Contributed by- Dr. Snehal Singh
Are you expecting or planning on bringing the greatest joy in your lives?
Just the thought of bringing new life in this world sounds magical; your first ultrasound, trips to your gynaecologist, deciding name for your baby, buying new baby stuff, getting ready to welcome the new one, being crazy excited and scared at the same time, pregnancy is indeed an incredible roller coaster ride for every woman. It is a delicate process of you evolving both physically and emotionally.
Pregnancy is spread over a span of around 40 weeks and is divided into three trimesters. Each trimester has its own significance and brings entirely different and new experiences with them. No amount of planning can prepare you for this journey, your body will completely change and so will your priorities.
Knowing about the different phases of pregnancy can help you buck up and get ready for the upcoming experience. Although pregnancy is different for ever woman, a little preparedness and a lot of care can allow you enjoy the most fascinating joy ride of your life. Let us try to understand pregnancy and discuss about the three trimesters in detail.
What To Expect In First Trimester?
Although you don’t look pregnant yet, you are slowly growing a baby within you.
The first trimester is the first three months of pregnancy. It is the initial and really crucial phase, you will experience sudden changes in your hormones. During this trimester, the egg which is fertilized gets implanted into the uterus, finding a suitable position for it to grow throughout the pregnancy. After almost a month, the baby’s body parts and organs begin to develop. You will be able to hear your tiny angel’s heartbeat after 8-10 weeks during the ultrasound exam.
Expect totally different and completely unexpected experiences because of the hormonal changes during fertilization and implantation. Missed periods and fatigue are often the first signs of pregnancy. You may feel tired most of the time accompanied with nausea and dislike for certain foods and smells. Vomiting or morning sickness and cravings for various foods are all part of first trimester. Some women also experience mood swings, breast tenderness, headaches, constipation and changes in weight.
You can initially test for pregnancy at home with the urine pregnancy test, once positive it is important to seek proper medical opinion. Important tests usually advised in first trimester aim to confirm pregnancy, ensure your good health for a healthy pregnancy and assess all health risks.
First trimester also includes series of blood tests for pregnancy hormones, beta HCG, blood group, Rh factor and tests for HIV. Urine tests are done to assess risk of medical conditions and infections. Other really important blood tests include:
- Haemoglobin levels to assess risk of anaemia
- Vitamin D and calcium levels
- Blood sugar for diabetes
- Thyroid profile for risk of thyroid disorders
- Screening tests for hepatitis B and TORCH tests for (Toxoplasma, others, rubella, cytomegalovirus and herpes)
Blood tests like double marker test, plasma protein –A, alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), chorionic villus sampling are advised for certain high risk pregnancies and to assess risk of certain conditions like genetic disorders. Genetic counselling often helps in such cases. Ultrasound scans are done in first trimester to check foetal heart sounds, baby’s growth and development.
What To Expect in Second Trimester ?
Second trimester comes with a steady development of the baby and you may also feel settled with your pregnancy. You can now feel the movement of the baby in the womb. As the baby grows pressure is exerted; hence you may feel some pain around the back, abdomen and thighs. It can also cause swelling of feet, numbness and tingling in hands and feet. However, if there is severe pain or excessive swelling, it is best to consult your doctor.
Soon stretch marks will begin to show up in these areas and the line from the belly button to pubic hairline will also be visible. It is also common to have itching along the stretch marks, palms and soles. The nipple area darkens and some may also note darker skin around the cheeks and forehead.
Routine pregnancy blood tests continue in second trimester, to ensure a steadily moving healthy pregnancy. Blood glucose tests and glucose tolerance tests are done for gestational diabetes. High risk pregnancies are closely monitored for risk of high blood pressure and preclampsia. Multiple marker screening is done for screening genetic conditions and amniocentesis, FISH or other advanced tests are ordered, if appropriate. Urine tests for presence of proteins and any other abnormality may be done.
What To Expect in Third Trimester?
You get promoted to the third and final trimester of pregnancy in the seventh month. While the third trimester makes you look and feel more like a would-be-mother, you will also begin to feel heavier and note a lot of changes in yourself. Your entire body gets ready to welcome the baby.
As the womb further expands to accommodate the growing baby, you may experience heaviness, back pain, pressure over the chest area, shortness of breath and heartburn. It can cause discomfort in certain movements and sleeping can get really uncomfortable. The breasts becomes tender and may start leaking watery colostrum which is pre-milk.
The tests in third trimester continue to monitor blood sugar levels, blood pressure while blood tests to rule out serious infections like sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and HIV are also done. Rectal and vaginal swabs for testing Group B streptococcus is done to protect the baby from infection during birth. Scans are done to assess baby’s growth and to rule out any abnormalities of placenta. Additional tests or scans may be ordered, if required.
While most women feel good and can move around, go for walks or exercise during pregnancy, some women may be advised to take rest for specific reasons. Your doctor is really important, therefore be wise in choosing a good doctor that you can completely trust. Watch out for warning signs like severe pain in lower abdomen, bleeding, cramps, excessive vomiting or headache, sudden bleeding, vaginal discharge, or fever and see a doctor at the earliest.
Pregnancy is a lot about preparing yourself for your baby, be it your body, mind or health. So make sure you get the necessary tests done, proper medical advice, have nutritious meals, follow healthy routine and most importantly relax and enjoy this blissful experience.
Have a healthy and happy pregnancy!
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