Finding out you're pregnant is an incredibly exciting time. You may have been attempting to conceive for a while and suddenly your wish of having a baby has come true.
Alternatively, your pregnancy might have come as a surprise to you, in which case it might take a while for the news to sink in.
Whatever your situation, whether your pregnancy was planned or not, you will be experiencing a range of emotions. Initially, you will probably feel elated, but don't be surprised if you find yourself also feeling anxious, weepy or even confused. It will take you a while to adjust to pregnancy, both emotionally and physically, so it's best to be prepared for the fact that you're bound to go up and down in terms of the way you're feeling on a daily basis.
One of the first classic symptoms of early pregnancy is one you will almost certainly have heard of — morning sickness. Although this usually occurs between five and six weeks of pregnancy, some women may start suffering from nausea just two weeks after conceiving.
Some women will just feel vaguely queasy, while others may experience actual vomiting. The name 'morning sickness' is also deceptive, as some women find that they feel sick all day. Don't panic, though, there are several steps you can take to make yourself feel better. Tips include eating small meals frequently, sucking lemon drops (some people swear this helps!), munching on ginger biscuits and eating relatively bland food, such as dry toast. According to Mervi Jokinen, Practice and Standards Development Adviser for the Royal College of Midwives, it's important that you eat regularly because, she says: "Pregnancy affects your glucose metabolism and blood sugar levels can drop quickly in some women, which will make you nauseated."
Another common side-effect of early pregnancy that you may experience is the feeling of extreme tiredness. According to Jokinen, this is due to hormones: "In the beginning there is a vast amount of growth and the hormones are involved in relaxing the womb to allow for the baby's development," she says. This fatigue usually lasts until the end of the first trimester. Take comfort from the fact that, as you enter your second trimester, you are likely to feel more energetic. Although it's not realistic for most women to have a daytime nap, relax as much as you can during the evenings and get as many early nights as you can. Share your responsibilities with your partner, friends and family. Eating a healthy diet and doing gentle exercise will also make you feel more energised. Jokinen states that your ligaments are more relaxed during pregnancy, so you have to be careful not to overstretch them. She recommends walking, swimming and yoga.
You may find yourself feeling quite faint in the early stages of pregnancy; this is because your blood flow is trying to keep up with your circulation. Make sure you drink lots of water to avoid dehydration, which can contribute to feelings of dizziness. Keep some healthy, high-energy food with you, such as bananas and raisins, wherever you go. If you start to feel faint, have a sit-down and a snack.
Other symptoms associated with the first trimester may surprise you; some women have reported excessive saliva. This is linked to morning sickness and eating fruit or chewing gum may help to alleviate the symptoms. You may also feel quite bloated and windy during the first few months; eating high-fibre foods, like bran cereals, fruit and vegetables could help.
In the first few weeks of pregnancy, you will experience many changes to your breasts. They may feel very tender and swollen; this is because the milk ducts are swelling and getting ready to lactate. Make sure you're wearing a well-fitting bra as you don't want to put any additional pressure on your breasts. Experts also advise women to avoid wearing underwired bras during pregnancy in case they interfere with the forming of delicate milk ducts. Around this time you may also have an overwhelming urge to pee frequently; this is because your uterus is growing, as is the baby inside, and it's pushing against your bladder, which makes you need to urinate. Make sure your underwear is loose-fitting and comfy - (thongs are a big no-no!). Although the need to wee constantly is completely normal in early pregnancy, if your urine starts to sting at all, visit your GP as you might have an infection.
Some women suffer from headaches in the first trimester. This can be due to a combination of tension and constipation. To avoid headaches, get as much rest as possible, keep up your fluid intake and try using an ice-pack. You might also experience bleeding gums; if you do, have regular checkups with your dentist during pregnancy, brush your teeth thoroughly and remember to floss.
Emotions running wild
As well as all the physical aspects associated with early pregnancy, it's important that you're also aware of the emotional side of expecting a baby. Jokinen suggests that pregnancy makes women 'take stock' in terms of how a baby will change their lives. Furthermore, she proposes that, "As women have often not seen or been present at a birth, there is less confidence in their ability to cope with labour." She goes adds: "I think every woman also asks themselves and midwives for reassurance that their baby is ok."
Although you have every right to be overjoyed, it's fundamental that you take time to consider the changes you will have to make to your life. Be prepared to make sacrifices. Aside from giving up smoking if you do, you will also need to cut alcohol and coffee consumption down to a minimum (or give them up altogether).