Pregnancy symptoms and changes Health Suitable for stages: Pregnancy
When you become pregnant, one thing which becomes clear is how much energy goes into making a baby. In saying that, once that egg and sperm decide to work together, a kind of magic happens where a new life and energy is created. This starts a chain reaction of creation with complex chemistry, physics and biological processes that we may never fully understand because they happen unconsciously. Straight away, your body gets to work to support and nourish those first cells which will slowly grow into a foetus. You can then have the fun of following the week by week guides to compare your baby to the different fruits and veggies!
The week-by-week emails, websites or books describing which fruit your baby is currently the size of can be informative and reassuring for some. For others, this is too much information; they prefer a more intuitive approach and seek answers to specific questions only as needed or as they arise. Knowing what is usual or normal does serve to give you a baseline to recognise and identify with these changes in your body, understand them and appreciate them as a part of your baby's growth. This also gives you the confidence to seek advice if something doesn't seem or feel right. Knowledge can be power, but like everything, there is a balance. Too much knowledge can become overwhelming, cause more anxiety, and stop you from experiencing and discovering yourself.
Through your pregnancy, your body is working on different baby-making activities. The pregnancy is divided into 3 trimesters of 13 weeks, 13 weeks and around 14 weeks totalling an average of 40 weeks. Some babies will be ready to come out before the 40-week mark, some aren't in a hurry and will stay in beyond the 40-week mark. For this reason, it can be helpful for your expectations, to place your estimated due date in the middle of a 4 week period or 'month'. This helps you surrender to your baby's wisdom, giving them the power to come when they are ready (if possible), deciding their birth-day.
At first, the changes in your body, are mostly driven by hormonal changes. Towards the end of the pregnancy, changes are driven by the additional load on your body. Throughout your pregnancy, the changes can cause many common pregnancy symptoms. On both ends of the spectrum, some people have so few pregnancy symptoms that they can go through entire pregnancies without knowing they are pregnant. Others have such extreme symptoms as hyperemesis gravidarum that they are practically disabled during their pregnancy. Some will benefit and require some medical intervention, others can be managed with some self-intervention. All will pass through their natural cycle with time.
During early pregnancy (first trimester) the most common symptoms include nausea (including vomiting), cramping, spotting, threatened miscarriage, constipation, fatigue, rhinitis, and sore growing breasts. During the first trimester, your baby's body structures and organs are formed as well as the placenta. Pregnancy symptoms can often be the worst during this time.
Some women seem to breeze through their pregnancies, others have a terrible time of it such as in this pregnancy sickness survival story.
During mid-pregnancy (second trimester) from 14 weeks, the most common symptoms include fatigue (which may or may not be related to low iron), varicose veins, urinary tract infections (UTIs), low blood pressure, rhinitis, stretch marks, restless legs, leg cramps, disturbed sleep and gestational diabetes. During the second trimester, you start to feel the flutters of movements from your baby as they grow larger and your uterus expands. This is usually a more energetic time in your pregnancy where you want to get organised.
During the third and final trimester from 27 weeks, your uterus is expanding more. Towards the end of the pregnancy, the size and weight of your belly and the pressure on your back and pelvis can have you progressively feeling more uncomfortable. This is usually a time where you are less energetic, slowing down and really thinking about your baby's birth and impending arrival into your life. Your mind will also be preoccupied with all things baby and activating the right side of your brain, enhancing your emotional and empathetic abilities. The side effect of this brain change is that left brain activities involving facts, time, logic will become harder. This may not be so great if you have a job that requires a lot of brainpower, but it will be great news for your baby and your motherhood preparations. If you want to know more about postpartum topics, check out the resources at newbornmothers.com. By the end stage of pregnancy (third trimester) the most common health symptoms include fatigue, heartburn, fluid especially in the lower limbs, gestational diabetes, stretch marks, pre-eclampsia, carpal tunnel syndrome, sciatica, nerve impingements, pelvic pain, back pain and Braxton-Hicks contractions.
A summary of the common pregnancy symptoms and changes that your body undergoes is below. The different colours show the hormones (shown in bold) responsible for the symptoms.
If you want to know more about common conditions during pregnancy and recommendations based on the Pregnancy Care Guidelines, you can access this information at www.health.gov.au
Every pregnancy, body and baby is different. What you can focus on is trusting your body to tell you what it needs you to do and being prepared to listen and take action on what it is telling you. Your pregnancy draws you into an inner world; you are preoccupied with connecting with the life inside of you. Your brain changes to devote more resources to the nurturing and emotional centres of your brain, which will help you care for your baby and respond to their needs. You can read as much or as little as you want, religiously following your pregnancy through absorbing the information in the week to week guides, or feel your way through your pregnancy. You may do a combination of both mind-centred and heart-centred preparation. Whatever helps you stay as stress-free as possible, relaxed and going with the flow of your body.
Each phase will come and go, and you will eventually forget those details and look back at your pregnancy as a special time where you held your baby in your body, devoting your energy to their growth and development. The start of a deep bond that will persist over your lifetime.
Just take one day at a time, hope for the best and honour your body in the process, being the powerhouse that it is. You learn what a woman's body can do and develop a new appreciation for all the women that have gone before you.
It's going to be hard, and it's going to be amazing and everything in between. The main thing is that it will be worth it.
Please note: Above all, any information on this website aims to provide general ideas for informational and educational purposes only. We encourage users to investigate several information sources, including, where necessary, independent individualised medical advice before making any decisions that could affect you or your child’s health or wellbeing.