Pregnancy can be an intimidating and complicated time in your life. Your body undergoes a lot of changes that can be uncomfortable, and downright scary!
It’s normal to feel afraid or worry about certain symptoms and health conditions and this could easily spiral into the territory of overthinking or feeling overwhelmed. If you find yourself having some pre-natal jitters, we’re here to help.
Since knowledge is power, here are 6 maternity secrets that not all expectant mothers are aware of during pregnancy.
1. Acid Reflux/Indigestion/Heartburn May Be a Thing
Now before you get alarmed, this condition is actually fairly common.
Whatever term you choose to call it, this condition occurs during pregnancy because the increased levels of progesterone in your system relaxes your oesophageal sphincter. As a result, this may facilitate stomach acid to shoot back up to your throat, causing a burning sensation in your lower chest area (hence heartburn).
Thankfully however, acid reflux can be treated with prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medicine. Moreover, all of these should cease and revert to normal post-natal.
2. Prolonged Morning Sickness Past Your First Trimester
First off, contrary to its name, morning sickness can occur at any time of the day. It can start early in the morning or kick in with the sunset.
Although its exact cause is still open to debate, many health professionals believe that it’s most likely caused by a sudden increase in the pregnancy hormone, human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) along with your two sex hormones, oestrogen and progesterone.
Understandably, those with higher levels of hCG are more susceptible to morning sickness.
As a rough guide, morning sickness typically occurs roughly around the 5th to 6th week of your first trimester. According to KidsHealth, nausea tendencies may peak around your 9th week and subside thereafter by your 16th to 18th week.
Whichever the case may be, every mother’s experience with morning sickness can be drastically different. Some mothers never experience an ounce of nausea throughout their entire pregnancy however other mothers may have to endure it for days and months on end.
Regardless of which camp you belong to, I think we can all unanimously agree that morning sickness is the worst. No one wants to feel nauseous and queasy with a developing fetus in their abdomen.
But hey, that’s part of the pregnancy package right?
3. You’ll Start Peeing More and Frequently
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With an elevated level of bodily fluid, it’s no wonder you’ll find yourself making trips to the toilet more often!
This is a sign of your kidneys working overtime to flush out the extra fluid. Moreover, as your pregnancy progresses into the third trimester, your baby would obviously be bigger, inflicting greater pressure on your bladder, thereby perpetuating the cycle of neverending toilet trips.
As a result, many expectant mothers often complain of insufficient sleep by this stage due to the frequent trips to the toilet they make during the night; but it’s all part and parcel of the pregnancy process.
4. Fancy a Sharper Sense of Smell?
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Don’t worry, you’re not about to transform into a tracking bloodhound. But, for some odd reason, some expectant mothers do develop a keener sense of smell.
Although initially, an elevated olfactory sense might seem cool and useful, it’s all fun and games until you accidentally come across rotting food or an unpleasant case of B.O. on buses and MRTs.
Well turns out, this heightened sensitivity can be accrued to your oestrogen levels. But wait, what does oestrogen have anything to do with smell?
Well, oestrogen is also responsible for protecting your olfactory system (among many other roles), particularly during pregnancy!
On top of that, expect a gassier few months ahead as your progesterone level builds up and loosens your body’s muscles, including your gastrointestinal muscles. Because of that, you might be both the culprit and victim to undesirable stenches.
5. What’s Happening to My Lower Limbs?
a) Leg Cramps
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Making their appearance in the second or third trimester, leg cramps are another problem that nobody warns you about. Typically occurring in your calves and/or feet, these involuntary muscle contractions typically happen at night — sneaking up on you in your sleep and causing a rude awakening.
Although the reason for them is unclear, some doctors believe that
• changes in blood circulation,
• extra stress on leg muscles due to added weight,
• compressed blood vessels and nerves in legs, and
• low calcium
are plausible explanations.
It seems that the best way to relieve annoying leg cramps is to straighten your leg and flex your foot upwards as much as possible. Massages help too. These methods should help alleviate your cramped calf muscles in a few minutes.
b) Restless Leg Syndrome
Another curious experience that might occur during pregnancy is restless leg syndrome. Although not inherently dangerous, it can no doubt interrupt your sleep schedule greatly.
Typically affecting your lower legs (between the knee and ankle), no doctors can give a definitive explanation for its cause.
All we know is that the best remedies for it are stretching, warm bubble baths, massages and perhaps acupuncture.
c) Growth in Feet Size
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Lastly, your feet may grow — yes, this is not a joke. By now, it’s apparent that you’ll experience a surge of hormones (i.e. progesterone and oestrogen) during pregnancy, but not many know about the hormone Relaxin.
Relaxin is responsible for regulating the tightness of your ligaments, hence as the name suggests, increased levels of this hormone will result in a relaxing of your ligaments; and so, this includes your feet as well, causing them to expand.
Furthermore, your body will be retaining fluids that tend to accumulate at the lowest point of your body. In addition to the extra fetus weight, it’s no wonder your ankles and feet are also more prone to swelling up.
Some tips to manage swelling include:
• increasing your water intake,
• reducing coffee and salt consumption
• eating more potassium-rich foods, as well as
• exercising, foot massages and wearing compression stockings/socks.
In some post-partum cases, this growth in feet size may be permanent. However, do note that if you experience a sudden swell in your ankles and feet, it’s best to seek the medical advice of your doctor. It might be a symptom of preeclampsia, a pregnancy complication arising from hypertension and organ damage.
6. Maintaining Good Dental Health
During pregnancy, it’s important to take inventory of your oral hygiene.
In a study conducted in 2005, a dental researcher discovered a correlation between women with children bearing relatively fewer teeth than those without.
Gingivitis is a common and mild form of gum (periodontal) disease involving irritation and inflammation of the gingiva, the gum around the base of your teeth.
Due to heightened levels of oestrogen and progesterone during pregnancy, gums can become more sensitive and consequently swell. In turn, they become more susceptible to bleeding too.
One study has revealed that the statistic of pregnant women being afflicted with gingivitis is purportedly as high as 75 per cent.
Another major study has also found a link between chronic gum disease and premature birth. Pregnant women were found to deliver prematurely and underweight babies four to seven times more likely than those with healthy gums.
This is attributed to bacteria entering the bloodstream via infected gums and travelling to the uterus. Thereafter, the bacteria trigger the production of chemicals known as prostaglandins, which are believed to induce premature labour.
But apart from increased hormonal levels, an accumulation of plaque on teeth has also been cited as a potential cause of bleeding gums. Fortunately in both instances, gum-swelling should subside postpartum.
b) Pregnancy Tumours
Perhaps what is more uncommon would be the strange occurrence of “pregnancy tumours” or pyogenic granuloma among many other terminologies. Some pregnant women might experience a large lump characterised by deep red pinpoint markings on inflamed gum tissue, near the upper gum line.
Although they might occur at any time, they are commonly observed to form around the second trimester. Moreover, these tumours may bleed and crust over, making speech and chewing incredibly uncomfortable.
Now, before you panic, these pregnancy tumours are common enough, affecting over 10% of pregnant women.
These tumours arise as an extreme inflammatory reaction at a site of irritation, usually caused by food particles or plaque — see the relevance of good oral hygiene? Thankfully, they don’t require any formal treatment and will go away on their own after childbirth.
All in all, prevention is the best cure here.
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Routine dental care and opting for professional dental cleaning are highly advised during pregnancy. It’s arguably one of the most important points in your life to keep tabs on your overall dental health.
Practise good oral hygiene such as brushing (twice a day) and flossing (once a day) along with using antimicrobial mouthwash where possible.
On top of that, try your best to limit sugary foods and snacks and opt for a healthier diet instead.
Every Pregnancy is Different
As much as all these aforementioned pregnancy precautions are pertinent to note, do not over-worry unnecessarily.
Every woman’s pregnancy journey is different and completely subjective. Each experience differs greatly depending on a myriad of factors such as existing state of health, medical history, lifestyle, diet and so on.
Although you may rely on pregnancy guides and whatnot, take all the information with a pinch of salt. Instead, trust the process by listening to your body intently; it’s doing a wonderful job at nurturing and sustaining new life. Enjoy your pregnancy for what it is.