Getting ready for change: A guide through pregnancy
What will my pregnancy be like?
While it’s a question every OB/GYN expects to be asked, especially by first-time mothers, it’s one that can’t be answered definitively. Women experience pregnancy differently. However, there are common physical and emotional changes that every mom-to-be should expect.
First trimester: Weeks 1 – 13
During the first trimester, hormones are in command! As your hormone levels increase and your body prepares for the months ahead, numerous changes begin taking place:
- Breasts begin to feel tender and grow in size
- Heightened sensitivity to smell develops
- Ovulation cycles stop within two weeks
- Mood swings may become pronounced
- Urination becomes more frequent
- Uterus begins to grow
- Vaginal discharge may increase, appearing white and milky
Weight gain is minimal in the first trimester, and most women do not begin to “show”. In fact, the surge in hormones at the onset of pregnancy causes many women to experience nausea, or “morning sickness.” Often accompanied by vomiting, morning sickness can even lead to weight loss for some.
Second trimester: Weeks 14 – 27
The second trimester is when most early pregnancy symptoms lesson or disappear (farewell, nausea!), making it a favorite time for many expectant mothers. However, as your baby continues to grow, you can expect a number of new changes that accompany mid-dle pregnancy. Some physical changes may include:
- Aches in the abdomen, back and thighs
- Congestion due to an increased blood flow to mucous membranes
- Dizziness caused by lower blood pressure from extra blood flow
- Expanding uterus; most women begin to show
- Patches of dark skin on the face (mask of pregnancy)
- Sensitive and/or bleeding gums
- Swelling of the ankles and feet
- Varicose veins
Emotionally, you may be feeling a bit forgetful this trimester; “pregnancy brain” is yet another side effect of surging hormones. Rest assured, this fogginess and lack of focus will disappear after pregnancy.
The second trimester is also when your physician will perform a level two ultrasound. While most mothers equate this to the excit-ing moment when a baby’s sex is revealed (or not!), it is also a critical opportunity for your doctor to ensure the baby is growing properly. For more information on the ultrasounds and screening tests offered by Women’s Care Florida, click here.
Third trimester: Weeks 28 – 40
This is it — the last leg of your pregnancy. Let’s be honest, growing a baby is hard work, and by now you’re probably feeling the effects of pregnancy sleep problems, pregnancy weight gain and the anxiety of the big life changes to come. But these stresses are tempered by the excitement of knowing you’ll soon meet your baby!
Physically, your growing body continues to meet the demands of pregnancy, and you may experience:
- Abdominal aches as the round ligaments supporting your lower abdomen stretch to accommodate your growing bump
- Braxton Hicks contractions— uterine muscles (used to push baby out) begin to tighten
- Breasts continue to grow and milk may start leaking from nipples
- Heartburn as the uterus pushes stomach contents upward
- Lack of bladder control
- Sciatica — a sharp pain or numbness that starts in your back and runs down your leg
- Vivid dreams
As you continue to prepare for your baby’s arrival, you may want to consider attending child birth classes, developing a birth plan and touring birth centers at local hospitals. Also, understanding the stages of labor and delivery can help alleviate pre-birth jitters. Don’t get overwhelmed — your OB/GYN is an excellent source of information and guidance!
Congratulations! Your baby has arrived. All those months of planning and doctor visits have led to one of the most incredible expe-riences of your life — motherhood.
While your natural tendency is to turn all focus to your baby, it is important you also continue caring for yourself. You may experi-ence a number of postpartum changes, including:
- Abdominal cramps as your uterus contracts
- Breast discomfort
- Difficulty urinating
- Leaking breasts
- Night sweats
- Pain or numbness around C-section incision
- Perineal discomfort, pain or numbness
- Sore or cracked nipples from breastfeeding
- Vaginal bleeding
It is common for new mothers to feel anxious or depressed after giving birth. Postpartum depression affects up to one-in-seven women and usually begins a couple days after giving birth. While it often gets better on its own, some women need to seek treat-ment. If you have signs of postpartum depression, it is important you contact your doctor.
Remember, becoming a new mother is an amazing experience, but it comes with many changes. The best way to prepare for your pregnancy journey? Understand the stages of your pregnancy, take good care of your mental and physical health, and partner with your Women’s Care Florida OB/GYN to prepare for the months ahead.