Pregnancy: Your Changing Body

Your pregnancy has three parts and each one lasts about three months. The parts are called trimesters. During each trimester you'll notice many changes in your body. Some changes aren't very comfortable, and some days you may not feel well.

But pregnancy is a very exciting time. You'll see your belly get bigger and feel your baby move inside you. So when you're not feeling too well, think about your goal-having a healthy baby.

Here's what will happen during each trimester:

The First Trimester Months 1,2,3

At the very beginning of your pregnancy, you'll be more tired and may feel sore. Your uterus, or womb, will get bigger as the baby grows inside it. Your uterus will push against your bladder. This means you'll have to urinate more often.

You may feel sick to your stomach sometimes. Usually this happens in the morning, thus morning sickness. But it can happen at any time of day. If you feel sick when you wake up, eat crackers or dry toast before you get out of bed. Then get up slowly.

Eat small meals during the day and eat often. Keep crackers handy, and try sniffing a slice of lemon. Drink lots of water. You may vomit. If you can't keep anything down for more than 24 hours, call your doctor.

If you become constipated, exercise may help. Try eating high-fiber foods like bran cereal and raw fruits and vegetables. Drinking extra water may also help.

You may feel dizzy when you stand up quickly. If this happens, breathe deeply. Also be careful not to move suddenly. If you feel dizzy often, tell your doctor.

It is important to see a dentist during your pregnancy. Your gums may get red and bleed. A softer toothbrush may help. Brush your teeth and floss each day.

If you get headaches, try taking a nap or getting fresh air. Ask your doctor before you take any medicine.

When you're pregnant, your mood may change often. You might be very excited about having a baby and then be scared about it. You might worry that having a baby will hurt or that the baby won't be healthy. This is normal. If you are very worried about having a baby, talk to your doctor.

You will start to gain weight even though you don't look pregnant yet. Aim to gain about four to six pounds in the first trimester. If you are hungry between meals, choose healthy low fat snacks such as fresh fruit and vegetables. These will fill you up and they're good for your body.

Exercise can help many of pregnancy's discomforts. It's good for you and your baby. Walking or gentle dancing are two fun, easy ways to get a good workout. Start slowly, and take a break if you get tired.

Every pregnancy is different. Your friends may tell you about things that bothered them that aren't bothering you. You may not have many of these discomforts. Enjoy this special time and the changes that are happening to your body.

The Second Trimester Months 4, 5, 6

The second trimester is also an exciting time. You and others will notice your growing belly. You'll begin to feel your baby moving inside you. Morning sickness usually goes away about now, and you won't feel as tired.

Your nipples will become larger. A thick, yellow fluid called colostrum may leak from them. Colostrum feeds you baby the first few days after birth, before your milk comes in. Wear a comfortable maternity bra during this time. If your breasts hurt, you may even want to sleep in it. You can put nursing pads inside your bra to catch leaks.

If you back starts to hurt, wear low, comfortable shoes with good arch support. Be very careful when bending. Always make sure to bend at your knees, not at your waist. Try to sleep on a firm mattress. Later in this trimester, it might be hard to find a comfortable sleeping position. You may not lie down on your stomach. You should not lie down on your back. The best position is on your side. Put an extra pillow between your legs and another under your belly.

You might start having leg cramps. Stretching your legs before going to bed may help. And don't point your toes when stretching or exercising. If cramps wake you up at night, try long massage strokes down your leg toward your heel.

After you eat a meal, you may get heartburn. This is an uncomfortable burning feeling in your chest. To prevent it, eat small meals instead of big ones, and drink lots of water between meals. If you still get heartburn, try sleeping with your back propped up. If necessary, ask your doctor if it's okay to take an antacid-and if so, which one. (Some could be unsafe).

If you haven't yet seen the dentist during your pregnancy, make an appointment now. Make sure to tell the dentist you are pregnant. Ask your doctor if it is okay to have x-rays.

The Third Trimester Months 7, 8, 9

In the last three months, your belly will grow very large. You'll feel like you really want to give birth. The veins in your legs and vagina may swell. Try not to stand in one place too long. Sit down and put your feet up often. Exercise at least a few minutes each day to keep your blood moving. Go for walks as often as you can. You'll feel even more pressure on your bladder now, and you'll have to urinate more often. However, it is important to drink lots of fluids anyway.

Sometimes urine might leak out when you sneeze or cough. There is an exercise you can do to help stop the leaking. It's called a Kegel exercise. Here's what to do: Squeeze the muscles around your vagina the way you would to stop the flow of urine. Hold for 10 seconds, then relax the muscles. Repeat 10 to 20 times in a row. Do this at least three times a day.

There's also more pressure on your back now. You can help by putting a pillow behind your back when you sit down.

Your baby is getting so big that he may be pressing against your lungs. You might begin to breathe faster when you walk or climb stairs. Try moving more slowly, and take breaks often.

You need more sleep now - about ten hours a night. Waking up to walk to the bathroom can make it difficult to get enough sleep. Also, it will be hard to get comfortable in bed. Try sleeping in a reclining chair if you have one. If you can, take a nap during the day.

During the last trimester, you may start to get more leg cramps - and they may hurt more than before. You may also feel cramps in your uterus. When you feel those cramps in the uterus, you may think that your labor is starting. It may not be. You may just be having Braxton Hicks contractions.

Braxton Hicks contractions aren't the same as labor contractions. They happen only once in a while and last around 30 - 60 seconds. They go away when you move around. They help your body get ready for childbirth.

The labor contractions that you feel when your baby is ready to be born are different. They last longer and happen closer together. They won't go away no matter what you do. You'll read more about true labor contraction on other pages in this magazine.

Close to your delivery date, you may feel tired, uncomfortable, and even grumpy. You may have some trouble moving around because your belly is so big. Don't give up-soon you'll have a brand-new baby!

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