At first, it can feel unreal when you’re pregnant. But as your pregnancy goes on you start feeling more and more attached to the growing life inside you. Nine months usually feels just the right length of time to get used to the idea of having a baby and get ready mentally for giving birth.
When you’re pregnant, your body changes in lots of ways that help the baby grow and get you ready for giving birth. The only thing is, unfortunately, some of these changes can have less than pleasant ‘side effects’!
Of course, you want to give your baby the best chance to grow well and have a healthy start in life. And you need to look after yourself, too!
Pregnancy 'side effect'
First of all, let's be clear: you’re not ill, you’re pregnant! But as your body changes and gets ready for the birth, there can be some ‘side effects’ you’d rather do without.
You might experience all of these 'side effects' or maybe even none at all. But what are some of the things you have to put up with when you're pregnant?
One of the first things you might notice when you’re pregnant is ‘morning sickness’. In fact, this common name isn’t totally accurate, as you can feel nauseous at any time of the day, especially when your stomach is empty.
The nausea is caused by the pregnancy hormone HGC – the one that shows up in a pregnancy test. This does a really important job in stopping your pregnancy from ending prematurely. The unfortunate ‘side effect’ is that it can make you want to throw up.
For most women who have morning sickness, the symptoms start around six weeks after their last period.
From around week 12 the sick feeling usually starts to ease off, and by week 16 it’s over because the HGC hormone has done its job and your body stops producing it.
Some women have little or no nausea in the first weeks of pregnancy. Other women hardly feel able to do anything because they feel so queasy all the time. It can help to eat little and often, and avoid having an empty stomach.
Related: 10 Tips For A Healthy Pregnancy
During the first months of pregnancy, you may be feeling a jumble of emotions for a lot of different reasons anyway. But just like in the run-up to your period, the hormones during the first months of pregnancy can make you feel moody and irritable. At the drop of a hat, you can fly into a fury or burst into tears.
Having a baby growing inside you takes a lot of energy, and you might find you feel much more tired than usual. When you’re pregnant you need more rest and sleep than you usually do. On the other hand, some women feel bursting with energy when they’re pregnant. If that’s you, enjoy it – there’s no point in resting if you don’t need to. Go with your own energy level.
Especially during the first months of pregnancy you can have a huge appetite – yes, as well as feeling nauseous some of the time. The old saying ‘you need to eat for two’ isn’t really true, you just need a normal, healthy diet.
Don’t worry if you put on a bit of weight – many women do. Later, when the baby starts growing faster, you’ll put on less weight yourself.
Needing the toilet
At the start of your pregnancy, the womb grows fast and starts pressing on your bladder. This makes you need to pee more often. Eventually, the womb starts growing upwards so it doesn’t push down on your bladder as much. Only at the end, the baby’s head can start pressing on your bladder again.
As your womb gets bigger, it pulls down on the ligaments that hold it in place in your pelvis. This can cause cramp-like and stabbing pains in the abdomen.
Your boobs are getting ready to produce milk for your baby. Right from the start, your breasts grow bigger and can feel tight and tender. The stretching skin can also be itchy.
The veins in your breasts get bigger, so if you’ve got pale skin they can show through. This goes away after you stop breastfeeding – though when the whole experience is over your breasts will be a different shape. You’ll need a good, supportive bra when you’re pregnant to keep your breasts comfortable and stop them sagging.
Especially if it’s your first baby, your nipples get a bit bigger so the baby can latch on more easily. They can also be more tender. The areolae – the area around the nipples – also widen and the skin gets darker. They can also develop little bumps – these are glands which produce a grease to help keep the skin of your nipples supple.
When you’re pregnant, everything needs to relax and stretch – first to make room for the growing baby, and eventually so your cervix and vagina can open up for the baby to come out. The hormone that makes this happen is called progesterone. Unfortunately, it also has some side effects.
The muscles in your bowels also relax. This means they can’t push the food through your intestines as quickly as they normally do. Your stool gets harder, and you can get constipated.
Piles and varicose veins
Another side effect of progesterone: it makes your veins relax too. At the same time, you’ve got more blood circulating in your body when you’re pregnant. This can give you varicose veins in your legs – the extra pressure on your softened veins makes them stretch and they can work their way to the surface of your skin. They can give an itchy and uncomfortable feeling.
Another nasty place you can get varicose veins is in your anus. Then they’re known as haemorrhoids or piles. These are itchy, sore bobbles on the inside or outside of your anus. And if you’ve got constipation, the pushing and straining can make them worse.
All in all, progesterone does a great job making you stretchy so your stomach can grow and you can push out the baby. But the side effects are a pain in the backside – literally!