You will be entering a new phase in your life.
Pregnancy is an emotional and exciting time, particularly if it’s your first child. Your body is going to undergo a lot of changes. Many of them appear to be completely normal. A majority of women have healthy pregnancies. However, there are a few signs and symptoms you will need to pay more attention to during your first few months. Nausea, a little bleeding, and vaginal discharge, for example, aren’t uncommon, but they could indicate a problem.
You may be tempted to dismiss these signs if you don’t know that these are warnings to avoid bigger problems. Knowing what to look out for will help you look after yourself and the baby growing inside you. It is fine to consult your doctor whenever you have concerns about what’s going on or how you are feeling.
Common health problems in your first trimester (Week 1-Week 12)
The first trimester of pregnancy is marked by a rapid, yet an amazing transition. Knowing what physical and emotional changes to expect during the first trimester may help you be prepared and face the months ahead with confidence. While a missed period may have been your first sign of pregnancy, you can expect several other physical changes in the coming weeks, including:
Nausea with or without vomiting: Morning sickness, which can strike at any time of the day or night, usually starts one month after you become pregnant. This may be due to an increase in hormone levels. Avoid having an empty stomach to help relieve nausea. In every one to two hours, eat slowly and in small amounts. Choose low-fat foods. Avoid foods or smells that can worsen your nausea. Drink a lot of fluids. Ginger-containing foods may be beneficial. If your nausea and vomiting is severe, contact your health care provider.
Headache: Many pregnant women suffer from headaches, especially in the first and third trimesters. Around week 9 of your pregnancy, you may notice an increase in the number of headaches you suffer. Headaches in the early stages of pregnancy can be caused by an increase in the volume of blood your body produces.
Increased urination: You may notice that you are urinating more often than normal. During pregnancy, the amount of blood in your body increases, leading your kidneys to process excess fluid that collects in your bladder.
Fatigue: Progesterone levels rise dramatically during early pregnancy, which may make you feel sleepy. Try to get as much rest as possible. Exercise and a healthy diet may help you increase your energy.
Heartburn: Pregnancy hormones can allow stomach acid to leak into your esophagus, resulting in heartburn. Avoid fried foods, citrus fruits, chocolate, and spicy or fried foods, and eat small, frequent meals to prevent heartburn.
Constipation: Constipation can be caused by high amounts of the hormone progesterone; this slows the movement of food through your digestive system. Iron supplements can exacerbate the condition. Include plenty of fiber in your diet and drink plenty of fluids, especially water and prune or other fruit juices, to avoid or relieve constipation. Regular physical activity is also beneficial.
Common health problems in your second trimester (Week 13-Week 21)
The second trimester of pregnancy is generally associated with a renewed sense of well-being. The worst of nausea should have passed by now, and your baby isn’t big enough to make you too uncomfortable. However, there are more symptoms that you may experience. Some of them include:
Skin changes: Hormonal changes cause an increase in pigment-bearing cells (melanin) in your skin during pregnancy. As a result, brown patches may appear on your face (melasma). You may also notice a dark line running down your abdomen. These skin changes are common, and they usually go away after delivery. Sun exposure, on the other hand, can aggravate the problem. Use sunscreen when you are outside. You may also observe reddish-brown, black, silver, or purple lines (stretch marks) along your abdomen, breasts, buttocks, or thighs. Although stretch marks cannot be avoided, most of them vanish over time.
Nasal problems: Your hormone levels increase, and your body produces more blood during pregnancy. This can cause stuffiness and nosebleeds. Saline drops or a saline rinse can help treat congestion. Drink a lot of fluids, use a humidifier, and dab petroleum jelly along the edges of your nostrils to help moisten your skin.
Dental issues: Gums can become more sensitive to flossing and brushing during pregnancy, resulting in minor bleeding. Irritation can be reduced by rinsing with salt water and switching to a softer toothbrush. Frequent vomiting can also affect your tooth enamel, making you more vulnerable to cavities. Make sure you keep up with your dental care when you are pregnant.
Dizziness: Circulation changes during pregnancy can make you feel dizzy. If you are experiencing dizziness, drink plenty of fluids, avoid standing for long periods, and stand or shift positions carefully. Lie down on your side when you feel dizzy.
Leg cramps: Leg cramps are common as pregnancy progresses, and they frequently occur at night. Stretch your calf muscles before bed, stay physically active, and drink lots of fluids to avoid them. Comfort, support, and utility should all be considered when selecting shoes. Stretch the calf muscle on the affected side if you have a leg cramp. A hot shower, a warm bath, or an ice massage may also be beneficial.
Vaginal discharge: You may observe a sticky, clear, or white vaginal discharge. This is very normal. Contact your health care provider if the discharge becomes foul smelling, has an unusual color, or is accompanied by pain, soreness or itching in your vaginal area. This can be a sign of a vaginal infection.
Urinary tract infections: During pregnancy, these infections are common. Contact your health care provider if you have a strong urge to urinate that cannot be delayed, sharp pain when urinating, urine that is cloudy or has a strong odour or if you have a fever or backache. Urinary tract infections can become serious and lead to kidney infection if left untreated.
Some common health problems can complicate a pregnancy
Anemia: Anemia is a condition in which the number of healthy red blood cells is lower than normal. If you have pregnancy related anemia, you may feel tired and weak. The number of healthy red blood cells can be restored by treating the underlying cause of anemia. You may be advised to take iron and folic acid supplements. Your health care provider will monitor your iron levels during pregnancy.
Depression: Some women may experience depression during pregnancy or after the birth of your baby. Symptoms of depression include:
– A low or sad mood.
– Loss of interest in activities that you would enjoy usually.
– Changes in appetite, sleep, and energy.
– Problems thinking, concentrating, and making decisions.
– Feelings of worthlessness, shame, or guilt.
– Negative thoughts that life is not worth living.
A mother’s depression can have an impact on her baby’s development, thus getting treatment is essential for both the mother and baby.
Pregnancy related high blood pressure: This refers to high blood pressure that starts after 20 weeks of pregnancy. There are usually no other signs or symptoms. In many cases, it does not cause any harm to you or your baby, and it goes away in within 12 weeks after delivery. However, this may increase your risk of developing blood pressure in the future.
Sometimes it may be severe and may lead to low birth weight or preterm birth. Some women with hypertension may also develop preeclampsia.
Preeclampsia: Preeclampsia is a condition in which blood pressure rises suddenly after the 20th week of pregnancy. Preeclampsia can be fatal for both you and your baby. Your and your baby’s health will be closely monitored to make sure blood pressure is not preeclampsia.
Obesity and weight gain: Obesity can increase risk of pregnancy complications like preeclampsia, diabetes, stillbirth, and cesarean delivery.
Genetic disorders during pregnancy
Genetic disorders occur when a defect in the baby’s chromosomes or genes gives rise to physical abnormalities or illness. Babies born with genetic disorders may experience slow mental and physical development, physical abnormalities, and chronic illnesses throughout their lives. Some genetic disorders are hereditary, which means that the genetic change is passed down from parents. Other genetic changes can happen in the baby for the first time. Parents may be unaware of any alteration in a gene or chromosome as it may not cause them any health problems.
Down syndrome is caused by an additional chromosome. Individuals with Down syndrome have an extra copy of chromosome 21. This extra chromosome can cause various birth defects. Typical features of Down syndrome can include developmental delays, muscle weakness, downward slanting of the eyes, low-set and malformed ears, an abnormal wrinkle in the palm of the hand, and birth defects of the heart and intestines.
Turner syndrome is a condition in which a female is missing part or all of one X chromosome. This can result in small stature, learning disabilities, and the absence of ovaries in affected women.
Trisomy 13 (Patau Syndrome) and Trisomy 18 (Edwards Syndrome):
Extra copies of the 13th or 18th chromosomes are the causes of these disorders. These are uncommon, more serious conditions which can cause severe birth defects that can make survival after birth difficult. They can cause problems with learning ability and can affect almost every organ in the body.
Males with this disease are born with an extra X chromosome. Boys with Klinefelter syndrome produce less testosterone, are taller, and may have learning difficulties.
It is a genetic blood disorder that affects how the body makes red blood cells, leading to anemia.
It is a rare hereditary disorder. It affects the lungs and other organ systems. Majority of the patients live for 30-40 years, though medical treatment advances have improved outcomes in the recent years.
Prenatal genetic tests to detect abnormalities
While you are pregnant, you may have a range of screening tests done to look for congenital abnormalities. Additional testing may be recommended if you are above the age of 35 or have other risk factors.
First trimester screening
First trimester screening is a set of tests conducted between weeks 11 and 13 of pregnancy. It is used to check for birth defects with the baby’s heart or chromosomal disorders like Down syndrome. An ultrasound and a maternal blood test are also included in this screening. A few screening tests done in the first semester include:
Combined First trimester screening (Dual marker + NT Scan):
It detects the chances of the baby being affected with Down, Edwards’, Patau syndrome.
It is an advanced test option than CFTS with added benefits and accuracy. It detects the chances of the baby being affected with Down, Edwards’, Patau syndrome and other conditions like preeclampsia.
Preeclampsia screening test in the first trimester (between 11 weeks to 13 weeks 6 days) can help detect chances of developing preeclampsia in the third trimester (before 34 weeks and before 37 weeks).
cf-DNA Screeening (also called NIPT/ NIPS tests):
This test can be conducted anytime during pregnancy after 10 weeks till birth of the child. It detects the chances of the baby being affected with Down, Edwards’ syndrome and Patau syndrome plus Sex chromosome related aneuploidies (abnormal number of chromosomes) and certain microdeletion syndromes depending on the opted test and type of pregnancy.
Second trimester screening
Second trimester screening tests are conducted between 15 and 20 weeks of pregnancy. They are used to check for certain birth abnormalities in the baby. A maternal serum screen and a detailed ultrasound scan of the baby to search for structural defects are included in second trimester screening tests. A few screening tests done in the second semester include:
It detects the chances of the baby being affected with Down, Edwards’ syndrome and Open neural tube defects.
Prenatal diagnostic tests:
If the results of a screening test are abnormal, doctors will usually recommend additional diagnostic tests to see if the baby has any birth abnormalities or other possible problems. Women who are 35 years of age or older, who have had a previous pregnancy affected by a birth defect, who have chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or epilepsy, or women who use specific drugs may be offered these diagnostic tests.
In first trimester
Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS):
A CVS test is recommended for women who had an abnormal result on a first trimester screening test or to women who can be at higher risk. It is conducted between 10 and 12 weeks of pregnancy.
It checks the status of the baby, whether it is affected with hemoglobinopathy like Thalassemia, Sickle cell anemia, HbD-Punjab, etc. It is conducted between weeks 11 to 13 of pregnancy by undergoing CVS.
In second trimester
This test is to diagnose a variety of genetic conditions. It is recommended for women with abnormal screening test results or who may be at higher risk. It is conducted between weeks 16 to 20 of pregnancy and ahead.