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Questions You Might Have As A First-time Mother

Written by Dr. Kulyk Alexander Petrovich on Wed, 16 November 2022

Key Highlights

  • Pregnancy or gestation period lasts for about 9 months
  • Pregnancy has 3 main stages called the trimesters, wherein the mother and growing fetus undergo several changes
  • A pregnant woman needs to monitor her diet and lifestyle closely during this time
  • Prenatal visits help to monitor a baby's growth and development
  • Besides changes in diet and nutrition habits, a pregnant woman may continue with her schedule, including work and travel, however, it is better to discuss the same with your doctor
  • Smoking and alcohol need to be stopped when you're pregnant
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"You are pregnant!" These are perhaps some of the sweetest words any woman can hear. Being able to bring a new life into this world is nothing less than a miracle.

However, the whole 9-month journey can also be a bit overwhelming for a first-time mother in terms of what is to be avoided and what precautions are to be followed?

Worry not, we have got you covered. In this article, we are going to discuss different stages of pregnancy, and answer all FAQs for a pregnant mother.

Additionally, we have also drawn up a to-do list on how to take care of the mother and baby. Let's go!

What changes will my body undergo?

Let's start with what you mean by pregnancy and what changes can you expect in the mother's body?

Pregnancy, also known as gestation, is producing offspring inside a mother's womb. It may occur due to sexual intercourse or assisted reproductive technology procedures like IVF, intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), etc.

Pregnancy lasts for 9 months and a mother has to go through different stages called trimesters. Pregnancy is typically divided into three trimesters, that last up to three months each.

Here is a list of pregnancy facts to get you up to speed on the changes going on in your body

Pregnancy lasts for 9 months and a mother has to go through different stages called trimesters. Pregnancy is typically divided into three trimesters, that last up to three months each.

Here is a list of pregnancy facts to get you up to speed on the changes going on in your body

Stages of pregnancy

1. First trimester: It begins on the first day of your last period and lasts until the end of week 12. This means that by the time you know for sure you're pregnant, you might already be five or six weeks pregnant!

A lot happens during these first three months. The fertilized egg rapidly divides into layers of cells and implants in the wall of your womb where it carries on growing. These layers of cells become an embryo.

It includes conception, which is when the sperm fertilizes the egg. The fertilized egg then travels down the Fallopian tube and attaches to the inside of the uterus, where it begins to form the embryo and placenta.

Along with the physical changes, a woman undergoes many physiological changes as well, which are entirely normal, including cardiovascular, metabolic, and respiratory changes. Increases in blood sugar, breathing, and cardiac output are all required.

Levels of progesterone and estrogens rise continually throughout pregnancy. Minute ventilation increases by 40%. The womb will grow to the size of a lemon by eight weeks.

2. Second trimester: Most women feel more energized, and begin to put on weight as the symptoms of morning sickness subside and eventually fade away. The uterus can expand up to 20 times its normal size during pregnancy. By the end of the second trimester, the expanding uterus has created a visible "baby bump" and you can feel the fetus.

Although the breasts have been developing internally since the beginning of the pregnancy, most of the visible changes appear after this point.

3. Third trimester: This is the last stage of pregnancy. Final weight gain takes place during the third trimester, which is the most weight gain throughout the pregnancy.

The woman's abdomen will transform in shape as it drops due to the fetus turning into a downward position ready for birth. The fetus moves regularly and is felt by the woman.

Fetal movement can become strong and be disruptive to the woman. The woman's navel will sometimes become convex, "popping" out, due to the expanding abdomen.

It is also during the third trimester that maternal activity and sleep positions may affect fetal development due to restricted blood flow.

In the ideal childbirth, labor begins on its own when a woman is "at the term". The uterus expands making up a larger and larger portion of the woman's abdomen.

During the final stages of gestation before childbirth, the fetus and uterus will drop to a lower position. Braxton Hicks contractions are uterine contractions that may start around six weeks into a pregnancy; however, they are usually not felt until the second or third trimester.

Changes in the fetus

A healthy first trimester is crucial to the normal development of the fetus. All of the major body organs and systems of the fetus are forming. During the first eight weeks, a fetus is called an embryo. The embryo develops rapidly and by the end of the first trimester, it becomes a fetus that is fully formed, weighing approximately 0.5 to 1 ounce and measuring, on average, 3 to 4 inches in length.

The fetus is most vulnerable during the first 12 weeks. During this period, all of the major organs and body systems are forming and can be damaged if the fetus is exposed to drugs, infectious agents, radiation, certain medications, tobacco, and toxic substances.

As the embryo implants itself into the uterine wall, several developments take place, including the formation of the:

1. Amniotic sac: A sac filled with amniotic fluid, that surrounds the fetus throughout the pregnancy. The amniotic fluid is liquid made by the fetus and the amnion (the membrane that covers the fetal side of the placenta) protects the fetus from injury. It also helps to regulate the temperature of the fetus.

2. Placenta: It is an organ shaped like a flat cake that only grows during pregnancy. It attaches to the uterine wall with tiny projections called villi. Fetal blood vessels grow from the umbilical cord into these villi, exchanging nourishment and waste products with your blood.

3. Umbilical cord: It is a rope-like cord connecting the fetus to the placenta. It carries oxygen and nutrients to the fetus and wastes products away from the fetus.

By six weeks, a heartbeat can usually be heard, and by the end of week 12, your baby's bones, muscles, and all the organs of the body have formed. Your baby looks like a tiny human being. He or she will even be practicing swallowing!

Even though the organs and body systems are fully formed by the end of 12 weeks, the fetus cannot survive independently.

Now that I'm pregnant, what should I be doing?

Having a baby is one of the most joyous times in many women's lives. From thinking about the day, you'll bring your little one home, to picking a name and nursery colors, the excitement is intense.

But there are some things first-time moms need to know about the well-being of their health. You need to take some practical steps to ensure a safe pregnancy time, like:

  • Schedule a prenatal visit as soon as you know you're pregnant. The doctor will take a full medical history and talk to you about your lifestyle and health habits. They'll figure out your due date. You'll also have blood and urine tests and possibly a pelvic exam.
  • Continue with prenatal visits every 4 weeks. The doctor will check your weight and blood pressure, test your urine and listen to your baby's heartbeat.
  • Learn what other tests and screenings you may need, such as tests to look for genetic problems with your baby.
  • Ask your doctor what prescription and over-the-counter medicines you can still safely take.
  • Take a look at your diet and make any changes you need to make sure you and your baby get the right nutrition. Drink plenty of water.
  • Break bad habits like smoking and illegal drug use. Cut out alcohol and cut down on caffeine.
  • Keep up your workout routine, but listen to your body. You may need to change what kind of exercise you do or ease up a little.

FAQs about Pregnancy:

First-time motherhood can be daunting. Having a pregnancy guide for first-time moms is helpful to get through this period. Here are a few things to know about pregnancy for first-time moms.

1. How can one determine whether they are pregnant?

The signs and symptoms include missed periods, tender breasts, experiencing morning sickness, hunger, and frequent urination. It can be confirmed by taking a pregnancy test.

2. Are there any harmful effects of alcohol on the fetus' health?

Yes! Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is caused by drinking a lot of alcohol during pregnancy. What that amount is versus a safe amount is not known. Because of the uncertainty, it's always wise to not drink any alcohol at all during pregnancy.

The fetus is less capable of getting rid of alcohol than the mother and the fetus tends to develop a high concentration of alcohol, which stays in the baby's system for longer periods than it would in the mother's system and can damage a baby's developing nervous system.

3. Should I avoid and/or limit caffeine?

Yes. It's wise to cut down or stop caffeine intake. Studies show that caffeine consumption of more than 200-300 milligrams a day (about 2-3 cups of coffee) might put a pregnancy at risk.

High caffeine consumption has been linked to an increased risk of miscarriage and, possibly, other pregnancy complications. Green and black tea, cola, and other soft drinks contain caffeine.

Try switching to decaffeinated products or caffeine-free alternatives. Although chocolates have some caffeine, it is okay to eat them in moderate amounts.

4. Are there any risks while taking OTC medications? Will that affect my baby's health?

There are many medicines you should not use during pregnancy. Be sure to talk to your doctor about which prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs you can and can't take, even if they seem like no big deal.

Some drugs can reach the fetus just like alcohol and can have harmful effects on the nervous system of the fetus. Even common OTC medicines that you can buy in stores without a prescription may be off-limits during pregnancy.

Let all of your healthcare providers know that you're pregnant so that they'll keep that in mind when recommending or prescribing any medicines.

5. What are the effects of smoking while pregnant?

A smoking mother passes nicotine, carbon monoxide, and many other chemicals to her growing baby which can cause miscarriage or stillbirth, prematurity, low birth weight, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), asthma, and other respiratory problems and the risks to a fetus from regular exposure to second-hand smoke include low birth weight and slowed growth.

6. Is it safe to travel by flight during pregnancy?

Yes! Unless your due date is near or your doctor tells you that you or your baby has a medical condition that warrants keeping you near home, you may want to catch that flight and travel to your destination without worrying about your and your baby's health.

Women with certain health conditions — like high blood pressure (hypertension) or blood clots, a history of miscarriage, premature labor, or other prenatal complications — are encouraged not to fly. Most healthy pregnant women can fly up to 4 weeks before their due date. After that, it's best to stay close to home in case you deliver.

7. What kind of exercises should I do?

You may want to cut on your workouts that are high-impact exercises. For most pregnant women, low-impact exercise is a great way to feel better and help prepare the body for labor. Low-impact exercise increases your heart rate and intake of oxygen while helping you avoid sudden actions that can stress your joints, bones, and muscles.

8. Is it safe to have Sexual Activity while being pregnant?

Absolutely yes. Most pregnant women having a 'normal' pregnancy can continue having sex — it's perfectly safe for both mom and the baby, even up until the delivery.

You may want to discuss it with the doctor only if you feel some pain or discomfort while having sex or after you have had sex. Other than that, there is no need to worry. It is recommended for inducing labor at times.

9. Should I avoid X-Rays?

It's highly unlikely that low levels of X-ray radiation will be harmful. However, if you can safely wait to get an X-ray until after your baby is born, then that's probably the best way to go.

We hope that these FAQs clear most of your doubts. Here is an interesting list of pregnancy facts for first-time motherhood:

  • Babies tend to cry in the womb as early as 28 weeks to communicate with the mother.
  • It is normal to crave non-food items like clay, sand, etc. However, you need to inform the doctor as consuming such items could be harmful to the baby.
  • Pregnant women suffering from heartburn are more likely to give birth to a baby full of hair because often, the hormone that causes heartburn in the mother, is responsible for hair growth in babies.
  • Mothers' sense of smell changes drastically as they tend to find their favorite smell nauseating.
  • Bloating and Gas are generally observed as the digestion process is slow and is more common at night when there is less physical activity.
  • Babies do respond to sounds and voices during the second trimester.
  • It is very common to leak milk from your breasts which is a way for your body to prepare itself for feeding your infant.
  • Babies experience hiccups during the third trimester as they tend to practice breathing and it can be felt by the mother as rhythmic little bumps against the belly.
  • The foot size of a mother may increase up to one complete shoe size which is due to an increase in the production of hormones also capable of inducing the birth process.
  • Holding up your baby against your chest is beneficial for the baby as the baby recognizes the mother's scent and releases happy hormones.
  • A baby has around 300 bones when inside the mother's womb which then fuse when the baby is delivered and is an infant.
  • When the mother is happy and laughing, the baby can respond by bouncing.
  • Babies tend to change their position when their mother is exposed to strong odors stating that they can have a sense of smell.
  • Babies can dream just after a month of conception.

Conclusion

You have now taken one step closer to your baby's health-which is knowledge and understanding of your pregnancy.

Pregnancy is one of the biggest changes your body will experience, hence it goes without saying your diet, nutrition, exercise habits, and overall lifestyle are bound to change with it. So, you must be also aware of the best ways to improve immunity.

Be well equipped with answers to your questions, and discuss them with your ob-gyn for all the health information you need for a healthy and safe pregnancy.

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Dr. Kulyk Alexander Petrovich

Dr. Kulyk Alexander Petrovich is a Ukraine-based gynecologist, with extensive experience in women's health. In 1995, he graduated from the Kyiv Medical University, and specialized in gynecology. He then went on to work as a gynecologist in the Institute of Pediatric, Obstetrics and Gynecology in Kyiv, where he worked until the year 2000.

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