Inspira Medical Center Elmer, part of Inspira Health, has been recognized as High Performing in Maternity Care (Uncomplicated Pregnancy) by U.S. News & World Report. This is the first time U.S. News has published a list of Best Hospitals for Maternity Care.Read More
Pregnancy is a magical experience. But it is also one of the most physically and mentally taxing. Many think that the nine months prior to your baby’s arrival should be spent preparing the nursery and brushing up on your baby knowledge. But we recommend you take these nine months to care for and get to know your new pregnant self.
Pregnancy is considered full term at 40 weeks, but you have different needs for each of your trimesters. Here’s a quick guide on how you can make the most of this time before you deliver your baby.
First trimester: The first 12 weeks of pregnancy
In the first trimester, your body is experiencing a rapid transformation. Beginning with a missed period, your body will soon face several changes ranging from swollen breasts and nausea to food cravings.
“The first few weeks of pregnancy are marked by your body undergoing a series of physiological, physical and emotional changes. A lot of this initial discomfort dissipates over time, but it’s also important that you listen to what your body is telling you,” said Caitlin French, C.N.M., midwife at Inspira Medical Group Midwifery Gentle Beginnings.
“Childbirth education is an excellent way to learn what’s normal and what’s not normal, how to prepare your body for pregnancy and for birth, and how to alleviate discomforts. Childbirth classes may relieve a lot of anxiety, because they offer a good foundation of knowledge for what changes to expect,” said French.
- For nausea: Eat in small but frequent increments. Try ginger, peppermint or acupressure bands.
- For fatigue: Create a diet and exercise plan to boost energy and increase blood circulation. Try to develop good sleep hygiene- go to bed and wake up at the same time, avoid caffeine before bed, nap as needed.
- For constipation: Introduce additional fiber and water into your diet.
Second trimester: Weeks 13 to 27
During your second trimester the nausea is finally gone, and you have your energy back! However, you might notice in place of nausea and fatigue you are noticing mood swings, round ligament pain, and skin changes.
“Through all of these changes, the best thing you can do is to have open and honest discussions with your health care team. They’ll be able to discuss second trimester expectations and benchmarks with you, as well as pain management techniques specific to your needs and let you know what is normal and what is not,” said French.
- For mood swings: Mood swings are to be expected as your body undergoes significant hormonal changes. Eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleep can go a long way toward managing your mood.
- For skin changes: You may experience dark spots on your skin, most commonly on your breasts, inner thighs or even your face. It is also common for a dark line to develop on your skin from your navel to your pubic bone. These skin changes are likely to clear up on their own, however avoiding direct sun exposure and wearing sunscreen can help minimize these changes. As your belly continues to grow, stretch marks are also a common occurrence. It’s important to note that moisturizers can help minimize the itching associated with the stretching of the skin but will not prevent stretch marks altogether. However, once you’ve delivered your baby, your stretch marks will likely fade over time.
- Round ligament pain: Between 16-20 weeks of pregnancy, many experience sharp pains or jabbing in the lower belly or groin area on one or both sides. It can be very painful, but is normal and can be improved with hydration, stretching, wearing a belly band for support and even chiropractic care. Any time you experience abdominal pain in pregnancy you should discuss it with your provider.
Third trimester: Week 28 to birth
You are almost there! Although less than 5% of women deliver on their actual due date, it is normal to deliver your baby between 37-42 weeks in your pregnancy. As you navigate these final few weeks, you’re likely to experience the same symptoms from your first and second trimesters—and maybe just a few more.
“With each passing day, your baby is growing bigger and bigger. To accommodate that growth, your body is adapting every minute. This adaptation comes in the form of swelling, pelvic pressure, back pain, difficulty sleeping and heartburn,” said French. “Specifically, in your third trimester you may feel tightness and hardness in your belly, but this is should not be painful. These are called Braxton Hicks contractions and are often referred to as practice contractions. Real labor contractions are very uncomfortable and will progressively get longer, stronger and closer together. This third and final trimester may be the most physically and emotionally draining, but it will also be one of the most rewarding experiences.”
- For backaches: Try using a heating pad, stretching, hydration, daily walks, chiropractic care, sleeping with a pillow between your legs and be sure to wear shoes with good support.
- For swelling: Avoid caffeinated drinks, drink plenty of water and elevate your feet. Sometimes swelling can be concerning, so you should mention it to your care provider.
- For difficulty sleeping: Try using a pregnancy pillow to help you get into a comfortable sleeping position. Developing a relaxing bedtime routine starting at a consistent time without TV or smart devices can also be helpful.
- For heartburn: Eat smaller more frequent meals, avoid foods that trigger your heartburn and try elevating the head of your bed while sleeping.
During this final trimester, make sure you are researching and beginning to identify your birth preferences and options for labor. Your birth plan should be shared and discussed with your provider.
Inspira offers childbirth and other family resources including virtual childbirth classes and maternity unit tours. Click here to learn more.