Let's get one thing straight: Pregnancy consists of roughly 40 weeks of physiological change and pressure on every body system imaginable. Despite the stress involved, Alice Domar, Ph.D., assistant professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Biology at Harvard Medical School, asserts that "the vast majority of pregnancies turn out fine." Although some symptoms of pregnancy require immediate medical attention, there are plenty of other pregnancy symptoms that you don't need to rush to the doctor's office over. Definitely mention these seven symptoms to your health care provider when she asks how you've been -- she should know what's going on, even if it's no big deal -- but there's no need to waste your time worrying about them.
Feeling Queasy -- "Morning sickness" is a commonly used term, but it is normal to experience nausea throughout the day while pregnant. Laura Riley, M.D., director of Labor and Delivery, and Obstetrics at Massachusetts General Hospital clarifies: "Nausea is not a big deal; vomiting and weight loss are problems." Many women experience some relief after the first trimester, but it is also normal to feel occasional bouts of queasiness during all nine months of pregnancy. Staying hydrated and eating often are some ways to combat nausea. If the nausea does not subside or is accompanied by frequent vomiting, definitely call your doctor.
Abdominal Pain -- "The most common alarm bell that does not need to be sounded is abdominal pain," Dr. Riley says. "Unless the pain is getting worse, unrelenting, or is associated with bleeding, it is likely just normal uterus growing, round ligaments stretching, or gas," she explains. "The latter pains are generally fleeting but can be intense. Round ligament and uterus stretching is achy but goes away with rest."
Fatigue -- It takes a lot of work to grow a baby, and many women find themselves sleeping more and exercising less. Energy levels wax and wane during pregnancy and it is important for expectant mothers to listen to their bodies and rest when they feel the need. Dr. Domar tells patients that they do not need to feel like they must do everything during pregnancy. Skip making dinner. Let the laundry sit unfolded once in a while -- you're just going to wear it again, right? After a long day of work, "it's okay to order a pizza and watch reruns" to rest and recharge, Dr. Domar says.
Constipation -- The baby pressing down on a woman's rectum and the slowing down of intestinal muscles due to pregnancy hormones make constipation a common complaint during pregnancy. The iron in prenatal vitamins or iron supplements for anemia (another side effect of pregnancy) also cause constipation. There is no need to immediately worry, as most women find relief by increasing their fiber intake, drinking more fluids, and exercising. Some over-the-counter stool softeners are helpful and safe to try, and can alleviate constipation as well.
Vivid Dreams -- "It is completely normal to have extremely vivid, even scary nightmares or dreams because of the pregnancy," Dr. Domar says. Many pregnant women report an increase in random, lifelike dreams. "Hormones make it hard to differentiate in the middle of the night between reality and nightmares," Dr. Domar says. "While these dreams seem to heighten in the third trimester, they are normal and typically subside once pregnancy is over."
Pregnancy Brain -- "Pregnancy brain does exist," Dr. Domar says. "Women are more forgetful, especially in the third trimester." Although it is frustrating to forget words, appointments, or tasks at times, it is part of the pregnancy package. An expectant mom may feel like she's going crazy, but the stress of pregnancy and a future new baby can affect memory.
Mood Swings -- Women experience changes in their sleep patterns and eating habits during pregnancy, and these affect a woman's emotional state. Dr. Domar explains that it is completely common to feel "scared, irritable, or ambivalent" when pregnant. It is not talked about as often, but pregnancy is an extremely emotional experience and there is a lot going on in a woman's head during those nine months. Sometimes a pregnant woman's feelings change hourly and move quickly from happy to sad to nervous. "Women have a lot of insecurity over whether they're going to be a good mother," Dr. Domar explains. The most important thing is to realize that these questions and fears are a normal part of pregnancy, but definitely get help if you feel as though something is seriously wrong, or if you have thoughts of hurting yourself or someone else.
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