Physical Changes in Early Pregnancy

Pregnant woman with hands on belly 300x200A woman’s body undergoes many changes during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy (the first trimester). Some changes may be quite obvious, while others are more subtle.

Sometimes, early signs of pregnancy can be confusing. This is because many of the early physical signs (swollen tender breasts, feeling tired, cramping and/or pelvic pain, feeling bloated) can be similar to normal pre-menstrual signs. It can be even more confusing in the early days if there is an “implantation bleed” and/or light bleeds, or “spotting” during the first few weeks. These are often mistaken for normal periods.

It is common to feel unsure about what is “normal” during early pregnancy and anything that feels unfamiliar can often cause concern about your health or the baby’s. Some women also become concerned if they don’t experience any of the “typical” pregnancy signs and symptoms like morning sickness and feeling overly tired.  Not feeling these things can also be very normal. Every woman’s body will react differently to being pregnant. For example, some women will experience morning sickness but have plenty of energy, while others will have no morning sickness but feel extremely tired.

 

Exercise During Pregnancy

Pregnant women doing exercise 300x200Being pregnant can be both mentally and physically demanding. Regular exercise can help you cope with these demands and prepare you for labour (Clapp et al 2002; Berk 2004; Hatch et al 1998). Some of the common pregnancy niggles, such as backache, constipation and fatigue, will be easier to keep at bay, too. Exercise is also great for relieving stress.

Maintaining a healthy level of fitness is all part of staying well during pregnancy and will also help to keep control of your weight gain. It can also help improve your general mood and self-image, along with assisting in the prevention of some pregnancy conditions like pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes. If you have difficulty sleeping at night, you may also find that a workout during the day helps.

The benefits of exercising throughout your pregnancy will continue after your baby is born, making it easier for you to get back into shape (Clapp et al 2002). As long as you don’t overdo it, walking, jogging, swimming, water aerobics classes and cycling on an exercise bike are all considered good, safe forms of exercise. Yoga and Pilates are also very good but please ensure you find a registered, qualified teacher who is experienced in dealing with pregnant women.

Generally speaking, any activity where you could be thrown off-balance or fall over is not a good idea. Ball sports are also risky because you may be hit in the stomach. Be guided by your antenatal care provider if you are uncertain.

 

Pregnancy Eating

Eat vegetables every day; mix the colours – you get lots of vitamins that way.

Even if you already consider that you have a healthy diet, there are some important things to keep in mind now that you are ‘eating for two’. As most of us already know, fresh is best and getting more fruit and vegetables into your diet is one of the best ways to increase your intake of vitamins and minerals.

In order to meet nutritional requirements, eat healthy, fresh and unprocessed foods, particularly lots of vegetables, along with red and white meat, seafood, dairy products and cereals. If you eat a vegetarian diet, ensure you’re getting enough iron and other nutrients from other dietary sources.

Vitamins and minerals essential for you and baby include: vitamins A, B, C, D and E, calcium, folic acid, omega 3, protein, iron, zinc and iodine.

 

Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

There are some foods not to eat during pregnancy as they can potentially cause problems during pregnancy and throughout your child’s life:

  • Foods that may contain a bacterium called Listeria: soft cheeses, uncooked deli style meats, sushi and unpasteurised milk and milk products.
  • Foods that are high in mercury: raw and predatory fish (shark, barramundi, swordfish) should be avoided. Salmon is a good alternative as it is relatively low in mercury.
  • Alcohol and caffeine should be avoided.

 

Pregnancy Diet and Morning Sickness

  • Listen to your body in terms of food that you want to eat or don’t. Try to avoid eating foods you don’t like just because they are good for you. It is important to remain well hydrated even if you can’t tolerate much solid food. To maintain hydration, you can try sips of water, cups of weak tea, fruit smoothies, cereal with low-fat milk and even flat lemonade.
  • For that first round of daily morning sickness, keep some dry crackers and a glass of water on your bedside table so you can have something in your stomach before you even get up for the day.
  • If cooking makes you feel queasy, ask your partner to cook until you feel better (which may not be until after your first trimester). The sight and smell of raw meat can be too much for many pregnant women, so avoid it if you need to.
  • Avoid very spicy, fatty and very sweet foods. It may be better to stick with bland, easy-to-digest foods such as rice, pasta, noodles, sandwiches, fruit and toast until the morning sickness.

 

Current as at 01.02.2016

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