BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Pregnancy is an exciting time, not just for the changes that are coming to your home in nine months, but also the changes that happen in a pregnant woman’s body throughout the journey.

Symptoms can include glowing skin and hair, but also some much less glamorous ones.

Dr. Edward Allen, a practicing OBGYN with Dignity Health, gives some explanation of what the body is doing to prepare to grow life and tips on how to deal with the symptoms.

“We [doctors] don’t have anything to do with it except for being the conduit,” Dr. Allen said. “You women are something else.”

1st trimester

The first trimester comprises weeks one through 12 or 13. Dr. Allen said this period is the most crucial time for the baby since their body and organs systems are developing.

“When you get pregnant, your body has about 30% more blood volume than before you got pregnant,” Allen said.

Nausea, vomiting and breast changes

Dr. Allen said this is when women will start feeling symptoms like nausea or vomiting, breast tenderness and changes. These symptoms are a result of the initial implantation of the egg. The body starts secreting a slew of hormones. This is called being hyper-estrogenic and can have affects on breasts, Dr. Allen said.

Dr. Allen said a tip to ease nausea is to eat crackers or dry toast, or break up larger meals into 5 to 6 smaller meals throughout the day.

Cravings

Dr. Allen said it’s not clear what causes cravings, but it’s the body’s way of saying it needs a certain nutrient. Nutrient deficiencies can impact the baby. For example, ice cravings can be a sign of anemia (iron deficiency), Dr. Allen said, which can lead to developmental delays for the baby.

Dr. Allen said there are tests that can be run to diagnose certain issues.

Cravings can last all throughout pregnancy, not just the first trimester.

Weight gain

Dr. Allen said one of the main concerns people usually have when first getting pregnant is how much weight they should be gaining.

“It’s difficult to tell a patient how much weight they should gain because it does change often,” Dr. Allen said. “And it also depends on where you start from.”

Ideally, Dr. Allen said it is ideal for a patient to be within 15 pounds of their ideal body weight before getting pregnant. But in most cases, that is not the case.

“At least 80% are overweight or obese,” Dr. Allen said. This is based on body mass index.

If you are underweight (BMI is less than 18.5) it is recommended to gain between 28 and 40 pounds throughout the whole pregnancy. A “normal” weight (BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9) it is recommended to gain between 20 and 35 pounds. Overweight (BMI is between 25 and 29.9 15) it’s recommended to gain up to 25 pounds. Obese, (BMI is greater than 30) it is recommended to gain between 11 and 20 pounds.

Dr. Allen said those parameters are not meant to be stressful and eating healthy is the priority.

“If you can’t meet these parameters, do what’s best for your baby,” Dr. Allen said. “If you have to eat more, eat more!”

He also said pregnancy is not a time to be dieting.

On a diet, the body will start to break down fat and the baby can’t consume ketones for brain development, Dr. Allen said.

An unbalanced diet can lead to defects like spina bifida.

No safe amount of alcohol that can be consumed during pregnancy, Dr. Allen added.

2nd trimester

The second trimester, sometimes referred to as the”Golden Period,” comprises weeks 14 through 26. Many of the unpleasant symptoms from the first trimester subside by the second trimester.

Most mothers also start feeling the baby move by this time, Dr. Allen said.

But, new symptoms come along.

Back pain, cramps and digestion issues

During this period, the uterus is starting to outgrow the pelvis which can result in back pain, cramps and changes to digestion. The uterus begins compressing on the digestive system organs including the bowel and stomach.

“They are being moved and not functioning quite as well as they used to,” Dr. Allen said.

Hormones also play a role in digestion changes, causing the gut motility to decrease making it harder to move food through regularly.

Hemorrhoids

This also includes issues with hemorrhoids. Dr. Allen said rectal veins can become swollen. As the uterus compresses the inferior vena cava–the largest vein in the body that lies on the right side of the spine–the blood supply becomes compromised.

This is why doctors often recommend that patients should lie on their left sides to take some pressure off the inferior vena cava to improve blood circulation to the fetus.

3rd trimester

The third trrimester comprises weeks 27 to 40.

By this period, the the uterus becomes much larger than the pelvis. Dr. Allen said the uterus normally weighs 2 ounces, but by this time the uterus is 2.5 pounds–20x it’s normal size.

Difficulty breathing

Symptoms like difficulty breathing can occur because the uterus is now compressing the diaphragm.

Incontinence

The uterus also compresses on the bladder leading to incontinence. Dr. Allen said it’s important to distinguish between urine and amniotic fluid leaking.

Dr. Allen said if a patient thinks it might be amniotic fluid, tell a doctor know right away.

“It can be difficult for the patient to tell,” Dr. Allen said. If there is a large gush of fluid, Dr. Allen said to call healthcare provider to be sure.

Other FAQs

Exercise

Dr. Allen said it’s important to find an exercise program that works for you. Starting a new program can be dangerous.

Activities like yoga, walking, swimming and cycling on a stationary bike are all relatively safe. He said to avoid things like scuba diving, horseback riding, contact sports or skiing. High altitudes can induce labor.

This is that same with air travel. Dr. Allen said to avoid air travel once you reach the third trimester.

Saunas, hot tubs, steam rooms or any other excessive heat should be avoided, Dr. Allen said. It’s important to keep well-hydrated. 

Pets

Dr. Allen said cat litter can have a parasite called toxoplasmosis, which can be very dangerous for the fetus. So if you have cats, have someone else change the litter if possible.

“All those mothers out there, thank you for having us. If it weren’t for y’all, we wouldn’t be here!”