Many changes occur in a woman’s body during pregnancy. They usually disappear after birth. These changes can cause normal symptoms. Some symptoms can indicate that a certain disorder, such as gestational diabetic, may develop during pregnancy.
Pregnancy symptoms that should be reported immediately to a doctor include:
- Persistent or unusual headaches
- Persistent nausea and vomiting
- Eyesight problems
- Lower abdomen pain or cramps
- Vaginal bleeding
- Leakage amniotic fluid (described by “the water breaks”)
- Healing the feet or hands
- Reduced urine production
- Any infection or illness
- Tremor (shaking or shaking of the feet, hands, or both)
- Rapid heart rate
- Less movement of the foetus
Women should inform their doctor if labor started quickly in pregnancies.
Fatigue is common in pregnancy, particularly the first 12 weeks. A woman might need more sleep than usual.
The woman’s abdomen may protrude slightly after 12 weeks of pregnancy due to an expanding uterus. Throughout pregnancy, the uterus continues growing. The enlarging of the uterus extends to 20 weeks above the navel and 36 weeks below the lower edge.
Vaginal discharge is usually clear or whitish and increases frequently. This is normal. If the discharge is unusually colored or smells bad, or accompanied by burning or itching, a woman should consult her doctor. These symptoms could indicate a possible vaginal infection. Some vaginal infections such as candidiasis and trichomoniasis, which are protozoan infections, can be treated.
Because hormones, mainly estrogen, are making the breasts larger, they tend to enlarge. Slowly, the number of milk-producing glands increases and they are able to produce more milk. Your breasts might feel tender and firm. A bra that is properly fitted and supports your breasts can help.
Colostrum (or thin, yellowish, or milky) may be produced by the breasts. Before breast milk can be produced, colostrum is also produced within the first few days of delivery. This fluid is rich in minerals, antibodies and is the baby’s first food.
Heart and blood circulation
The woman’s heart has to work harder during pregnancy because it must pump more blood into the uterus with the growing fetus. The uterus gets one-fifth the pregnancies blood supply by the end of pregnancy. The amount of blood pumping by the heart during pregnancy (cardiac output), increases by between 30 and 50%. The heart rate at rest increases from the normal pregnancies rate of 70 beats per hour to 90 beats per min. When pregnant, heart rate and cardiac output increase more than when she’s not. The cardiac output begins to decrease around 30 weeks into pregnancy. During labor, it rises by 30%. The cardiac output drops rapidly after delivery. It then decreases more slowly. About 6 weeks after delivery, it returns to its pre-pregnancy level.
The heart may be working harder, which could cause irregularities in rhythm and heart murmurs. These irregularities may sometimes be felt by pregnant women. These changes are normal in pregnancy. Other abnormal rhythms or sounds of the heart, such as diastolic murmurs or a rapid, irregular beat, which are more common in pregnant women, may need treatment. (Diastolic murmurs of the heart are murmurs that occur right before the heart contracts. )
The blood pressure drops in the second trimester, but can return to normal during pregnancy.
During pregnancy, blood volume increases by nearly 50% The blood volume increases faster than the number red blood cells, which carry oxygen. Although there are more red cells in the blood, mild anemia is still detected by blood tests. The number of white blood cell (which fight infection) decreases slightly during pregnancy, and then increases significantly during labor and the first few weeks after delivery.
Did You Know…
- The blood volume of a pregnant woman increases by nearly 50% during pregnancy.
An enlarged uterus can cause blood vessels to block from the legs and pelvic area to the heart. Edema (swelling) is a common complication, especially in the legs. Varicose veins are common in the legs and around vaginal openings (vulva). These veins can sometimes cause discomfort. It is better to wear looser clothing around the waist and legs. This also allows for more blood flow. These measures may not only relieve the discomfort, but also reduce swelling in the legs and increase the likelihood of varicose veins disappearing after delivery.
- Wearing elastic support hose
- Resting often with the legs raised
- Laying on the left
The kidneys are just like the heart. They work harder during pregnancy. They filter the growing volume of blood. Between 16 and 24 weeks, the volume of blood that is filtered by the kidneys can reach a maximum. This level remains constant until the time the baby is due. In this case, the blood supply to your kidneys may be slightly reduced by the increased pressure caused by an expanding uterus.
Normally, the activity of the kidneys increases when someone lies down and decreases if someone stands. This is magnified during pregnancy, when a woman must urinate often while she sleeps. Lying on one side of the body, especially the left, can increase kidney activity. The pressure the enlarged uterus places on the main vein that transports blood from the legs, which is why it’s better to lie on the left side than on the back, reduces. This results in increased blood flow and improved kidney activity.
The bladder shrinks as the uterus presses against it, increasing its volume so that it can fill with urine faster than normal. Pregnant women will also need to urinate more frequently and more urgently due to this pressure.
Progesterone is a hormone that is continuously produced during pregnancy. It causes the body to breathe faster and deeper. To maintain a low level of carbon dioxide, pregnant women exhale more carbon dioxide. (Carbon dioxide is a waste product that is released during respiration. Because of her larger uterus, the woman’s ability to breathe in more air may be able to breathe faster. The woman’s chest circumference increases slightly.
Almost every pregnant woman feels a little more tired when she exerts her self, especially towards the end of her pregnancy. When a woman is pregnant, her breathing rate is higher than when she’s not.
The increased blood flow means that the lining of your airways is receiving more blood. This causes the airways to swell slightly, which can cause narrowing. The nose may feel stuffy and the eustachian tube (which connects the middle ear to the back of the nostril) can become blocked. These effects can affect the quality and tone of the voice.
Common symptoms include nausea and vomiting, especially in the mornings (morning sick). These symptoms may be due to high levels of estrogen or human chorionic Gonadotropin, hormones that aid in maintaining pregnancy.
Vomiting and nausea can be treated by changing your eating habits or diet. For example, here are some
- Eating small amounts of food and drinking
- Eating before getting hungry
- Avoiding bland foods like consomme, rice and pasta
- Having plain soda crackers with a carbonated beverage
- Keep crackers near your bed, and eat one or two before you get up to alleviate morning sickness
There are no medications that specifically treat morning sickness. Hyperemesis gravidarum is a condition where nausea and vomiting can become so severe or persistent that weight loss, dehydration or other problems may occur. This disorder can be treated with antiemetic drugs or hospitalization temporarily to give fluids intravenously.
Heartburn and belching can occur because of both the longer time that food stays in the stomach and the tendency for the ring-like muscle (sphincter), at the lower end, to relax. This allows the contents of the stomach to flow backwards into the esophagus. There are several ways to relieve heartburn.
- Eating smaller meals
- After eating, you should not bend or lie down for more than an hour.
- Avoiding caffeine and tobacco, as well as alcohol and aspirin, and other drugs (salicylates).
- Avoid liquid antacids containing sodium bicarbonate. They are too salty (sodium).
Nighttime heartburn can be relieved with the following:
- Do not eat for more than an hour before you go to bed
- Raising your head or using pillows to raise your head and shoulders
During pregnancy, the stomach produces less acid. Stomach ulcers are less common during pregnancy. Those that do develop often heal quickly.
Constipation can be caused by pressure from the growing uterus and lower part of the intestinal tract. The high levels of progesterone in pregnancy can slow down the natural waves of muscle contractions in your intestine that normally move food. This may make constipation worse. Constipation can be prevented by eating a high-fiber diet and drinking lots of fluids. Regular exercise is also advisable.
Hemorrhoids are a common problem. They can be caused by constipation or pressure from an expanding uterus. If hemorhoids are painful, you can use stool softeners, an antiseptic gel, and warm soaks.
Pica is a craving for unusual foods or non-foods (such starch or clay).
Sometimes, excessive saliva can be seen in pregnant women who have morning sickness or have been diagnosed with it. Although it can be distressing, this is a harmless condition.
Gallstones are more common in pregnancy.
The mask of pregnancy (melasma), a brownish, blotchy pigment that can appear on the cheeks and forehead, is called Melasma. Darkening may also occur around the nipples (areolae). The abdomen’s middle is often marked by a dark line (linea nigra). These changes could be caused by the hormone melanin span that stimulates melanocytes.