Finding out you’re pregnant can be an exhilarating time. However, it’s not at all uncommon for first-time mothers-to-be to also experience overwhelming feelings of fear, uncertainty, as well as anxiousness and nervousness. Whether it’s from at-home kit or done through a urinalysis administered by your family doctor’s office or OBGYN, your pregnancy test came back positive. The question is, what happens next? In this article, Dr. Ghahary shares a list of common questions and answers on what to expect during pregnancy, including how you’ll feel in each trimester up until it’s time to give birth.
First, it’s important to let the news sink in as much as possible. Allow yourself to feel any emotions you’re feeling, even if that includes crying. After all, when you’re pregnant, your levels of progesterone also increase, which may make you prone to being more teary-eyed and feeling as if you’re on a rollercoaster ride of emotions. Thinking about the future and coming to the realization that you’re going to be welcoming new life into the world can be a metamorphic experience.
Once you’ve gotten over the initial shock, the next thing you need to do is figure out when your baby’s due date actually is. It can sometimes be difficult to figure out when conception occurred, but generally speaking it usually tends to happen anywhere between 11 and 21 days after the first day of your last period, and by adding 280 days (48 weeks) to that date. For example, if the first day of your last period occurred on August 1st, your due date would be 9 months later – on May 8th. It is not uncommon to have a slight miscalculation when trying to figure out your due date, and you may happen to be a little further (or less) along than you initially anticipated.
Next, you’ll need to schedule your first prenatal visit with your healthcare provider (either your family physician or obstetrician.) It is normally recommended that you book this appointment when you’re around 8 weeks pregnant, although in some cases your first prenatal visit can occur a bit earlier if necessary. The first prenatal visit tends to be the longest out of all the prenatal visits you will have. During your first appointment, you will be asked a series of questions relating to your gynecological health, including questions about your menstrual cycle, any issues you may have had during your period whether they may relate to your pregnancy or not, as well as if you have or have had any gynecological issues including sexually transmitted diseases and infections, as well as if you’ve had any previous pregnancies, miscarriages, or abortions. It’s also important for your healthcare provider to ask other questions that pertain to your overall medical history, including any pre-existing conditions you have, any medications you’re on, any drug allergies you have, if you’ve had any previous surgeries or hospitalizations, as well as if there are any hereditary conditions that could pop up as a potential concern for the health of your baby. You’ll also be asked about your habits, including whether or not you’re a smoker, drink alcohol, or have any history with drug abuse. While it’s not normally a routine part of the first prenatal visit, especially if there are no major concerns, some healthcare providers may opt to do a thorough physical that may or may not include a pelvic exam, in addition to asking you to give a urine sample to test for a possible UTI, as well as order certain blood tests. The reason for doing this is to ensure that the health of both the mother and baby are in top form.
When you do find out you’re pregnant, it’s also important to start taking prenatal vitamins as it’s harder to get all of the nutrients that both you and your unborn baby need in order to have the healthiest pregnancy possible. The most crucial nutrients that you need to get from a prenatal vitamin include iron and folic acid. Iron helps to prevent anemia, and it also prevents your risk of preterm delivery, your baby being born at a lower than normal birth weight, as well as infant mortality; while folic acid, which is a B vitamin, reduces the risk of things like anencephaly, spina bifida, cleft lip and palate, as well as heart defects and preeclampsia. Other nutrients your body will require but aren’t found in prenatal supplements include calcium, essential fatty acids, and vitamin D, all of which you can get from various food sources. You can find a list of how to include each of these nutrients in your diet by visiting www.babycenter.com.
Now that you’ve taken all of the crucial steps necessary to ensure your pregnancy is as healthy as it can possibly be, you’re probably wondering about the different trimesters. Each pregnancy has 3 trimesters, all of which can vary from woman to woman. The first pregnancy tends to be the hardest, as does the first trimester.
During trimester #1, which lasts until week 13, you may not look pregnant but your body is already going through some pretty significant changes. Your hormone levels are changing, as is your uterus so that it can support the growth of the fetus. Your heart rate also begins to increase, and food cravings begin to set in. As if all of those changes weren’t enough, the first trimester is also when you will notice symptoms like fatigue, constipation, headaches, and perhaps the worst of all – morning sickness, which includes nausea and vomiting. Given its title, morning sickness typically only lasts during the morning hours. However, in some cases women can experience morning sickness at any time of day. It also usually only lasts until the end of the first trimester, but there are also cases where women have experienced morning sickness throughout their pregnancy. The risk of miscarriage is also at its highest in the first trimester, although if you’re taking prenatal vitamins and making healthy choices, then that risk decreases. During the first trimester, women will also often start to look into things like childbirth classes so that they are better prepared when it comes time to give birth.
During trimester #2, which lasts from weeks 13 to 27, many of the symptoms you experienced during your first trimester, such as morning sickness, should start to dissipate. However, new symptoms like leg cramps, back pain, heartburn, varicose veins, and even nasal congestion and increased appetite may begin to come into play. Your abdomen will also start to extend, and your pregnancy will begin to show. The second trimester is also the time when expectant parents will choose to break the good news to their friends and family members. The 20th week is when you will also feel the first movement from your baby. An ultrasound may also be performed between weeks 18 and 22 to assess the health of your baby and ensure that everything is functioning as it should be, including the heart, brain, lungs and kidneys. It’s also not uncommon for expectant mothers to be tested for gestational diabetes during the second trimester. The second trimester, usually between 16 and 20 weeks, is also when you can find out your baby’s gender – though it’s entirely based on personal preference and whether or not you want it to be a surprise.
Finally, trimester #3, which begins at week 28 up until you give birth. During this trimester you will start to see your healthcare provider on a more frequent basis for regular urine tests, to check your blood pressure, to listen to the fetal heart rate, to measure the length of your uterus, and to check you over for anything like swelling (which can commonly occur in the hands or legs during pregnancy.) A type of bacteria known as Group B streptococcus is also something that is commonly screened for during the third trimester – usually between weeks 35 and 37. This is something that can be passed to newborns during delivery, and it can post a very serious threat, therefore if you do happen to test positive for the Group B strep bacteria then you will be required to take antibiotics to prevent that from happening. It’s also advised that you avoid travel during the third trimester due to the possibility of going into early labour. While airlines will still allow you to fly, you will need to provide them with written permission from your doctor.
While this has covered a lot of bases, you still might have questions relating to your pregnancy, and you should never hesitate in bringing forth those questions to your family physician, obstetrician, or anyone else responsible for your health as you prepare to give birth and start this new chapter in your life.