This blog is a lighthearted look at the journey through pregnancy along with some more serious facts about how to look after your body.
Stage One: I think I’m pregnant!
From really early on there are subtle physical changes that no-one may notice, along with more obvious symptoms that are really very obvious. The journey starts for many women with a home pregnancy kit. Whether you’re alone or you’re sharing the moment this is often a very emotional and exciting time. If it’s your first pregnancy it can be a surprise how quickly you start to feel ‘different’. If you’ve been pregnant before you can often recognise the signs very quickly.
Feeling of breast swelling or tenderness. You may need to invest in some larger, well fitting bras even at this early stage. The challenge is to find a combination of ‘seductive and sexy’ with ‘sensible and supportive’.
Nausea and vomiting usually starts between the 2nd and 8th week of pregnancy. For many women this is one of the worst symptoms. Vomiting puts a lot of pressure on your bladder and some women can leak small amounts of urine.
Fatigue and tiredness can start early on in pregnancy. Manage ongoing fatigue by ‘pacing yourself’ that means taking short frequent breaks where you can between different activities. If you’re working make sure you have a proper lunch breaks and some time out mid morning and mid afternoon to give your body and brain a rest.
If you’re at home don’t try and be superwoman. Have a rest between the supermarket trip, ironing, cleaning the loos etc and definitely try and put your feet up before any other children you have get back from school. Short ‘power naps’ can be amazingly effective.
The frequent need to wee can start from around 6 weeks and is a common early sign that you’re pregnant.
Hormone changes effect your bladder and it can often demand to be emptied more frequently both day and night. It can also be really difficult to put off the urge to go. Don’t rush, make sure you always sit on the toilet as this encourages your bladder to empty and never ‘stop and start’ the flow of urine.
Your bladder also has to cope with a lot of extra fluid being filtered to it from your kidneys. This is because during your pregnancy the amount of blood you have circulating rises by almost 50%.
These changes in bladder habits can be a real nuisance. Although you are stuck with a ‘pregnant bladder’ for the next 9 months there are some things that may help;
Do avoid drinks with caffeine and make sure your fluid intake is spread out during the day rather than drinking large volumes in the evening.
Don’t reduce your fluid intake in the hope it will make you need to wee less often. It’s really important to have adequate fluid intake. Reducing fluids means your urine is stronger and his can have an irritating effect on your bladder- so you’ll need to wee more often! Pregnant women are more prone to urine infections so keep drinking.
Stage Two: I think I’m blooming!
All these changes are hormone related. Unfortunately other women have a very different experience. Their hair is greasy or becomes thinner and they can develop spots they’ve not had since being a teenager.
In theory you should reach this ‘blooming’ stage. It does happen to some women.
Their hair grows faster and has a glossy shine. Their skin look amazing and they manage to choose a ‘sensible’ bra revealing a fantastic cleavage that overshadows a tiny bump! Whatever group you fall into it’s good to stay active and these four tips may be helpful;
Tip One – Gentle low impact exercise classes and gym work or swimming and aqua-natal are all ways to help to increase your feeling of well being. Exercise actually reduces fatigue and prepares your body for bringing a baby into the world.
If you’re a bit of a gym bunny and attend regularly you should be able to continue by adapting your exercise routine. It’s important to seek advice from a suitably trained instructor. Check out what is available in your local area. Pilates and yoga instructors often run special pregnancy classes. These types of classes focus on postural awareness as well as improving balance and muscle tone.
You’ll find the women who are ‘blooming’ will be up front and chatting with the instructor. The ‘not -so -blooming’ women’ will be bonding at the back of the room!
Tip Two -Take up walking.
Walking is one of the easiest and cheapest forms of exercise. Choose flat walks over soft ground and wear shoes that absorb the impact of your heel strike and provide good instep support. Try and maintain good posture as you walk.
It may not be the best look but wear loose-layered clothing as you can take off layers if you feel hot.
Dig out some tights and leggings rather than jeans. The elastic provides extra support under your bump and can help to reduce low back discomfort and pelvic aches.
Tip Three – Don’t panic if you leak urine when you cough or sneeze.
Evidence shows that this happens to approximately 40% of pregnant women. We also know that women who start doing pelvic floor exercises during pregnancy are far less likely to have bladder leaks once their baby is born.
So don’t think you’re going to be doomed to always having to carry a bag that’s large enough to fit fresh knickers plus a pack of Tena ladies along with Pampers, baby wipes and all the other ‘stuff’. Take some time to work out where your pelvic floor muscles are and learn how to tighten these muscles correctly.
Pelvic floor exercises could have been mentioned in the ‘I think I’m Pregnant’ section. Problem is there is so much going on in those early weeks along with weeing all night and being sick all morning! Many women struggle to take on board extra advice about exercises.
So now is a good time to check whether you’re able to tighten your pelvic floor muscles effectively. Read the blog ‘How to assess your pelvic floor muscles’ and watch the video. Use the first two ways described i.e. looking and feeling from the outside. Don’t do the internal self-assessment whilst pregnant.
Once you know you’re able to tighten your muscles properly start doing some pelvic floor exercises.
Tip Four – Try and fit pelvic floor exercises into your routine just four times each day. Find a comfortable position such as lying on your side or sitting.
Try a long slow hold first. Draw in your pelvic floor muscles as firmly as you can. Feel that tension and lift. If you can manage a 10 second hold that’s great.
Slowly release and let your pelvic floor muscles drop all the way down to a resting position. Being able to fully relax and let go is just as important as being able to tense this muscle. Repeat this 10 second hold 10 times. If this feels too difficult aim to do a 5 second hold and repeat it 5 times.
Move onto a faster quicker hold where you repeat the same drawing in movement but only hold for a couple of seconds before relaxing. Again aim for 10 repeats but start with 5 if this feels more manageable.
Stage Three: I want my body back!
It’s the final countdown and by this stage many women feel they have been pregnant forever. You’ve have had your tummy prodded and poked, scanned and measured. The amazing sensation of those first tiny movements feels years ago. You’ve become used to your whole stomach moving as your baby does a mini workout usually around 2am!
Your partner’s shirt used to look quite good as it fell softly over your bump now doesn’t quite reach to button up at the front. The novelty of choosing those first maternity clothes is now a fading memory. You look longingly at your old jeans hanging in the cupboard and wonder if you’ll ever wear them again!
By this stage your body is under a lot of strain. You’ll be able to list some of the unseen common problems such as heartburn, backache and breathlessness.
The message is it’s normal to want the pregnancy to be over. Birth plans are fantastic but always be guided by your midwife as to what is best for you and your baby. There are many options for pain relief. Some women find TENS units very helpful. It’s a good time to find out which friends will be the best support once your baby is born. Choose friends who will make you a drink, prop your legs up on a buffet, reassure you that swollen ankles and baggy shoes are an ok look and don’t complain when you want the central heating off and the windows open.
Other blogs in this section will give advice about getting the tone back into your pelvic floor and core muscles. In the meantime hope all goes well!
If you want professional advice speak to your GP who should be able to refer you to a specialist women’s health physiotherapist or a continence nurse advisor.
de Smit Medical has been working alongside Chartered Physiotherapist, Jane Appleyard to create a blog for advice and thoughts on a range of topics relating to the pelvic floor. Return to our blog for more articles and videos.
Jane Appleyard has over 30 years' experience as a Chartered Physiotherapist and specialises in pelvic health. You can read Jane's bio here.