When you’re pregnant it can feel as though every part of your body is doing horrible things to you. If you want to know what’s happening inside to make you look and feel the way you do, take a look at this section. You can also find details of health checks and benefits and when to apply for them in this month-by-month guide.
During the first trimester of pregnancy (0-12 weeks) enormous changes will take place in your body; your hormone balance will change and your immune system is depressed (to stop rejection of the baby). This can make you feel very tired and sick. These symptoms tend to pass after the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, although not always.
Pregnancy is dated from the first day of your last menstrual period (LMP). Conception takes place in week 3. In week 4, a mucus plug forms in your cervix to seal the womb from infection. As early as week 5 you may begin to notice changes in your body for e.g. tingling, soreness or swelling of your breasts. Your nipples may darken. You may also feel very tired and may become sensitive to smells and tastes.
You might begin to feel, and even actually be, sick. Most commonly this occurs when you wake up in the morning, but it can persist all day. You may also feel very tired. This is a profound exhaustion, so don’t be surprised if you feel like falling into bed in the early evening.
Your enlarging uterus presses on your bladder so you feel you need to run to the toilet all the time. You may break out in spots or your skin may feel rather rough and dry.
- See your doctor now to make your booking arrangements.
- Make sure you know what all your options are (see section on antenatal care options).
- Ask your doctor or midwife for form FW8 to apply for free prescriptions.
- If you get income-based job-seekers allowance or income support, you are entitled to milk tokens. Tell your benefits agency that you are pregnant.
Your waist will now have expanded and some of your clothes may not fit anymore. You are still likely to feel very tired and sick, but after about 14 weeks this should improve. Your hands and feet will feel very warm because of changes in your circulation.
- Your Booking Appointment: Usually lasts about 2 hours (your midwife may come to visit you at home). Your midwife will need to ask lots of questions about your personal circumstances and your medical and family history. She will then give you information about available services, antenatal care, options for prenatal screening and parentcraft classes. Don’t be afraid to ask questions as your midwife is there to help you.
- You will have blood taken for a number of tests.
- You will usually have a scan and see the doctor.
If you have been feeling tired or sick, you should now start to feel better. Your placenta now maintains the pregnancy (your hormones did this before). Your uterus is much higher and not pressing so much on your bladder. If you feel your tummy gently, you can feel your enlarging uterus, which has now grown to the size of a grapefruit. Your breasts will be larger and your nipples are more prominent. You may develop facial pigmentation (cholasma). Avoid sunbathing which will encourage it to occur. The pigmentation will fade after your baby is born. You may notice a dark line of pigmentation developing down the centre of your abdomen.
- Rest as much as you possibly can. If necessary, ask for help from your partner, friends and relatives.
- Make an appointment for your ultrasound scan at the hospital.
- Find out about antenatal classes.
At 18-20 weeks you will have a foetal anomaly scan. This will look at all the baby’s vital organs. You may start to feel the baby moving inside you and you’ll finally really feel pregnant. Your ribs may feel tender as your uterus pushes up against your rib-cage. You will feel more comfortable in stretchy, loose, baggy tops and leggings. You may experience nose-bleeds, due to your increased blood supply or your nose may feel stuffy. You may sweat more than normal because your metabolism is working harder.
You may start to suffer from some of the unpleasant common side-effects of pregnancy, such as heartburn, piles or varicose veins. These are caused partly by the pressure of the growing bump, but also by the pregnancy hormone progesterone. Your skin may start to itch as it stretches. You may notice tiny dilated blood vessels (spider naevi) on your face, arms and shoulders. Your complexion should be glowing. Your gums may swell. Heartburn can be helped by eating smaller, more frequent meals; sleeping so that your upper body is propped up; and taking antacids. Your GP will prescribe these for you, but will need to give you an examination first. (For further guidance on how to cope with heartburn, piles, varicose veins and other common complaints see the section on pregnancy complaints).
- Ask for your Mat B1 form from your doctor or midwife. This entitles you to various benefits.
- Arrange your leaving date at work (try to give yourself a few weeks before the birth to rest and organise yourself).
You will probably have gained 10-15Ib by now (this varies from person to person). You may start to feel Braxton Hicks’ (practice or warm-up) contractions. They pump blood to the uterus and prepare your body for labour. These are often painless, but they can be uncomfortable. Try to avoid rushing around too much now, as you’ll find you get out of breath more quickly. Backache is a common problem at this time. It can be caused by a number of factors, including overcompensating for the bump by leaning back too much; the added weight you are carrying; and the softening of ligaments as your body prepares for labour. Your legs and ankles may feel swollen.
Your breasts may be leaking colostrum. You can wear breast pads inside your bra if necessary. Stretchmarks, although they are red now, will fade to silver after the birth. Vaginal secretions also increase. This is only a problem if they change in colour or odour, or cause itching or soreness. The volume of blood circulating in your body has increased by about 40 per cent to accommodate the needs of the baby, the uterus, the placenta and the breasts. You may notice a change in the shape of your abdomen as your baby starts to drop down.
- You must have your bag packed (if you are planning a hospital birth). Make sure you have everything you need for you and the baby.
You will probably have gained 25-30 Ib by now and it may be getting difficult to move around. You will be feeling tired and often have to run to the toilet because of the pressure on your bladder. You may find you’re not sleeping very well. It’s difficult to get comfortable in bed – use extra pillows to support your bump. A pillow between your knees should help relieve hip and back discomfort. Try to rest in the day time if you are not getting enough sleep at night. Your cervix is now softening and is partially open. You may be having quite strong Braxton Hicks. You may notice a strange feeling in your vagina as your baby’s head moves against the muscles of the pelvic floor. Your baby’s head may have engaged (descended through the pelvis opening).
- Try to rest as much as you can now!