Pregnancy can be an exciting time. However, it is challenging too. You can feel another human growing inside you, which can give you a sense of elation, but at the same time, you experience massive changes in your body, which can leave you perplexed and tired. Your belly grows in size, you gain weight, your breasts get enlarged, you tend to urinate often, you get back, belly, and leg pains -- all these things happen as your baby transforms from a fertilised egg into a fully grown human. Since this period, which lasts for 9 months, can be both challenging and confusing, it is better to be stay informed. Here are all of your pregnancy-related questions answered. 

Pregnancy Symptoms

Pregnancy displays many symptoms, some of which you might experience even before you take a pregnancy test. There are some you will experience as your hormones change. 

Here are some common symptoms of pregnancy:

  • Missed Period: This is generally the first sign that you are pregnant. However, it doesn’t confirm pregnancy, as a missed period can be a result of other conditions as well, such as PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), irregular period, etc.
  • Morning Sickness: Vomiting and nausea, which together comprise morning sickness, is a common pregnancy symptom experienced by over 50% of women. It happens because of hormonal changes. It generally goes away at the end of the first trimester but can return in the third one. And do not get confused by the word, morning sickness can happen at any time of the day. 
  • Breast Changes: During pregnancy, the breasts become tender, swollen, and full. This might be similar to what you experience before the start of your periods. The nipples also get large and the veins darker.
  • Fatigue: You might feel excessively tired during early pregnancy. This is largely due to hormonal changes. Hence, rest whenever you can. Fatigue can be also caused by iron deficiency, which can cause anemia. If you have the same, increase your intake of iron-rich foods such as spinach, dried fruits, peas, beans, and seafood. 
  • Frequent Urination: During pregnancy, your uterus gets enlarged, and when this enlarged uterus presses against the bladder, it makes you pee often.
  • Food Cravings: Craving for certain foods is common during pregnancy. You might even crave those foods that you earlier disliked. It is OK to indulge in your cravings sometimes and as long as the major portion of your diet comprises healthy foods. Not just craving, you might also develop an aversion to certain foods that you earlier liked. Many women also crave non-food items, such as soil or paper, and this may hint at nutrient deficiency. If this is the case, it is better to consult a doctor. 

These are the most common pregnancy symptoms, there can be other symptoms too:

  • Light bleeding or spotting
  • Back pain
  • Leg cramps
  • Headache
  • Heartburn
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Varicose veins
  • Mood swings

When To Take A Pregnancy Test?

You can take a pregnancy test if you think you are pregnant. Many women take one after they miss their period. However, you must wait for at least a week after you miss your period before taking the test. This is because when you take a pregnancy test, you are actually checking for the presence of a hormone, called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), in your body. Your body releases hCG once the fertilised egg attaches to the uterus wall, which generally takes at least 6 days. 

You can either take the urine-based test at home or at a clinic or a blood test, which can be only taken at a clinic. Blood tests are more accurate as they can confirm even a tiny amount of hCG. However, most women find it convenient to take a home-based test and then confirm the same with the blood test.

You can easily get a home pregnancy kit at any medical store. It comes with a dipstick, and might also contain a collection cup. You have to pee in the cup and then place the dipstick in it. Some kits might require you to pee on the stick. Wait for a few minutes for the results to show. If it comes out to be positive, it means you are pregnant and must see a doctor as soon as you can.

What Are The Pregnancy Trimesters Like?

Pregnancy, which spans 9 months or 40 weeks, is divided into 3 trimesters, each of which is marked by new developments in the fetus. Although it usually takes 40 weeks for the baby to be fully developed, the baby can be born anywhere between the 37th and 42nd weeks. 

First Trimester (1 to 12 weeks)

This is a crucial period when your baby’s structure and organs begin to take shape. It’s also the time when most miscarriages and bodily defects happen. Your body also undergoes major changes -- you start putting on weight, your breasts get larger, you urinate often, and feel tired. However, just like pregnancy, its symptoms differ from woman to woman.

Second Trimester (13-28 weeks)

Often called the ‘golden period’ of pregnancy, in the second trimester, you no longer experience the unpleasant symptoms associated with the first trimester. The morning sickness goes away, you can sleep better, and you get your energy back in this period. However, this doesn’t mean that it will be a cakewalk, as you will experience a whole new set of symptoms, such as back and leg pain, constipation, indigestion, and heartburn. This is also the period when you will feel your baby’s movement for the first time.

Third Trimester (29-40 weeks)

The final leg of pregnancy, the third trimester can be both challenging and exciting. Your baby fully develops and you experience a whole new set of symptoms during this time. You might experience breathlessness, frequent urination, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, and sleeping problems.

What To Eat During Pregnancy?

Eating right is important at any point in life. However, it becomes all the more important when you are pregnant, as it is crucial for your health and that of your baby. And, you do not need to go on a special diet for that. Just focus on a variety of foods, and try to get as many nutrients and minerals as you can. These tips might help:

  • Include lots of fruits & vegetables in your diet for the nutrients and minerals they offer. They are also rich in fiber, which aids digestion. Just make it a point to incorporate at least five portions of fruits and vegetables into your diet daily. 
  • You must have starchy carbohydrates while pregnant, as they are important sources of energy, are rich in fiber, and makes you feel full for long. Potato, rice, bread, oats, millets are some of the options. However, instead of refined carbs, eat whole grains, however, they should not comprise more than a third of what you eat.
  • Protein intake is extremely important during pregnancy. Some protein-rich foods include eggs, beans, pulses, nuts, poultry, and fish.
  • Dairy products are rich in calcium, which both you and your baby needs. Hence, include foods such as milk, cheese, butter, ghee, and curd in your diet.

Just like there are foods that you should have during pregnancy, there are some you must avoid, such as the highly processed ones that are high in trans fats, bad carbs, sugars, and salt. Hence, avoid or limit the intake of foods such as sugary drinks, ice cream, cakes, fast foods, etc. 

Exercise During Pregnancy

Exercising during pregnancy is healthy for both you and your baby. However, it is still better to talk to your doctor before taking up physical activity. Here are some exercises you can do:

  • Brisk walking
  • Cycling
  • Swimming
  • Pilates
  • Yoga
  • Low-intensity aerobics
  • Strength training

What Are Some Pregnancy-Related Complications?

Some women during pregnancy develop some health conditions. These complications might be related to the mother or the baby and might need urgent medical attention. Here are some such complications, whose signs you must not ignore:

  • High Blood Pressure: This happens when the arteries that carry blood from the heart to different parts of the body get narrow. When this happens to a pregnant woman, an adequate amount of blood might not rich the placenta, which is responsible for providing oxygen and nutrients to the fetus. This can deprive the baby of vital nutrients and increases the mother’s risk of going into preterm labour. If a woman develops high blood pressure during pregnancy, it is called gestational hypertension, which often goes away after delivery. 
  • Gestational Diabetes: Some women develop diabetes during pregnancy, which is known as preeclampsia. If left untreated, your baby might grow big in size, or you might have to undergo cesarean delivery.
  • Preterm Labour: Any birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy is known as preterm. This might pose the baby’s health at risk, as vital organs, such as lungs and brain, takes more than 37 weeks to get fully developed. 
  • Miscarriage: When you lose your child of natural causes within 20 weeks of pregnancy, it is called a miscarriage. Heavy bleeding and sharp abdominal pain can be a sign of a miscarriage.
  • Stillbirth: If you lose pregnancy after 20 weeks, it is called a stillbirth. 

Pregnancy Tips

Pregnancy is a critical time when you should take utmost care of yourself. Here are some tips that might help:

  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Exercise often
  • You must track your weight gain, and catch up with your doctor if it is more or less than recommended.
  • Wear comfortable footwear. 
  • Limit your caffeine intake
  • Avoid alcohol and smoking
  • Be informed about what to expect in those 40 weeks. 
  • Rest enough

Other than these, you much undergo frequent prenatal checkups. It will not only make you better informed but will also prevent any pregnancy-related issues and complications.