Mums-to-be around the world sighed in sympathy to read that Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, was once again a martyr to severe morning sickness while she was expecting Princess Charlotte. Of course, pregnancy-induced nausea isn’t the only thing you’ll experience when you’ve got a bun in the oven.
“During pregnancy, the body experiences a lot of changes,” says Gail Johnson, spokesperson for the Royal College of Midwives in the UK. And because hormones affect women in different ways, you could be in for some surprises.
What’s going on? From about week 20 of your pregnancy, you might notice a funny feeling in your tummy — like it’s twitching. “Don’t panic!” says Dr Chiara Hunt, GP and co-founder of UK’s thebumpclass.com, which offers antenatal courses. “It’s your baby trying out his diaphragm and practising how to breathe, often leading to hiccups.”
What you can do Nothing — just enjoy it! At least he’s not spitting up milk on your favourite jumper yet.
What’s going on? Your blood volume not only increases by up to 50 per cent when you’re preggers, your urine output rises, too. “Partly because there’s more liquid in your system and partly because you’re excreting the baby’s urine, as well as your own,” explains obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Roger Marwood, a spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians. Add that to the sensation of the baby pressing on your bladder, and it’s no surprise you want to pee more.
What you can do Do regular pelvic-floor exercises. And just go to the loo more often.
Oh joy, as if morning sickness and peeing up a storm aren’t bad enough, now I have heartburn to deal with, too!
What’s going on? Your muscles and ligaments relax to make room for your baby, but this affects all your muscles, including the ones in your, ahem, bowels. Which means that your digestive system becomes sluggish. But the longer food is inside you, the gassier you get!
What you can do “Drink lots of water and eat a high-fibre diet, which will move food through your system faster and reduce gas,” Dr Hunt advises.
What’s going on? This is yet another pregnancy experience caused by the same hormones that relax your muscles. “The muscles that keep food inside your stomach don’t work as efficiently, so what you’ve eaten can travel back into your throat, causing acid reflux,” says Dr Marwood.
What you can do Instead of three big meals a day, eat six small ones. If it gets worse, ask your doctor to prescribe antacids.
There’s four more embarassments to come…
What’s going on? Some mums-to-be find their sex drive increases during pregnancy. “This seems to be most common in the second trimester — when women get their energy back after the first trimester,” Dr Hunt notes. “It’s thought to be down to pregnancy changes, including increased hormones and blood flow to the genitals, which makes them more sensitive.”
What you can do “If your pregnancy is progressing smoothly, there’s no reason not to have sex,” Johnson says. But don’t feel you have to. For some pregnant women, cuddling with your spouse is enough.
What’s going on? Pain that comes on suddenly — often at night — but goes quickly is likely to be cramps caused by fluid retention. But make sure you’re not confusing cramps with something more serious. “If the cramps are always in the same leg or your leg feels swollen, hot and tender, see a doctor to rule out a blood clot,” Dr Hunt suggests.
What you can do Ease leg cramps with a massage or do some stretching exercises. But if this doesn’t help, ask your doctor about a mineral supplement. In some cases, leg cramps occur because you’re not getting enough of certain minerals, like magnesium and calcium.
Hormones affect women in different ways, so you could be in for some surprises.
What’s going on? So, everyone is going on about the pregnancy glow, but the truth is, your skin around your tummy is being stretched, which makes it drier. An itchy patch may be eczema or a fungal infection. Rarely, some women develop a sudden, severe itching, sometimes in the palms of their hands or the soles of their feet. See a doctor as this can be a sign of a pregnancy liver condition called obstetric cholestasis.
What you can do Moisturising is the best thing for dry, itchy skin. But some women get a severe all-over itch at the end of their pregnancies, which moisturising can’t help. “This is known as urticaria (hives),” Dr Hunt points out. “It’s not harmful to you or your baby, but it’s very itchy, so a doctor may prescribe an antihistamine.”
What’s going on? “During pregnancy, levels of oestrogen rise, which stimulate the pigment-producing cells in the skin to produce excess pigment and can cause patches of dark skin, extra freckles and darker nipples,” says Dr Hunt. “It usually fades when you stop breastfeeding, but may take up to a year after you give birth.”
What you can do Use a sunblock. Though this won’t help the patches fade, it will stop them from getting darker. Until your skin is back to normal, a good concealer is also a lifesaver.