Finding out you are pregnant can be exciting and nerve-wracking in equal measure, and you may experience anxieties when thinking about what changes will happen over the coming months. For many women, it may be their first ever experience of having a baby, and it is natural to be uncertain about what to expect when you’re expecting.
Whether you’re a first-time parent or adding to your family, understanding what to expect during pregnancy can help you navigate the physical, emotional, and lifestyle adjustments that come with growing a tiny human inside you. In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at the various aspects of pregnancy, offering insights into what you can anticipate during this incredible nine-month adventure.
You may also be interested in an earlier blog post we wrote about pregnancy, which can be found here.
Indications of Pregnancy
Missing your period is usually the first indication of pregnancy, and at this stage you should take a or speak with your doctor. However, in early pregnancy you may also experience some (or all, or even none) of the following symptoms:
- Aches and pains (possibly in your lower abdomen and in your joints)
- Morning sickness, which may be nausea or actual vomiting, and does not just happen in the morning
- Food cravings and aversions
- Heartburn andindigestion
- A need to urinate more often
- Back pain
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Leg cramps
- Swelling in your ankles, feet and hands
- Dizziness or fainting
- Larger, tender breasts.
In the first trimester:
- You may feel really tired and possibly nauseous.
- You will gain 1 to 2 kilograms in weight, though this might be less if you have morning sickness. Most of this weight is in the placenta (which feeds your baby), your breasts, your uterus and extra blood.
- Your heartbeat and breathing rate will be faster.
- Your breasts become tender, larger and heavier.
- Your growing uterus puts pressure on your bladder, so you may feel like you need to urinate a lot.
- You may feel swinging moods.
In the second trimester:
- You should start to feel better, with less fatigue, morning sickness and moodiness.
- You may feel your mind is wandering and not focused at work or at home.
- You will gain about 6 kilograms in weight.
- You may feel anxious about tests (includingany ultrasounds) done at this stage, but if they find any health issues, these tests will ensure you and your baby receive the right care.
- You may notice your hair becoming thicker and your fingernails changing – either becoming stronger or weaker.
- You might start to crave some foods, such as sweet, spicy or fatty foods.
- You may also not like the taste or smell of some foods.
In the third trimester:
- Forgetfulness may continue.
- You will feel tired and probably uncomfortable which may cause you to feel annoyed.
- You may start to worry about labour as it nears. Make sure you speak to your pre-natal team about this so they can inform and assure you about what will happen.
- You will probably gain another 5 kilograms in weight. Much of this weight is your baby, but also amniotic fluid, the placenta, your breasts, your blood and your uterus.
- You may have back pain – make sure you get help from your GP or local chemist to manage this, for example checking pain medications you can use.
- You may find it hard to sleep because you are uncomfortable, though special pillows or a pillow between your legs may help. Make sure you are sleeping on your left side where possible.
- The baby may be placing pressure on your lungs, making it harder to breathe.
- You may feel Braxton Hicks contractions (tightening of the muscles of the uterus). They do not mean labour is starting, but call your midwife or pre-natal team if you are unsure or concerned.
Hormones play a significant role during pregnancy and can contribute to mood swings and emotional turbulence. Recognising the impact of hormonal changes on your emotions allows you to approach challenges with empathy and self-compassion.
During pregnancy you will probably feel many ups and downs. You may experience some or all of these emotions (and they may change quickly):
- Surprise – if your pregnancy is unexpected. You may then feel joy (if you welcome the pregnancy) or fear (if you are unsure about the change to your life) or both.
- Happiness – particularly if you have been trying to have a baby and you feel well.
- Anger – which can result from your body’s hormonal changes, from a sense of being vulnerable, or from pregnancy symptoms that are uncomfortable or painful.
- Fear for the baby’s health – if you have concerns about your baby having an illness or disability. If you are worried about a particular risk, talk to your midwife or doctor.
- Fear of birth – which is a recognised psychological disorder. Counselling and talking with your midwife or doctor can help you overcome this fear.
- Love – for your baby, your partner and your family.
- Prolonged sadness from perinatal depression – in this case, you will need the help of mental health specialists.
The hormones changing in your body mean you will probably have heightened emotions, both positive and negative, and you will probably swing between these emotions.
While you may be overjoyed about having a baby, you may also be stressed and overwhelmed. You may feel worried about whether:
- your baby will affect your relationship with your partner
- you will cope financially
- you will be able to juggle work and parenting
- you will be a good mother
- the baby will be healthy
- your other children will accept and love the new baby.
You may also find it difficult to cope with your changing body. You may be worried about putting on too much weight, or not enough, or not being able to do the physical activity that you usually do. You may even be anxious about not looking attractive to your partner. This is all common and very normal, but you must ensure you speak about your emotions with your partner, a friend, family member, or your midwife/ GP if you are worried.
You may find a few lifestyle adjustments are needed during pregnancy, most of which should be given to you by your GP when your pregnancy is confirmed. The NHS website has lots of resources regarding changes that can be made, but here are some key suggestions.
Diet and Nutrition
Eating healthily during pregnancy will help your baby to develop and grow. There’s no need to eat for 2, but you should have plenty of protein, fruit, vegetables, and starchy foods. You should avoid soft and blue cheese; raw milk; raw or cured meats, pate, game, and liver; and raw eggs.
Vitamins and Supplements
A healthy, varied diet will help you to gain most of the nutrients you will need in pregnancy. However, it is important to take a folic acid supplement every day from before you’re pregnant until you’re 12 weeks pregnant. This is to reduce the risk of problems in the baby’s development.
Exercise and Self-Care
Staying active during pregnancy offers numerous benefits. You may find labour easier to cope with, and it will enable you to adapt to your changing shape and weight gain. Make sure you avoid contact sports or sports where falling is a risk (e.g. rock climbing, horse riding etc.).
Stopping smoking will help both you and your baby, and will reduce the risk of complications during pregnancy and the birth. It will reduce the likelihood of stillbirth, and reduces the risk of cot death. Later in life, your child is also less likely to suffer from asthma too.
Work and Social Life
Balancing the demands of work and social life with the changes pregnancy brings can be challenging; however, communication is key and your employer should do a risk assessment with you to see if your job poses any risks to you or your baby, making adaptations where necessary.
It’s recommended you don’t drink alcohol during pregnancy as it can affect the baby’s development due to the baby not having a fully-developed liver. Drinking heavily during pregnancy could cause your baby to develop a serious life-long condition called foetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
Having a baby can be both exciting and nervewracking. Navigating the journey of pregnancy involves embracing the unexpected and preparing for the anticipated changes that come with growing a new life. However, by staying informed, seeking support, and maintaining a positive mindset, you can approach this transformative experience with confidence. Remember, every pregnancy is unique, and what matters most is the well-being of both you and your baby as you embark on this incredible adventure.