How Do I Know If I Am Pregnant?
The most common sign of pregnancy is a missed period, although stress, illness and hormonal changes can also cause irregular periods. Nausea and breast tenderness, tingling and swelling are also common early signs of pregnancy but again these can occur in other situations. Home pregnancy tests are available in many drugstores and are quite accurate, but not foolproof. If you use one of these tests and it is positive, you need to see a doctor to confirm that you are pregnant and to begin prenatal care. If the test is negative and you still don’t get your period in a few days, you still need to see a doctor to evaluate your abnormal menstrual cycle.
Common Concerns For Pregnant Women
I drank alcohol before I knew I was pregnant
If you had a few drinks on a couple of occasions before you knew you were pregnant, it is very unlikely that your baby will be injured. HOWEVER, IT IS IMPORTANT TO STOP DRINKING as soon as you find out you are pregnant because prolonged drinking has been shown to cause problems. Full-blown fetal alcohol syndrome, mental retardation, physical deformities and behavioural abnormalities can occur with prolonged heavy drinking and even long term lighter drinking can result in mental and social problems in the child.
I got pregnant using a diaphragm and spermicide. Is there a chance I may have an abnormal baby?
There is no evidence that spermicide causes fetal abnormalities.
I got pregnant while using birth control pills. Will I have an abnormal baby?
It is recommended to not get pregnant until 2 to 3 months after stopping birth control pills, but your risk of fetal abnormalities is very, very small.
I have herpes. Will I pass it on to my baby?
Your baby is at risk to contract herpes if it passes through the birth canal when you have active lesions. Fortunately your doctor can evaluate you for active herpes prior to delivery and elect to do a C-section if they are present. Don’t panic if you already have herpes. Only 2 to 3% of babies get herpes if a mother has a recurring infection during pregnancy. It is important to tell your doctor you have herpes. Of more concern is the woman who acquires her first herpes infection (primary infection) during pregnancy. It is these women who have the greatest chance of passing herpes to their babies. It is important to tell your doctor if you develop genital itching or sores accompanied by fever and headache. This could be a primary herpes infection. If your partner has herpes and you do not, it is best to use a condom during pregnancy.
I’ve used marijuana and other drugs in the past and just a few days before I found out I was pregnant. Will it hurt the baby?
So long as you do not use any more drugs or smoke now that you know you are pregnant, your past behaviour is unlikely to hurt the baby.
What To Avoid During Pregnancy
1.Alcohol: Do not drink while you are pregnant. Prolonged exposure to even moderate amounts of alcohol may result in decreased mental function, behavioural problems and sometimes physical deformities in the child.
2.Tobacco: Do not smoke while you are pregnant. If you are a smoker, now is the time to quit. Babies of smokers are of lower birth weight and at increased risk for SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). The latter is the tragic and unexplained death of an infant which occurs when he is down for a nap. It is also called “crib death”.
3.Drugs of all kinds: Do not take any drugs (recreational or medicinal) without the explicit approval of your doctor. Anything you put into your body also affects your baby.
4.Hot Tubs, Saunas etc: Extremely warm temperatures which elevate the mother’s temperature may be risky for the developing fetus. Avoid them.
5.Caffeine: If you drink coffee, limit yourself to one cup per day or even better–quit. Caffeine increases the risk of miscarriage.
6.A new cat: If you’ve lived with cats your whole life, you probably have been exposed to toxoplasmosis (which cats commonly carry)and are immune to it. If you are not immune, you should avoid exposure to cats, undercooked meat and soil where cats or dogs may have defecated. Check with your doctor about getting tested for immunity to toxoplasmosis.
7.X-rays or other radiation: Most clinics, hospitals etc. ask you if you could be pregnant before performing these studies. Inform them if they do not ask. If you happen to get one x-ray and later find out you are pregnant, the risks to your baby are very low.
8. Sex with multiple partners or anonymous sex: You do not want to contract a venereal disease like herpes, AIDS, chlamydia, syphilis etc. while you are pregnant. All can be passed to the baby with serious consequences.
9.Junk food: You need to eat a healthy well-balanced diet while you are pregnant. You also should take a multivitamin which contains iron and folic acid or folate. Inadequate folate before and during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of neural tube defects in the fetus. Neural tube defects may result in anencephaly (almost complete absence of the brain), encephalocele (a hole in the skull from which brain tissue protrudes) and spina bifida (an incomplete closure of the spinal column often resulting in paralysis or other neurologic problems). So eat nutritious food while you are pregnant for yourself and your baby.
Common Pregnancy Problems
1. Nausea or Morning Sickness: This is most common in the first three months of pregnancy. Most women report that it does not just occur in the morning but can happen anytime of the day. Certain smells and foods may set it off. It is caused by the increase in hormones of pregnancy and is often more severe with the first pregnancy or in women carrying multiple fetuses. There are a few things that may help you reduce the nausea and vomiting.
A. Eat often. Do not let your stomach get completely empty or let your blood sugar fall.
B. Rest and relax more often. Too much stress can increase morning sickness.
C. To ensure you receive proper vitamins , take your multivitamin when not experiencing nausea or vomitting.
D. Sea bands which some people use for sea-sickness are worn on the wrists and may help ease nausea. You can purchase at marine shops or on-line marine. These bands are of questionable effectiveness but as they are fairly inexpensive they are probably worth a try.
E. Do not take any medication to prevent nausea without consulting your physician!
2. Moodiness and Emotional Lability: This is very common and is related to the pregnancy hormones. Simply being aware that your frequent ups and downs are related to your pregnancy and not a permanent condition should help. Try to get plenty of sleep and sensible (but not too strenuous) exercise. Be honest with your friends and family when you’re feeling especially low, tense or moody.
If you feel extremely depressed and have trouble eating, sleeping etc. for more than a couple of weeks you may be suffering from a clinical depression and should consult your doctor.
3. Constipation: Constipation is very common in pregnancy but can be eased by the following:
A. Eat plenty of fiber including fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains. Fiber supplements like “metamucil” may also help.
B. Drink plenty of fluids.
C. Exercise such as brisk walking, swimming (avoid very cold or warm water), or aerobics designed for pregnant women is an excellent way to combat a sluggish colon.
4. Leg Cramps: This is more common after the third month and usually occurs at night. If you get a cramp in your calf at night, flex your ankle by bringing your toes up and pushing your heel down. At the same time straighten your leg. This usually helps ease the cramping. Taking a calcium supplement without phosphorus may also help to reduce cramping. Continuous or unrelenting leg pain or cramping is a reason to see your doctor, since in rare instances blood clots in the leg can occur in pregnancy.
5. Itchy Belly: Stretched and dry skin is the cause. Use plenty of hydrating lotion.
6. Vaginal Discharge: A thin, off-white discharge is common during pregnancy. If you have a thicker discharge that is foul smelling, yellow or pale green, you may have an infection and should see your doctor. Itching and irritation may indicate a yeast infection which is very common in pregnancy. See your doctor for treatment. Do not try to self treat with douching! Some people find that yogurt and a well balanced diet can help stave off recurring yeast infections.
7. Frequent urination This is very common in early pregnancy and in late pregnancy and is nothing to worry about. Pain and irritation on urination may indicate an infection. An inability to urinate can occur if your growing uterus tilts backward in your pelvis and obstructs your urethra. These latter problems should be diagnosed and treated by your doctor.
Sex During Pregnancy
We all know that sex may leads to pregnancy, but what about sex while you are pregnant? In most situations it is fine to have sex when you are pregnant. Some women (slightly more than half) find that they are less interested in sex during pregnancy, while others have increased libido. Avoiding sexually transmitted diseases is very important during pregnancy since these may be devastating to the fetus. If your partner has herpes and you do not, it is important that you not contract a primary infection during pregnancy. There are certain situations where your doctor will probably restrict sex.
1. Unexplained bleeding.
2. Threatened miscarriage.
3. Abnormal positioning of the placenta near the cervix.
4. After the membranes have ruptured ( after your water has broken).
5. In the last 3 months if you are carrying multiple fetuses or experiencing premature labor.
Complicated Pregnancy Or Abnormal Pregnancy
Complicated pregnancies are unusual and if they occur you should be under the close care of an obstetrician. Some pregnancy abnormalities and complications are listed below:
1. Ectopic pregnancy: This is when the fertilized egg implants outside the uterus, most often in the fallopian tube. Unfortunately this type of pregnancy can never be taken to term and needs to be removed. If it is not removed and it ruptures the tube, it can cause internal bleeding, shock and death. Signs of an ectopic pregnancy include crampy abdominal pain, tenderness and sometimes vaginal spotting. This condition needs to be treated promptly to avoid serious complications.
2. Molar pregnancy (hydatidiform mole): Sometimes if a fetilized egg has a chromosomal defect, the cells that form part of the placenta will begin to grow abnormally and form what is known as a molar pregnancy. There is an increased risk of a type of cancer called choriocarcinoma with molar pregnancies.
3. Hyperemesis gravidarum: This is very severe nausea and vomiting which is much greater than the typical morning sickness. In these women the vomiting is so severe that they become malnourished, dehydrated and sometimes require hospitalization.
4. Gestational diabetes: This is the onset of diabetes during pregnancy. Diabetes is an increased blood sugar due to the body’s inability to produce adequate amounts of the hormone insulin. Signs of gestational diabetes may include thirst and increased urine production. If it is controlled, pregnancy can proceed normally.
5. Pre-eclampsia and eclampsia: High blood pressure and protein in the urine during pregnancy is called pre-eclampsia. A more severe form which results in convulsions and sometimes death is called eclampsia. The high blood pressure usually resolves after delivery. Pre-eclampsia is not that rare and occurs in 5 to 10% of pregnancies. This fact stresses the importance of good prenatal care since untreated gestational high blood pressure can lead to growth retardation in the baby and organ damage in the mother. If treated, pre-eclampsia rarely progresses to full-blown eclampsia and most women can have normal babies.
6. Abnormal placenta positioning: Placenta previa is a condition when the placenta is low in the uterus, partially or completely covering the opening in the cervix. This is a problem in late pregnancy and during delivery because the placenta may be torn resulting in hemorrhage. Placenta accreta is when the placenta grows deep into the uterine wall. During delviery the placenta will not be able to separate from the uterus and severe bleeding occurs. Placental abruption is when the placenta separates prematurely from the uterus. This also can result in severe bleeding.
7. Miscarriage and premature labor: Miscarriage is the loss of a pregnancy before the fetus would be able to live outside the uterus. This is usually before 20 to 22 weeks. Premature labor is the onset of contractions after 20 weeks but before 37 weeks. Miscarriage most commonly occurs because the fetus is abnormal. Premature labor can occur for many reasons including smoking, drug abuse, heavy labor, inadequate weight gain or nutrition, infections, premature opening of the cervix (incompetent cervix), multiple fetuses, etc.
Breast milk is the very best food for your new baby and breastfeeding has many benefits for both mother and child. Nursed babies are sick less often, have fewer problems with constipation and diarrhea and get all the nutrition they need for no cost. Nursing mothers lose weight more quickly and their uterus regains its tone faster. Breast feeding is a wonderful time for mother and baby to bond. There are a few situations in which a mother should not breast feed.
1. Infections such as AIDS. HIV may be transmitted in breast milk.
2. Diseases which require medication that will pass into the mother’s milk.,
3. Drug, alcohol or caffeine abuse.
4. Serious illness or malnourishment in the mother.
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