General health during pregnancy
The body may go through many transformations during the nine months of pregnancy. Here’s some important information regarding how pregnancy affects the various body systems.
Expectant mothers may feel very tired during pregnancy i.e. mainly during the first 12 weeks and during the later stages of pregnancy.
Heart and blood flow
- The amount of blood pumped by heart during pregnancy increases by 30 to 50%, while the volume of blood increases by 50% during pregnancy.
- Normally the cardiac output is 70 beats per minute. But, in expectant mothers, the cardiac output should be 80-90 beats per minute.
- By the end of pregnancy, the uterus should be receiving one-fifth of the woman’s pre-pregnancy blood supply.
- The amount of fluid in the blood may increase during this time. Hence, the chances are high that your blood test reports indicate mild anaemia, even though there are sufficient red blood corpuscles. Don’t panic, it’s normal.
- The uterus that is getting slowly enlarged, interferes with the flow of the blood that is returning from the legs and pelvic area to the heart. As a result, swelling (oedema) is in legs is common.
- Progesterone is a hormone which is produced continuously during the entire period of pregnancy. It helps the pregnant woman as it sends signals to the brain to lower the level of carbon-dioxide in the blood.
- This process results in fast and deep breathing so that the body can exhale more amount of carbon-dioxide.
- As mentioned earlier, morning sickness is quite common during pregnancy. This is experienced mainly because of the increasing levels of oestrogen and human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), two hormones that help to maintain the pregnancy.
- The feeling of morning sickness, nausea or vomiting can be lessened by changing the food habits. It is advisable to stick to simple and small meals that should be taken at regular intervals.
- During the later stages of pregnancy, the enlarging uterus may exert pressure on the rectum and lower part of the intestine. This, along with the rising levels of progesterone increases the possibility of constipation.
- Heartburn or acidity is a common problem. Heartburn can be relieved by taking the measures given below:
- Eat small meals at regular intervals
- Avoid spicy food, caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol. If possible, also avoid taking drugs like aspirin.
- Take early dinners to avoid acidity caused at night. There should be sufficient time gap between the time you eat and sleep. It can also be reduced by slighltly changing your sleeping position; raise your head and shoulders a little with the help of pillows.
- The uterus enlarges during the entire period of pregnancy. The bump may be slightly visible by the end of the 12th week i.e. three months.
- The bump extends to the level of the navel by 20 weeks and to the lower edge of the rib cage by 36 weeks.
Kidneys too have to work harder by filtering the increasing volume of blood. Kidneys generally perform their function when the pregnant woman is lying down or resting and their work slows down when she is standing or working.
- As the uterus enlarges, the skin near the abdomen stretches.
- The skin around the nipples, known as areolae, becomes darker.
- The placenta produces a hormone which stimulates a pregnant woman’s thyroid glands. As a result, the gland produces more thyroid hormone, which speeds up the activities of heart, and increases perspiration as well as mood swings.
- In the earlier months of pregnancy, the sugar level in blood may decrease slightly. But in the later half, the levels may rise. As a result, the pancreas produces more insulin to control the sugar level. And if the woman is already suffering from diabetes, the condition may worsen during pregnancy. In fact some women develop diabetes during pregnancy.
Joints and muscles
- The joints and ligaments in the pelvic region tend to loosen up and become more flexible during this time.
- Backache is a common problem as the enlarged uterus exerts pressure on the spine. Avoid lifting heavy items.
- To lessen the pressure on the back make sure you wear flat, soft and comfortable shoes while walking.
Health care during pregnancy
- A balanced diet is a must for pregnant women.
- The diet should include all the nutrients. Folic acid is required to reduce the risk of any birth defects for the baby.
- Smoking, drugs, and alcohol consumption should be strictly avoided. Also, restrict the intake of items that contain caffeine i.e. items like tea, coffee, cola or chocolates.
- If pregnant women are travelling, they should be extra cautious. They should ensure that the food and water they are consuming is hygienic.
- In case a pregnant woman is on medication, it is necessary that she discusses it with her gynaecologist. If possible, avoid taking any kind of medication (medicines other than those provided by your gynaecologist) or over-the-counter pills during the entire period, as it may prove harmful for the baby.
- Vaccines for viral diseases should be avoided during the pregnancy period.
- Exposure to higher temperatures for a fairly long time may harm the foetus. Hence, refrain from indulging in spa, sauna, steam bath etc.
- Drinking plenty of water is advisable in case of allergies. Expectant mothers should stay away from all that they are allergic to.
- See the doctor immediately:
- If there’s vaginal bleeding
- If the membrane ruptures
- If there’s severe abdominal pain
- In case of emotional or physical trauma
- If the baby moves less during the later period of pregnancy
The entire pregnancy period may be a smooth sailing for some women but some may go through many health problems and complications. In both the cases, it is important to follow your doctor’s advice.