctor of all conditions which arise as soon as you can. The variables involved in pregnancy are many. Some conditions are of such a personal nature that patients keep them to themselves, others lack a medical focus, so are passed over by the doctor.

Your pregnancy will bring unique joys and challenges and you owe it to yourself and your unborn baby to be as well prepared as possible by sharing all issues will your doctor, who has the physical and emotional safety of you and your baby as their central concern. If ever you feel this is being neglected, it is your right to seek a second opinion.

Mental and Emotional Changes

Mood Swings

Women often experience fluctuating swings in mood during pregnancy, which shares many characteristics with premenstrual syndrome. Hormonal changes can cause large vacillations in mood, from happy to sad to angry, which usually occur with greater frequency in the first trimester and throughout the conclusion of the third trimester. Unfortunately, depression is also common during pregnancy with around 10% of expectant women experiencing it. Symptoms include poor eating habits, irregular sleep patterns and irrational emotional outbursts. Be sure to consult your doctor immediately if you suffer from any of these conditions for longer than a fortnight.

Lack of Concentration

With so much on your mind a certain amount of concentration loss is to be expected. Combined sickness and tiredness in the initial trimester can impact on memory. Forgetfulness may occur along with hazy thinking. This is the natural consequence of great changes in the expectant mother’s emotional state and physicality which place the mind under duress. Keep a diary and use notes and a calendar to keep track of day to day appointments and duties.

Nesting Instincts

An overwhelming desire to renovate the home in preparation for their unborn child, the nesting instinct affects many expectant mothers. The benefits of this are that the house will be prepared in advance and the mother will have uninterrupted time with her newborn child. However, expectant mothers should pace themselves and should undertake anything too strenuous.

Potential Physical Effects

Hair and Nail Changes

Hormones released during pregnancy can cause accelerated hair growth and changes in density and texture. However, these changes are rarely permanent. Unwanted hair growth in unusual places can sometimes occur, including facial hair, hair around the nipples or on the stomach. 

Nails are affected by the same hormonal imbalance, speeding their growth and increasing their strength. However, sometimes the imbalance can cause increased brittleness. If this occurs, keep the nails trimmed short and avoid cosmetic products which can further damage.

As previously mentioned, any alterations in the hair and nails of expectant women rarely continue after pregnancy.

Skin Conditions

Hormonal changes during pregnancy also affect the skin. A rosy glow may be noticeable, the result of a higher blood volume and expanded blood vessels which occurs to sustain a larger body mass and, of course, the baby. Blood volume increases so as to supply the foetus with the extra nutrients it requires.

Sometimes a condition known as chloasma (the mask of pregnancy) can occur on the expectant mother’s face. This entails the development of small yellow or brown patches of skin discolouration. Chloasma is a natural outcome of hormonal changes and cannot be prevented. However, it can be minimized through the avoidance of sun and the use of sunscreen.

Hyperpigmentation can also occur during pregnancy, causing a darkening of the skin around the genitalia, anus and nipples. A dark line (linea negra) may also be discerned running down the centre of the lower abdomen. Freckles and moles may also darken. Aside from the darkening of the nipples and areola, which is often permanent, hyperpigmentation usually subsides after pregnancy.

Excess oil can be secreted during pregnancy, which unfortunately can lead to outbreaks of acne. Likewise, excess perspiration can lead to heat rash, blemishes, itchiness or skin flaking. Be sure to mention all skin conditions to your doctor, as there are many remedies available.

Increased Bust

In the first trimester, hormones are released which instantly begin to alter and adapt your body for pregnancy. One of the most instantly recognizable side effects of this rise in oestrogen and progesterone is the enlargement of the pregnant woman’s breasts, which can then continue throughout the course of the pregnancy. Therefore, it may be necessary to purchase larger and more supportive bras. Lung capacity is expanded during pregnancy so as to allow greater oxygen levels to sustain the mother and her child. Naturally, this too can mean going up some bra sizes.

Relaxation of the Joints

The result of the hormone relaxin, released to prepare the joints and ligaments in the expectant mother’s body for the rigours of childbirth. Although greatly important for ensuring the requisite elasticity in your form, the downside of the hormone is a general loss of stability and susceptibility to pulls and strains. Exercise or lifting should be done sensibly and vigorous moving or jerking actions should be avoided. Your doctor can advise on suitable exercise routines during pregnancy.

Enlarged Feet

Fluid retention can sometimes lead to a swelling of the feet, making it necessary to purchase new comfortable shoes. To accommodate swelling, buy sensible slip on shoes with sufficient elasticity or adjustability. Remember not to be too extravagant, as feet usually return to their original size after extra fluid is dispersed following childbirth.

Constipation and Haemorrhoids

Unfortunately, constipation is a frequent side effect of changes in hormone levels, which lessen the pace of the digestive process. Towards the end of the pregnancy, when the child has reached a larger size, the uterus itself may impinge on the digestive tract, blocking the transit of digestive waste and causing a build up.

Preventive measures include stool softeners, sensible use of laxatives, drinking lots of water and maintaining regularity of bowel movements through a high fibre diet. Ultimately, any form of constipation can lead to an increase of lower bowel pressure and result in haemorrhoids.

Haemorrhoids (piles), the unpleasant result of excess pressure on the veins of the rectum, are a form of varicose vein which can be extremely irritating and painful, particularly when having a bowel movement. Following the preventive measures for constipation will drastically reduce the likelihood of developing piles. Consult your doctor who can advise on the most suitable remedies to use.

Developing Varicose Veins

Hormones released during pregnancy result in enlarged veins and an increase in blood volume. Unfortunately, blood can sometimes collect within these veins, particularly where the extra weight from pregnancy causes greater strain, such as the pressure areas of the genitals and the legs, causing them to become varicose.

The varicose veins will usually disappear after childbirth, but there are measures that can be adopted to lessen their severity. Wearing loose clothes, supportive tights or leggings, avoiding long periods of standing or sitting and keeping legs raised from the ground when seated are all preventive and corrective techniques proven to help.

Preparing for the Day of the Birth

When it comes to the big day, it is important that you are ready for the physical and emotional stress and the practical reality of giving birth. A very small number, approximately 10 %, of women have their waters break prior to the beginning of contractions. Occasionally, if the cervix is dilated when the expectant mother is admitted, the amniotic sac may have to be ruptured by the doctor.

It is vital that expectant mothers remain calm when their waters break. Prior to their waters breaking, pregnant women can be overcome with an overwhelming need to urinate, followed by a heavy gush of fluid. However, others experience little more than a small trickling discharge. The quantity of amniotic fluid can vary from woman to woman, ranging from 2 to 6 cups in volume. The body continues to produce amniotic fluid throughout the labour, usually once every three hours, so expect a continuous discharge of fluid leading up to delivery.

Be prepared for the reality of fluid and blood that will accompany the delivery of your child, the shock of the unprepared can accentuate the feelings of sickness and nausea which often naturally occur during the birth. Dizziness can be very dangerous, so ensure you are assisted should you have to move throughout the labour.

There may be an onset of diarrhoea and excessive flatulence during the birth, or a general loss of control over bowels movements and waters, particularly during the process of pushing the baby out during delivery.

Plan and Be Prepared

Gain as much information as possible from your doctor during your pregnancy and keep in mind the aforementioned conditions which may unintentionally be neglected during your appointments. Raise the points with your doctor who will always be willing to offer advice so as to keep the emotional and physical health of you and your unborn child as safe and secure as possible.

Do not be afraid or embarrassed to share your thoughts and concerns and ensure a great deal of thought and consideration goes into the mapping out of your birth plan. There are few experiences in life more rewarding and every expectant mother should seek the invaluable advice and support of professionals so that she and her unborn baby receive the maximum of care.

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