9 common pregnancy fears: When to worry

You aren’t alone if you feel paranoid now that you’re pregnant, but your biggest fears may be groundless…

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First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby carriage. But wait, between marriage and baby, there’s also pregnancy.

Ahh pregnancy…nine long months of growing a human being inside of you, trying to eat right, handling crazy bodily changes and planning non-stop for the day you pop.

Whether it’s your first or fourth, pregnancy is always an exciting time for everyone involved. But for the mum-to-be, it can also be one fraught with worries and sleepless nights.

It’s normal to worry throughout your pregnancy, especially if you’re expecting your first child. Since you are entering unchartered waters, everything is nail-bitingly new and unpredictable. And sometimes, things just don’t go according to plan.

If being preggers is scaring the bejesus out of you, read on to find out exactly when you should worry and when you can chillax.

Fear #1: Having a miscarriage

What you’re afraid of…You’ll lose your foetus during the vulnerable first trimester, since 20 per cent of all pregnancies do end in a miscarriage. This fear gets even more real and all-consuming if you’ve had a previous miscarriage or multiple miscarriages. Every little ache or light bleeding might send you rushing to your gynae because you’re imagining the worst.

Why you shouldn’t worry… If a miscarriage is going to take place, it often does so in the very early stages of your pregnancy ― usually in the first four or five weeks when you wouldn’t have even known that you were pregnant. After a heartbeat is detected, at between 6 and 8 weeks, your chances of losing your pregnancy drops to 5 per cent. If a miscarriage does happen, it usually means the pregnancy wasn’t healthy to start with and it was for the best for both mum and foetus.

If it does happen…The good news is that right after a miscarriage, you are more fertile and your chances of having a second one is pretty low. To lower your risk of a miscarriage, eat well and limit your caffeine intake to 200mg a day (two cups of coffee). You can also do a pre-conception test at your gynae’s office, which will detect if you have any health conditions that might have caused you to miscarry.

Fear #2: Squashing or hurting the foetus

What you’re afraid of…You might suffocate baby if you sleep on your belly or that the hubs might “poke” bub during sex.

Why you shouldn’t worry… Baby is very well protected, thanks to the amniotic sac and the strong muscles of the uterus. So, it’s close to impossible that it will feel squashed or get accidentally bumped. If you and your man having been avoiding getting jiggy with it for fear of hurting your little one, don’t wait any longer! During intercourse, the penis doesn’t go beyond the vagina, so there’s no way it will reach baby. Also, the thick mucus plug sealing the cervix will help protect it from infection.

If it does happen… Your doctor might discourage sex if you’re experiencing vaginal bleeding, your placenta is partly or completely covering your cervix, or if you’re at risk of preterm labour. These issues will usually resolve with time and plenty of rest.

Your foetus has a knack for absorbing nutrition from whatever food you “feed” him. So, even if all you’re living on is biscuits and Milo, bubba will be fine.

Fear #3: Baby will be affected by your morning sickness

What you’re afraid of… All that vomiting is going to leave your foetus dehydrated and majorly malnourished. Also, while you’re plagued with round-the-clock nausea, the last thing you want to eat is anything healthy. So, out with the yoghurt and fruit and bring on the prata and fish curry. But is that any good for baby? Shouldn’t you be eating only the healthiest and freshest of food ― for his sake?

Why you shouldn’t worry… Your foetus has a knack for absorbing nutrition from whatever food you “feed” him. So, even if all you’re living on is biscuits and Milo, bubba will be fine. Just remember to take your prenatal vitamins to offset any nutritional imbalances and eat small meals throughout the day to keep your energy levels up. Eating often also helps to stave off nausea.

If it does happen… The only time you have to worry that your morning sickness might affect your growing child’s health is if you’re puking nonstop and unable to keep any food down, including water. You probably have a condition called hyperemesis gravidarum, in which case, you’ll need to seek medical help immediately.

Fear #4: Changes to the face and body

What you’re afraid of… Your expanding nose and feet and water retention makes you look like the Michelin man. Gasp, what if these changes are here to stay?

Why you shouldn’t worry… A swollen nose and feet are caused by an increase in oestrogen levels. This pregnancy hormone helps blood flow to the mucous membranes (a thick protective layer over the inner organs) and plumps up your nose as a result. Feet usually swell and flatten as a result of water retention while the relaxin hormone also loosens joints and ligaments in preparation for childbirth. The good news is that everything shrinks back to its original size post-partum, and even if they don’t, the difference is minimal.

If it does happen… The influx of pregnancy hormones can cause your skin to be more sensitive and give rise to severe stretch marks, warts or skin tags (tiny growths that crop up in high-friction areas such as the neck, armpit and between your thighs). Also beware of chloasma ― dark patches on your face also known as the “mask of pregnancy”. This is a sign that your skin may be more sensitive than usual to sunlight, so you’ll need to take extra care. If you develop a serious or persistent skin problem even after delivery, see a dermatologist.

Fear #5: Eating or drinking something that might harm baby

What you’re afraid of…Accidentally consuming one of the many things your doctor told you to stay away from because it might harm your unborn child. What about that big bottle of wine you swigged a few days before you found out you were preggers.

Why you shouldn’t worry… Since there’s a laundry list of food items you’re supposed to stay away from when you’re pregnant, it’s easy to obsess over every ingredient that you put into your mouth. Aside from major “no nos” such as raw meats, soft cheeses, deli meats, alcohol and seafood, it’s fine to eat everything else is moderation. Some doctors even allow an occasional glass of wine, as well as fresh sushi and sashimi in the third trimester. Keep a balanced diet and when in doubt, don’t eat it. You have the rest of your life to enjoy it after baby is born.

If it does happen… Not all instances of food poisoning will harm bub unless it involves Listeria, a bacteria found in uncooked foods and unpasteurised cheeses. It’s been known to cause miscarriage, premature delivery or an infection in your baby. It’s wise to get checked the minute you are unwell. Also, keep yourself well hydrated as you want to flush all the toxins out of your body.

To worry or not to worry.... Four more pregnancy fears coming right up!

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Fear #6: Putting on too much weight

What you’re afraid of… Gaining an incredible amount of weight and struggling to lose it post-pregnancy. Also, the health complications that might arise for you and your unborn child because of all that excess weight.

Why you shouldn’t worry… Doctors say that if you were at your ideal weight before you fell pregnant, you should put on an average of 11kg to 15kg during the entire pregnancy. Overweight women should only gain 8kg to 12kg, while underweight women should aim to gain between 13kg and 18kg. Stick to these guidelines and you’ll be fine. And if you haven’t heard by now, eating for two is a myth. You should only be consuming an additional 300 calories a day only during your second and third trimester. Adopt a healthy and active lifestyle and you won’t have to worry about gaining weight or losing it post-partum.

If it does happen… When your weight gain gets out of control it can cause gestational diabetes. A spike in your blood sugar levels could result in you birthing a big baby who has a higher risk of developing diabetes later in life. You are also at risk of developing high blood pressure and a urinary tract infection during pregnancy.

If you are expecting multiples or have a pre-existing condition that puts you at risk of pre-term labour, stay in close contact with your doctor.

Fear #7: Finding out that baby might have a birth defect

What you’re afraid of…That baby might be born with Down syndrome, or a physical defect such as a hole in her heart or a deformed limb.

Why you shouldn’t worry… If an episode of Grey’s Anatomy sparked your paranoia and not because your gynae announced he had found something worrying during the latest test, then stop freaking out right now!

If it does happen… Keep yourself prepared by learning more about the condition your baby has. Whatever the outcome, know that it’s not a death sentence for your child. Down syndrome kids lead very fulfilling lives. Plus, with the advancements in modern medicine, our doctors are equipped to tackle even the most challenging neonatal health issue.

Fear #8 Going into preterm labour

What you’re afraid of… Baby arriving sooner than the 37 week mark and the health complications that may arise because of that.

Why you shouldn’t worry… If you are not carrying twins, have a previous history or health issues like gestational diabetes that put you at a higher risk of going into early labour, then you have nothing to worry about. Not satisfied with this answer? Then why not start your maternity leave earlier, so you can put your feet up and concentrate on keeping your baby inside you for as long as possible. Stress does play a part in pre-term labour after all.

If it does happen… If you are expecting multiples or have a pre-existing condition that puts you at risk of pre-term labour, stay in close contact with your doctor. Pack your hospital bags way in advance and make all the necessary transport arrangements. You can rest assured that they’ll be in good hands as preemies are put through several tests after they are born to ensure that they are in top health before they are discharged.

Fear #9: Having a traumatic birth

What you’re afraid of… Everything that’s the stuff of movies: Crazy painful labour pains, a baby in distress who requires medical intervention and copious blood loss.

Why you shouldn’t worry… From the inevitable labour pains to an emergency C-section, anything and everything can happen during labour, so it’s best to be mentally prepared. Read as many books as you can on labour, hire a doula to guide you and keep an open mind about pain-relief options, should you decide at the eleventh hour that you’ll need them.

If it does happen… The vast majority of medical interventions such as emergency C-sections do have a happy outcome. Also, the number of babies who are born with their umbilical cord around their necks is also more common ― one in every 100 deliveries ― than you think. Even so, the amniotic fluid usually provides enough of a buffer between the cord and the baby. By the way, the cord is mostly wrapped around your baby’s neck only once, and it’s very rare that it’ll wind around the neck multiple times.

Photos: iStock

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