Questions and Answers about Your Pregnancy

What kinds of tests will my caregiver be doing for me?

Routine tests early in your pregnancy determine your blood type, immunity to rubella and test for various sexually transmitted diseases that can harm your unborn baby. If you’re due for a pap test, this will also be done. Midway through your pregnancy you may have a glucose tolerance test to see if you may develop gestational diabetes. Depending on your age and family history, you will be asked whether you want genetic testing such as amniocentesis. You’ll also probably have at least one ultrasound of your baby.

What problems should I report to my caregiver?

Any vaginal bleeding should be reported, although spotting at various times is fairly common. Cramping, intermittent low backache or low abdominal pressure, or a gush of fluid from your vagina should be reported as well as signs of infection such as fever, vomiting, or burning with urination. Complications of pregnancy can also begin with severe headache, visual disturbances, sudden weight gain, or abdominal pain. You should be feeling at least twelve fetal movements per day; report any sudden decreases in your baby’s movement. Early detection and treatment of problems will help both you and your baby to continue a safe pregnancy.

How can I prevent stretch marks?

Unfortunately, you cannot prevent them with creams or lotions. Women have a genetic tendency to get them or not; it is based on the elasticity of your skin. Pregnancy hormones cause softening and relaxing of the collagen and elastic tissue, and about half of pregnant women will experience at least a few stretch marks. They usually appear on the abdomen, breasts, hips, and upper thighs. You can help to minimize them by avoiding sudden bursts of weight gain. Eat a nutritious diet and exercise regularly. Ask your physician about taking extra Vitamin C, which assists in healthy skin and connective tissue — and pamper yourself with a rich skin lotion if you want. It feels good!

Why do I feel like I’m on an emotional rollercoaster?

There are profound changes in your hormones and body functions which occur to allow your baby to grow in a healthy manner, and these contribute to huge changes in your emotions. In addition, even when a pregnancy is planned, it is still a shock when it actually occurs. Changes in lifestyle, finances, even career plans all must be evaluated. The realization that someone else will now be totally dependent upon you for many years is overwhelming, and changes in body image can also be disturbing. Your support system will also contribute to your emotions. If your partner is happy and supportive, it helps your emotional outlook, but he may be experiencing the same ambivalence and shock that you are and may not be able to offer much support at first. It is a good idea to share your feelings with your caregiver and let her know when your emotions are out of sorts. It is okay to wish at times that you aren’t pregnant and crying from time to time over minor things is pretty normal. However, if you find that you are depressed or unhappy most of the time, it is important to share this with your caregiver, who will help you find some resources for help.

How can I avoid constipation and hemorrhoids?

These common pregnancy problems are closely related. If you can avoid constipation, you will usually avoid hemorrhoids. Constipation is defined as a hard dry stool that is difficult to pass (not infrequent stools), and diet goes a long way in preventing this. Fiber and fluids are the key! Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, leaving skins and peels on when possible. Choose whole grain breads and cereals, and add bran somewhere. Drink at least twelve 8-ounce glasses of water or other decaffeinated fluids per day, and exercise! A daily walk will help keep things moving as they should.

Why do my joints feel different?

During pregnancy, many different hormones are secreted which have lots of different effects on your body. Two of these, progesterone and relaxin, cause a softening and relaxing of the joints and ligaments. The primary reason for this is to allow the pelvic bones to separate slightly during delivery, allowing your baby to pass through. However, it also has similar effects on other joints, and you may feel that your joints don’t quite have their normal stability. This also contributes to discomfort in walking, especially late in pregnancy, and round ligament pain, which is an uncomfortable sensation in your groin caused by the ligaments which attach the lower part of your uterus to the abdominal wall. There is no treatment, but the knowledge that this is normal and will go away after pregnancy may help you deal with it.

When should I sign up for childbirth classes?

Begin looking for classes early in your second trimester. There are many options available, but they do fill quickly and you don’t want to miss out! The traditional classes that meet one night per week for several weeks need to be started no later than your 30th week of pregnancy, so that if you do deliver a couple of weeks early, you will have finished your series. Most hospitals offer childbirth preparation classes, plus other offerings such as breastfeeding classes, preterm labor prevention, sibling classes and parenting. You may also find good classes through private sources, but whatever the means, do involve yourself and your partner in this very special learning experience. The more you know, the more you will enjoy and enhance the birth of your baby!

Editorial provided by Vicki Swindell, RN, Certified Childbirth Educator and Nurse Manager at Columbia Rose Medical Center, Labor and Delivery in Denver, Colorado.