Pregnancy – What should you Expect?

For some women, the process of pregnancy is a blessing. They feel fantastic, their hair has never looked better, and they rarely suffer from any other symptoms. For others, pregnancy comes with many unpleasant symptoms (such as spots, fatigue, headache) from the start.

If you’ve recently become pregnant or just want to educate yourself on the matter, you should be able to recognize signs of early pregnancy, how to test for pregnancy and what body changes to expect for the following 40 weeks.

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What are the signs and symptoms of pregnancy?


For women that know their bodies well, pregnancy can hardly be a surprise, since there are many signs and symptoms of pregnancy even at its earliest stage. Some women, however, do not know that they are pregnant until the moment they are in labor.

The most common symptoms of pregnancy are: missed period and vaginal discharge (increased white and clear discharge is very common in early pregnancy), also tender breasts (this can happen immediately, or as late as the second trimester), the need to urinate often, feeling tired, sickness and nausea, constipation, bloating, cramps and backache.

For most women the most common sign is a missed menstrual period, however, keep in mind that various other reasons can cause you to miss your period (rapid weight loss, over-exercising, emotional upset).


How does a pregnancy test work?


There are two main types of pregnancy tests: urine strip test and a blood test. Urine home tests can be bought in a pharmacy or a drugstore and are about 99% accurate (the blood test is even more accurate).

Both types of pregnancy tests are designed to test for the presence of a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). This hormone occurs once the fertilized egg attaches to the uterus.


How does the female body change during pregnancy?


The human body works extra hard during pregnancy, which will result in many changes in your body. Due to the increased progesterone levels, your skin will become oilier, and you might break out in spots. At the same time, the skin can become dry and itchy at times, so you should use products intended for sensitive skin.

Due to overstretching, you might get stretch marks, particularly on your breasts, stomach, and thighs. After the birth, the lines should become less noticeable.

Because of the increased blood flow, you might experience bleeding gums. Your hair will become thicker and glossier and will grow faster. Your nails might break faster, so make sure to keep them short. Your legs might feel tired and achy, and you might experience frequent headaches especially during the first trimester.


Why is pregnancy divided into three trimesters?


Pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks (this is counted from the first day of a woman's last normal period) and the weeks are grouped into three trimesters. Each trimester accounts for three months, each with a distinct stage of the pregnancy.

The first trimester is week 1 - week 12, the second trimester is week 13 to week 28 and the third trimester is week 29 to week 40.


Is it safe to have sex during pregnancy?


Generally, it is safe to have sex during pregnancy. The uterus will provide a strong protection, and the baby will not get hurt.

If you have a high-risk pregnancy - at risk of premature labor, for example - your doctor might advise you to abstain from intercourse.

You can also exercise regularly, especially if you have been active before. Do not perform exercises that pull through the abdomen and avoid getting a high heart rate (exercise at a pace where you can talk comfortably). Stop immediately if you experience pain or camping.


Why do pregnant women experience unusual cravings?


No one really knows why the cravings occur and it could just be your body asking for a particular nutrient. Cravings for pickles might signal your need for more sodium, craving a plate of fries, could mean that you lack potassium or sodium.

Most foods can be safely eaten during pregnancy to get a balanced diet, but you should limit the intake of some foods and beverages. They include: caffeine (caffeine can result in low birth weight or can cause miscarriage), alcohol (it can affect the baby's development), deli meats (they might contain toxoplasmosis-causing parasites), dairy products (including unpasteurized milk and some types of cheeses) and fish (due to high levels of mercury often found in fish, especially shark or swordfish).

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