From the earliest weeks of pregnancy, lots of questions arise on what may feel like a daily basis. In this article, we cover the basics so that you can take a break from Google and enjoy some much-deserved rest. Here are 12 of the most frequently-asked pregnancy questions and answers.
What are the early signs of pregnancy?
Pregnancy symptoms differ from person to person and pregnancy to pregnancy. Some women might start to notice changes within the first week and some might not until they miss a period. The surest way to know you’re pregnant is to take a pregnancy test or contact your healthcare provider.
Here are some common early signs of pregnancy:
- Missed period. If you’re in your childbearing years and a week or more has passed without the start of an expected menstrual cycle, you might be pregnant. However, this symptom can be misleading if you have an irregular menstrual cycle.
- Tender, swollen breasts. Early in pregnancy hormonal changes might make your breasts sensitive and sore. The discomfort will likely decrease after a few weeks as your body adjusts to hormonal changes.
- Nausea with or without vomiting. Morning sickness, which can occur at any time of the day or night, often begins in the first trimester. However, some women feel nausea earlier and some never experience it. Pregnancy hormones likely play a role.
- Increased urination. You might find yourself urinating more often than usual. The amount of blood in your body increases during pregnancy, causing your kidneys to process extra fluid that ends up in your bladder.
- Fatigue. Fatigue also ranks high among early symptoms of pregnancy. During early pregnancy, levels of the hormone progesterone soar – which might make you feel sleepy.
It is important to note that several of these symptoms are not exclusive to pregnancy, and could indicate sickness or an upcoming period. You can also be pregnant without experiencing these symptoms.
Still, if you miss a period and notice some of the above signs or symptoms, take a home pregnancy test or see your health care provider. If your home pregnancy test is positive, make an appointment with your health care provider.
When is my baby due?
In general, pregnancies last around 40 weeks (or 38 weeks from conception), so the best way to estimate your due date is to count 40 weeks, or 280 days, from the first day of your last period. This is an estimated due date based on the typical number of weeks of pregnancy and should not be used as an exact deadline for your baby to arrive. You can also use a due date calculator to help with getting a more accurate date. Additionally, your health care practitioner will have a better idea of your due date after your first prenatal care visit.
What foods should I avoid during pregnancy?
As a general rule of thumb, most foods are safe to consume during pregnancy. However, there are some you should be careful with or avoid completely to protect the well-being of your baby.
Here are some foods you should be careful with or avoid:
Dairy: Imported soft cheeses or unpasteurized dairy may contain listeria bacteria, which can cause serious illness in pregnant women and babies.
- Any other foods made from unpasteurized milk, such as soft ripened goats' cheese
- Pasteurized or unpasteurised mold-ripened soft cheeses with a white coating on the outside, such as Brie, Camembert, and chèvre (unless cooked until steaming hot)
- Pasteurised or unpasteurized soft blue cheeses, such as Danish blue, Gorgonzola and Roquefort (unless cooked until steaming hot)
- Unpasteurized cows' milk, goats' milk, sheep's milk or cream
Meats: Undercooked meat, deli meat, and cold cured meats can contain harmful bacteria and should be avoided. Cook all meats thoroughly before consumption.
- Be careful with cold cured meats, such as salami, pepperoni, chorizo, and prosciutto (unless cooked thoroughly).Raw or undercooked meat
- Liver and liver products due to high vitamin A content
- All types of pâté, including vegetarian pâté
- Game meats such as goose, partridge or pheasant
Eggs: Raw or undercooked eggs may contain listeria bacteria. Pasteurized egg products such as commercially available dressings are generally considered safe.
- Raw or partially cooked hen eggs
- Raw or partially cooked duck, goose, or quail eggs
Fish: Certain kinds of fish may contain harmful levels of mercury and other heavy metals. Wild caught, low-mercury species of fish is generally considered safe and even beneficial due to omega-3 content. Check here for more about which fish are safe to eat.
- Smoked fish (Smoked Salmon & Trout)
- Raw tuna
- King Mackerel
- Raw Shellfish
Other: Use caution or avoid the following foods and drinks during pregnancy
- Limit to 200mg of caffeine per day.
- Avoid alcohol consumption.
- Drink no more than 4 cups of herbal tea a day.
- Make sure to thoroughly wash all fruits, vegetables, and salad ingredients.
- Do not take high-dose multivitamin supplements, or any supplements with vitamin A in them.
Can I exercise during pregnancy?
Exercise is important to keep our bodies healthy throughout our life. Moderate exercise during pregnancy has been repeatedly shown to be safe and have beneficial effects. Studies show that a combination of cardiovascular and strength training along with yoga is best during pregnancy. Additionally, pregnant women who exercise are less likely to experience pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, and preeclampsia.
You might begin to find your body is more tired in the third trimester, bringing a number of physical challenges, including pelvic pain, back pain, and more. This tiredness is normal and it is important to find a routine that works for you. A combination of cardio, mobility, and strength exercises can be continued throughout and will assist in preparing your body for birth. The key here is to listen to your body. At any point, if you feel pain or discomfort, stop exercising and contact your doctor for medical advice.
How much bleeding is normal during pregnancy?
Bleeding and spotting (light bleeding) from the vagina during pregnancy are common, and it may not be a sign of a problem. In fact, up to 1 out of 4 of all pregnant women have some bleeding or spotting during their pregnancy. Tell your provider about any bleeding you experience even if it is light so that your provider can find out what is causing it. At any time, if you have heavy bleeding, seek medical care right away as this can be a sign of miscarriage.
What prenatal vitamins should I take?
Prenatal vitamins and eating healthy foods are most important for women’s health and make sure your baby gets essential nutrients. These are different from regular multivitamins as your body now needs more nutrients. Make sure your prenatal vitamin has folic acid, iron, and calcium in it as these are important to ensure a healthy baby. It is also important to make sure you get enough vitamin D, DHA, and iodine each day. Do not take any supplements without first talking to your provider. Do not forget to mention your dietary restrictions to your provider as this can influence which supplements you require.
Which healthcare providers do I need to see?
Prenatal care is extremely important throughout your months of pregnancy to check on you and your growing baby. An obstetrician/gynecologist (also called OB/GYN) is a doctor who specializes in taking care of pregnant women and delivering babies. It is vital to find the right obstetric care especially if this is your first time pregnant. Do not be afraid to talk to your provider about personal matters and history as it is their job to help you on your journey.
How much weight should I gain?
During your first check up, your provider will check your weight and height to figure out appropriate weight gain during pregnancy for your body. According to the CDC, the amount of weight you gain depends on your BMI pre pregnancy and if you are pregnant with more than one baby. It is important to gain the recommended amount of weight so the baby is not too small. Some babies born too small may be more at risk for illness and may have a difficult time breastfeeding.
When does morning sickness begin?
One of the most common pregnancy questions is regarding morning sickness in the first trimester and throughout the rest of the pregnancy. About 7 in 10 pregnant women have morning sickness in the first trimester (first 3 months) of pregnancy. It usually starts at about 6 weeks of pregnancy and is at its worst at about 9 weeks. Most women feel better in their second trimester, but some may have morning sickness throughout pregnancy. Talk to your provider about ways to aid with discomfort or if your morning sickness persists into month 4 of your pregnancy.
When do food cravings begin?
Although there is no steadfast rule surrounding food cravings and is different for every pregnant woman, generally cravings might begin in the first trimester and get stronger in the second trimester. They will eventually slow down in the third trimester. These cravings can call for unhealthy foods so it is important to keep these temptations to a minimum to avoid any discomfort such as heartburn, and make sure you get the essential nutrients your body needs. It is also important to note that if you find yourself craving things that are not food, like toothpaste, coal or even soil, speak to your healthcare provider, as this could be a sign of a vitamin deficiency.
What should I expect at my first prenatal care visit?
Your first prenatal care visit will consist of a consultation discussing your health history and running some tests. You should expect this appointment to be one of the longest you will have during your pregnancy. Your first appointment will include a general checkup and confirmation of your pregnancy as well as some tests including urine test, blood work, genetic carrier screening, STD tests, pap smear, and blood sugar test. Many practitioners might conduct an ultrasound during the first visit, which is the most accurate way of dating a pregnancy. This is also the time to ask questions and share personal health history with your provider. It is their job to help you on your journey so do not be afraid to get personal.
How can I help reduce the risk of birth defects?
Not all birth defects can be prevented, but it is important to take measures to ensure a healthy pregnancy and avoid negative outcomes such as stillbirth, preterm labor, and other complications.
Here are some tips on how to reduce the risk of birth defects:
- Plan ahead when considering getting pregnant.
- See a healthcare professional regularly.
- Keep health conditions such as diabetes under control.
- Avoid harmful substances such as alcohol and drugs.
- Avoid overheating and treat fevers properly.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Choosing a healthy lifestyle by managing conditions and adopting good behaviors can increase your chances of having a healthy baby.
Pregnancy can be an overwhelming time, but knowing that you are doing everything you can to get ready for the journey and staying healthy during your pregnancy will give your baby a healthy start in life and will help you to have peace of mind.
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- “Early Signs of Pregnancy.” American Pregnancy Association, 1 July 2022, https://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-symptoms/early-signs-of-pregnancy/
- “Learn More about Birth Defects.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 7 Mar. 2022, https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/birthdefects/index.html
- “Morning Sickness.” March of Dimes, https://www.marchofdimes.org/pregnancy/morning-sickness
- "Foods to Avoid in Pregnancy." NHS, https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/keeping-well/foods-to-avoid/
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- “Prenatal Care Checkups.” March of Dimes, https://www.marchofdimes.org/find-support/topics/planning-baby/prenatal-care-checkups
- “Symptoms of Pregnancy: What Happens First.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 3 Dec. 2021, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/getting-pregnant/in-depth/symptoms-of-pregnancy/art-20043853.
- “Vitamins and Other Nutrients during Pregnancy.” March of Dimes, https://www.marchofdimes.org/find-support/topics/pregnancy/vitamins-and-other-nutrients-during-pregnancy
- “Weight Gain during Pregnancy.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 13 June 2022, https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/maternalinfanthealth/pregnancy-weight-gain.htm.
- "Foods to Avoid When Pregnany." American Pregnancy Association, https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/pregnancy-health-wellness/foods-to-avoid-during-pregnancy/
- "Mercury Levels in Fish." American Pregnancy Association, https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/is-it-safe/mercury-levels-in-fish/