Forty winks in forty weeks: Pregnancy highlights

The joy of giving birth and holding your baby is preceded by a long, sometimes arduous journey – right from pre-conception, conception to the full term of your pregnancy. Midwives, mothers, grannies and aunts give advice aplenty – but you stagger with all the new information (not to forget physical changes) that you go through, whilst being pregnant. There’s a human being inside you, after all. Surely, Mother Nature has blessed you with some awesome design to armour you for the drills and thrills of pregnancy! So fret less and have some orange juice (yeah, you have to wait a bit before taking out the champagne).

Here are some universal tips for a healthy, happy pregnancy.

First trimester:

  • “Gut” feelings: The first trimester has a universal hallmark – the dreaded morning sickness. Heralded by many women as an annoying sensation that shows up repeatedly, day after day, in or around week 6, this phenomenon varies in severity between woman to woman. Some barely have nausea, while others find it impossible to eat. Unless you are among the lucky ones, this classic (and usually, the first), symptom of pregnancy might drive you to exhaustion. Fear not – when life gives you lemons…you use them!! Manage your nausea by having raw lemon, or a soothing cup of ginger tea.
  • Experts say that there is an increased occurrence of heartburn in expecting mothers, especially towards the end of the first trimester. Drink plenty of fluids and eat small meals frequently.
  • Watch out for varicose veins (ask your mum or grandma if she had it), breast tenderness and changes in blood pressure. Placing your feet in an elevated position (even in bed) helps – by facilitating blood flow away from your legs and feet. Put on some compression stockings (and a long skirt!) – if you experience increased fluid accumulation in the feet.
  • Five weeks already? Wow. At the workplace, you might want to move to a desk that’s closer to the restroom. Increased urinary frequency is another classic symptom during this time (babies love to sit hard on your bladder!).
  • Key developments happen in your womb – the baby’s heart, face (Oh dear! is there a button nose?), fingers and limbs are formed during the end of the first trimester. Umm…the cat’s pretty much out of the bag, around this time – you will start “showing”, so enjoy the attention!
  • Hormone hurricane: Estrogen is at its highest level ever (compared against your non-pregnant life cycle). Androgens are elevated, too. The rapid increase in hormones from pre-pregnancy to the first trimester can result in physical changes (temporary) such as acne, body hair and melasma (pigmentation in the face, seen in ~70% of pregnant women). So much for the pregnancy “glow”. Hang in there! Manifestation of hormonal changes varies from woman to woman. Most of them fade away post delivery and during breastfeeding. For reducing pimples and oil production, talk to your physician about the best way to manage new symptoms and obtain a safe medication.
  • Plan with the partner – What’s your birth plan? When should you get your screening tests (e.g., streptococcus/HBV)? Who is going to make hot meals when the baby comes home?
  • Take your prenatal vitamins, religiously.

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Second trimester:

  • Energize and get going: Thankfully, you can say goodbye to morning sickness and early-pregnancy fatigue. The best tip is to keep your energy levels up. You will need it during this time –  your baby is going to grow, grow and grow! During the second and third trimester, your body needs an additional 250-300 calories per day (post delivery, you need up to 400 extra calories while breastfeeding). Ensure you get the most nutritious meal by including a good balance of veggies, nuts, fruits (fish/lean chicken for those who like their meat) and whole-grains. Keep popping in those vitamin pills.
  • Practise deep breathing, light yoga/stretching (under supervision), swimming or brisk walking to get those crazy cravings (not to mention mental mood swings) under control. One chocolate cupcake (hmmm…maybe two) is okay. But do not go overboard!!
  • As always, keep the stress away. Do not take on more work than you can comfortably finish – at home and in the office. Stay calm, cool and composed.
  • Many women begin to have trouble due to back pain and increasing weight. Follow what’s best for you – use comfy pillows in bed, sleep earlier than usual, ask your partner for a good massage (in fact, you deserve it) and … *drumroll* go shoe shopping! Yes, that’s right; you need durable, soft footwear that will not wear out your feet, even if you walk a lot during the day. Edema (fluid-retention) is normal during pregnancy, but excessive swelling can be dangerous – meet your doctor if you observe warning signs.
  • Psst….the baby can hear now! Talk to your kid. He/she can’t talk back now, so get in some motherly wisdom!
  • Nap & Nurse: Take plenty of short naps to revive yourself.
  • Whispers in the womb: Pay attention when you feel subtle movements in your belly. Your baby is active! These sensations are perceived differently by different women, and it’s certainly something to look forward to. The duration, frequency and intensity of your baby bustle depends on your build, physiology and other factors. (Find out the tests to undergo during pregnancy)

Third trimester:

  • Fortify with Fibre: Constipation (and/or haemorrhoids) is a dreaded experience during this time. Get plenty of fibre and hydration!
  • “Ow, what was that? Am I going into labour?? We haven’t painted the nursery yet!” – Calm down. It could be false labour caused by Braxton-Hicks contractions. These are shorter in duration, and lower in intensity (no comparison against the real thing, obviously). While there is no sure shot method to ease these sporadic contractions, experts recommend changing into activity mode – walk around, change your position, lie down if you were sitting up, and so on.
  • Be prepared for emergency procedures due to unexpected developments (my mum just narrated how my brother was born via an emergency C-section, after 24 hours of labour. Wow!)
  • Do not forget those vitamins!
  • You are almost there! Time to leave the office  (if you haven’t already) and wait for D-day.
  • Pack your hospital bag at least 3 weeks before your due date, get a baby seat in your car, stock up on food, round up the family members and …basically…just get ready.

Forty weeks of fortitude, and ten months to triumph. Pregnancy is unarguably the most important phase in a woman’s life. It’s also a dynamic, complex and mind numbing experience for expecting partners. Often described as a “sweet pain”, “heaven in hell” and “Nature’s best design”, a mother’s journey before meeting her baby is lined with surprises. Hence, a good amount of planning, learning and preparation always helps. Get rid of your fears, put your best foot forward and welcome your little one into the world!

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