Sore breasts, heightened sense of smell, fatigue, dizziness...could you be pregnant? MH lets you in on the early signs of pregnancy.
WORDS ANGEL DREWGUS
Do you think you could be pregnant? Have you been feeling a little queasy? Or are you finding it more and more difficult to keep awake past 9pm? Maybe, just maybe it could be signs of a new arrival that’s due to arrive in about 40 weeks! Read on to find out what some of the early signs of pregnancy are and how to manage them.
One of the common signs of pregnancy is morning sickness. Nausea and vomiting in pregnancy are very common and these symptoms usually begin in the first trimester of pregnancy. They are caused by the body’s reaction to the pregnancy hormone Human Chorionic Gonadotrophin (HCG) which is produced in the first trimester of pregnancy, explains Dr Shamini Nair, a specialist in obstetrics & gynaecology, and consultant at Raffles Women’s Centre. The levels of HCG peak at around 10 weeks of pregnancy and tend to decrease after 12 weeks. Hence, most women feel better after the first trimester is over. However, some mums may continue to experience some nausea and vomiting even in the second or third trimester.
Nausea and vomiting are generally worse on an empty stomach so taking small frequent meals is recommended. Avoid foods and smells that exacerbate these symptoms. Keeping well hydrated is very important as being dehydrated makes the symptoms worse. If the vomiting is severe (more than six to seven times per day), you may want to consider taking anti-nausea pills to ease the symptoms, so that you don’t get too dehydrated.
Achy and Tender Breasts
Breast tenderness is due to the effect of the increasing levels of the pregnancy hormones oestrogen and progesterone. The breasts are likely to grow bigger during pregnancy due to increased fat deposits in the breasts, growing milk glands and a general increase in the blood flow to the breasts. All these processes help to prepare the breasts for breastfeeding, explains Dr Nair.
To reduce breast tenderness, use a well-fitting bra that gives good support. Bra sizes may need to be changed as the pregnancy progresses.
Abdominal pain in early pregnancy, says Dr Nair, can be caused by the following.
Ligament pulling pain is caused by the stretching of the uterine ligaments. This is due to ligament strain as the uterus gets larger. If the discomfort is triggered by activity, then slow down. The pain usually subsides after a short while.
Constipation and increased gas can also cause abdominal pain. If the abdominal pain is associated with any bleeding then it is best to consult the doctor to exclude other causes such as ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy occurring outside the uterus) and miscarriage.
Fatigue in pregnancy is caused by the increasing levels of the hormone progesterone. You have to listen to your body and rest whenever you can. No point forcing yourself to exercise if you are too tired. Maintain a low impact exercise regime daily (walking or swimming) to improve the energy levels. Weekends can be spent resting at home if you are working. You should start to feel better in the second trimester. You can also consider taking Vitamin B complex in the mornings to see if it helps to boost your energy levels, advises Dr Choo Wan Ling, an obstetrician and gynaecologist, from Gleneagles Hospital Singapore.
Mood swings result from the sudden increase of pregnancy hormones. Different women react differently to the change in hormones. It is best to get support from family and friends to help you cope better. Exercise can help to lift one’s mood as it releases endorphins. If the mood swings are severe, it is best to consult a doctor.
Pregnant women are prone to experience dizziness during pregnancy due to changes in their blood circulation. The amount of blood in the body increases by 40 to 50 per cent. The heart rate increases and the heart has to pump more blood per minute. This helps increase the blood flow to your baby, but it slows the return of the blood in the veins to you. This causes your blood pressure to be lower than usual, which can reduce the blood flow to your brain, temporarily, thus the sensation of light-headedness and it is especially so when we stand up suddenly or stand/sit for long periods of time, explains Dr Choo. When this happens, you need to sit or lie down or put your head down for a few minutes. You should start to feel better after a couple of minutes or less, then slowly get up again.
Dizziness is also caused by low blood sugar levels that may occur as your body adapts to changes in your metabolism.
Have small frequent meals so that you don’t end up feeling too bloated. Gastric pains and constipation due to the gastrointestinal changes causes slower digestion, so try to maintain a healthy diet regime by drinking plenty of fluids, advises Dr Kelly Loi, an obstetrician and gynaecologist, also an accredited fertility specialist, from Health & Fertility Centre for Women. Antacid medication can be prescribed for gastric pains while laxatives can be given for constipation. You can also try some hot ginger tea.
Heightened Sense of Smell and a Funny Taste in the Mouth
The changes in hormones that also cause nausea is the main reason, says Dr Loi. Pregnancy hormones, particularly oestrogen, have a role in altering the sense of taste and smell. Avoid places that trigger these sensations like markets, supermarkets and food courts, for the time being. With the funny taste, plain water just tastes bad, so try adding some oranges slices or apple slices in the water to give it a little flavour. Try to keep to well-ventilated places as well.
There are few experiences in life that can top the moment when your pregnancy is confirmed. You may feel overwhelmed, shocked even, before coming to terms with this life changing event. Allow yourself time to adjust physically, mentally and emotionally about this eventful and exciting period of your life. Whether you are just starting a family or bringing a new addition into your current family, congratulations! Enjoy every minute of your pregnancy. Don’t wish this time away too quickly.