Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Becoming a Mother, part 2

from www.elizabethyarnell.com
When you become pregnant, you expect the big belly, the battle of the stretch marks, and the glow, but you don't always realize how many other things can come with the growing of a baby.  There are so many changes to a woman's body when they conceive that it can become a little disconcerting to have so many odd symptoms pop up.  If you are a worrier, this can be an extremely anxious time for you.  However, if you know the physiological changes going on in your body, you can then understand why certain symptoms are showing up.  I believe many women struggle with the lack of control you have of your own body when you become pregnant.  But I think it helps to understand what is happening in the background.  Here I would like to summarize a few common discomforts pregnancy can bring and give a little physiology as to why this could be a symptom you experience.

Constipation can be caused by changes in the digestive tract due to hormones slowing the movement of food through the system.  The iron in prenatal vitamins can also cause constipation.  To avoid this discomfort, drink plenty of liquids and eat fruits and vegetables with a high fiber content.  It also helps to stay active and not to sit for long periods of time.

Hemorrhoids can be caused by strained bowel movements and from the extra pressure on the veins of the intestine from the uterus which is growing heavier as the pregnancy progresses.  This can make it difficult for these veins to drain.  Do not push hard during a bowel movement as this can cause even more pressure on those veins.  It also helps to try to avoid constipation in order to prevent hemorrhoids as well.  Drink lots of water!

Nausea and vomiting are symptoms that are also caused by hormonal and metabolic changes.  The cause of these symptoms are not completely understood, but tend to come with the increase of pregnancy hormones.  Before rising in the morning, eat crackers or something bland and do not get up too quickly.  It helps to sit at the side of the bed for a bit first.  Try to eat small meals every 3 hours and eat protein-rich food about an hour before going to bed at night.  Do not lay down right after eating.  Since your sense of smell is elevated, it also helps to avoid foods that trigger your nausea and eat foods cold or room temperature since aromas are stronger when hot.

Heartburn occurs when digested food from your stomach is pushed into your esophagus.  This can happen, again, because of hormonal changes in the digestive tract or because of pressure put on your stomach from your growing uterus.  Try eating smaller quantities of food, several times a day.  Avoid spicy and greasy foods, and try not to eat right before bed.  Sometimes sleeping with your head elevated by two or three pillows will help.

Fatigue occurs because your body is doing a lot of different things while pregnant, and hormone changes can leave you feeling exhausted.  My husband says, "Well, yeah, you're tired!  You're growing a person!"  It can also be caused by your sleep being interrupted by getting up during the night to use the bathroom and from feeling uncomfortable when trying to sleep.  It helps to try to get eight hours of sleep at night and to eat a balanced diet.  Take naps if you are able.

Headaches may occur because there is more blood in your body to share with the baby.  It may take some time for your body to adjust to this increase in blood volume.  Usually headaches go away after the first trimester.  If you experience headaches, take some acetaminophen and apply a warm or cold compress to your head or neck.  Try to find out what triggers the headache.  Dehydration, certain foods, stress, fatigue, excessive heat or cold, or tobacco smoke are some common triggers.

Frequent urination occurs because of hormone changes that have your kidneys working harder to filter out things in your blood stream, and because your blood volume increases, there is more fluid for your kidneys to filter into your bladder.  It also occurs because of the extra pressure on your bladder from your growing uterus.  Continue to drink plenty of water and do not resist the urge to urinate.

Stretch marks can result when your body grows faster than your skin can keep up with, and the elastic fibers just under the skin's surface break.  In pregnancy, it can happen on the abdomen, the sides, and on the breasts.  These brightly colored marks fade after pregnancy.  Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent these marks because they tend to be genetically determined, but keeping your skin moisturized and your body hydrated are good ways to keep away the itchiness that also happens with the stretching.

Varicose veins are swollen veins that bulge near the surface of the skin and appear blue or purple.  They are produced by the pressure of the uterus on the pelvic area, which makes circulation difficult during pregnancy.  Usually, they appear in the legs, but can also occur in the vulva area.  It can be painful or uncomfortable because blood is backed up in that area.  Move frequently to improve circulation and elevate your legs when possible.  Support stockings may also help you if this becomes a big problem.

Breathing can become difficult at times during pregnancy, especially towards the end.  This can happen as the baby grows larger and takes up more space in the abdomen.  There is less space for your lungs to expand.  Breathe deeply several times a day to ease discomfort.  Sleeping propped up on pillows may help at night.

Backaches can occur as the body's weight increases and its center of gravity moves forward.  The natural curves of the spine become much more pronounced.  This can occur as early as the end of the first trimester.  To help prevent strain, wear low-heeled supportive shoes.  There are also maternity girdles and other supportive clothing that can be purchased.  Make sure that any supportive clothing used is not binding.

Swelling can occur due to retention of water in the tissues of your body.  Mild swelling is related to the normal and necessary increase in body fluids in pregnancy and the difficulty of circulation of the lower extremities.  Some swelling of the ankles and legs is considered completely normal.  Swelling of the hands and face can be signs of blood pressure issues, however.  Try to elevate your legs whenever possible and avoid binding clothing and jewelry.

That is all I have for tonight!  If you have any questions or ideas for me to write about, please comment below.  Also, stay tuned for more about safe medications during pregnancy and a word from my friend about bringing home a new baby to a family of many small children.  I'm looking forward to hearing her tips and advice for that time in life!  

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