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California State University, Long Beach
Health Resource Center, Student Health Services
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Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a time in a woman's life when it is important for her to be aware of her own health, and the health of her developing baby. Knowing what to expect, what to eat, and when to see a doctor will contribute to the well being of both the mother and the baby. It is also just as important to know what to stay away from while you are pregnant.

 

Signs and Symptoms of Pregnancy

Symptom
Time of Appearance
Other Possible Causes
delay of menstruation entire pregnancy excessive weight gain or loss, fatigue, hormonal problems, tension, stress, going off the birth control pill or breast feeding
nausea and vomiting 2-8 weeks after conception food poisoning, stress and variety of other stomach disorders
tender or swollen breasts 1-2 weeks after conception hormone imbalance, birth control pills, impending menstruation
feeling exhausted or "sleepy" 1-6 weeks after conception stress, fatigue, depression and other physical and mental strains; can also be the common cold or flu
backaches during entire pregnancy a variety of back problems or physical or mental strains
frequent headaches sometimes during entire pregnancy dehydration, caffeine withdrawal, eye strain and other ailments
food cravings entire pregnancy poor diet, stress, depression and impending menstruation
darkening of areola (breast nipple) first signs 1-14 weeks after conception and throughout pregnancy hormonal imbalance
fetal movements 16-22 weeks after conception gas, lower gastrointestinal bowel contractions
frequent urination 6-8 weeks after conception diabetes, urinary tract infection, taking excessive diuretics causing urination
fetal heart beat 10-20 weeks and then throughout pregnancy – early detection using sensitive microphones, (Doppler) none

Pregnant WomanPhysical Changes

Aches and Pains

As the baby and the uterus expand, it causes the muscles to stretch, creating aching in the lower abdomen. In addition to that, the weight of the growing uterus also puts a strain on the back.

How to avoid / relieve it:

  • Keep good posture at all times, whether you're sitting, standing or lying down.
  • Ask your health care provider to recommend exercises, especially stretching exercises.
  • Rest whenever possible, preferably lying on your side.
  • Wear comfortable shoes.
  • Lift with your legs and arms instead of your back.
  • Back massages.

Breast Changes

Higher amounts of estrogen and progesterone increase breast size. The area around the nipple darkens and may even spread. A network of blue veins is appears across your chest. These areas return to normal after delivery or nursing.

How to avoid / relieve it:

  • Wear a good, supportive bra throughout your pregnancy to prevent sagging, even at night.
  • Buy any nursing bras (if you're planning to breast feed) late in pregnancy.

Constipation

Constipation is common in pregnancy, mostly because the high levels of hormones in the body are causing the bowel muscles to contract more slowly, and because the uterus is putting pressure on the bowels.

How to avoid / relieve it:

  • Eat generous amounts of fiber, like bran cereal, fruits and whole grain breads.
  • Drink six to eight glasses of water a day.
  • Exercise regularly, such as walking daily.

Fatigue

Fatigue during pregnancy is caused by the increasing levels of hormones, and by the huge amount of energy needed to prepare the body to support the baby. Many women find that once their bodies have adjusted to the demands of pregnancy, and the baby’s placenta is complete (about 4 months), they have a little more energy. Others continue to feel tired throughout their pregnancy, especially if they are working, or have other child care responsibilities. Most notice that fatigue returns in the last trimester.

How to avoid / relieve it:

  • Get as much rest as possible as soon as you find out you're pregnant. Going to bed earlier is a good idea.
  • Squeeze in a short nap during the day. If you're working, relax for a few minutes after lunch.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Accept friends' and family members' offers to help.

Frequent Urination

Frequent urination during pregnancy is primarily caused by the expanding uterus pressing on your bladder.

How to avoid / relieve it:

  • To help empty your bladder completely, lean forward as far as possible when you urinate.
  • If you're waking up often during the night, reduce fluids before bedtime. Increased frequency of urination should not be accompanied by urgency, pain or burning. That could mean a urinary tract infection, and should be reported to you health care provider right away.

Heartburn

Heartburn is caused when the extra hormones relax the smooth muscle tissue, including the muscle that separates your esophagus from your stomach. Food and digestive juices from your stomach can travel back up into the esophagus. The stomach acids can irritate the lining of your esophagus and cause the “burning” feeling of heartburn.

How to avoid / relieve it:

  • Try not to gain too much weight.
  • Eat several smaller meals rather than two or three large meals.
  • Avoid the foods that aggravate your heartburn, like greasy or highly seasoned foods, processed foods, chocolate and even carbonated drinks.
  • Sleep with your head slightly elevated.

Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids are painful, swollen veins around the rectum that can itch and bleed. They can be aggravated by constipation, or by the weight of the uterus and baby. The best way to avoid hemorrhoids is to keep bowel movements as regular as possible.

How to avoid / relieve it:

  • Eat plenty of fiber, drink plenty of water and get plenty of rest and exercise.
  • Avoid standing or sitting for long periods of time.
  • Take frequent warm baths.
  • Talk with your health care provider if your hemorrhoids bleed.

Pregnant WomanMorning Sickness

Morning sickness can occur at any point of the day, into the afternoon or the evening. For many women it usually disappears by the third month. All pregnant women experience some type of morning sickness, from a moment of nausea, to vomiting all day long. This may be caused from changing hormone levels, stress and even fatigue.

How to avoid / relieve it:

  • Eat a good diet, with plenty of fluids and eat often, before you're hungry.
  • Stay away from foods whose smells (or mere thought of eating) make you feel nauseous.
  • Try eating a little something (crackers, for instance) before you get out of bed in the morning. You may even want to try a snack before you go to bed.
  • Take prenatal vitamin to make up for vitamins lost during vomiting.
  • Get plenty of rest and eliminate as much stress as possible.

Skin Changes

As hormones increase during pregnancy, this causes the body to secrete more oils that that can cause breakouts. In the middle of pregnancy, the extra blood flow to the skin can cause tiny blood vessels near the surface of the skin to swell, resulting in spidery looking red lines on the face, neck, arms and chest. These usually fade after pregnancy. Some women also develop dark blotches on their cheeks, forehead or nose. These blotches, called melasma or mask of pregnancy, also fade after pregnancy.

How to avoid / relieve it:

  • Hide them with a makeup foundation or cover-up cream.
  • Avoid sunbathing, which can worsen them, or use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15.
  • Eat healthy foods, drink plenty of fluids and wash you face several times a day.

Vaginal Discharge

A thin, whitish discharge is normal during pregnancy. These secretions begin early in pregnancy, continue to increase, and can cause minor itching.

How to avoid / relieve it:

  • Wash daily with water.
  • Wear panty liners (tampons are not recommended) or cotton lined underwear.

Varicose Veins

These swollen veins that appear in your legs are the result of decreased blood circulation, heredity, weight gain, or the weight of the baby in the pelvic area. These veins may be painful, or just achy.

How to avoid / relieve it:

  • Wear support hose to increase your circulation.
  • Change your position if you're sitting for long periods of time.
  • Keep your feet elevated while you're sitting.
  • Keep your legs (and ankles) uncrossed.
  • Rotate your feet at the ankles, or contracting your leg muscles, if you must stand for long periods.
  • Get off your feet for about 15 minutes every two hours.
  • Exercise regularly.

Development of the Baby: shows and explains the development of the fetus

First Month

First Month Fetus(conception to 6 weeks)
  • known as an embryo; baby is only about the size of a grain of rice
  • neural tube that becomes the brain and the spinal cord develop
  • heart develops and begins to beat around the 25th day
  • digestive tract develops
  • arms and legs are beginning to form
  • the umbilical cord, which carries nourishment to and waste away from your baby, is developing

Second Month

Second Month Fetus(7-10 weeks)
  • heart is beating
  • fingers and toes are forming
  • organs, like the stomach and liver, are developing
  • ears and nose are forming

Third Month

(11-14 weeks)Third Month Fetus
  • baby is about three inches long and weighs about one ounce
  • sex organs are developing (although the physical structures of being male or female are not apparent) circulatory system is working
  • mouth starts opening and closing
  • kidneys are functioning, producing urine that's passed into the amniotic fluid and eventually removed through the placenta
  • lifelong eye color is present and eyelids grow over them
  • baby starts moving in utero (cannot be felt yet)

Fourth Month

Fourth Month Fetus(beginning of second trimester)
  • baby is about five inches in length and weighs three to four ounces (enough to cradle in hand)
  • develops sucking and swallowing reflexes
  • fingers and toes are becoming defined
  • begins to flew arms and legs
  • bones make blood cells
  • teeth form under gums (although they do not appear until several months after birth)
  • sex organs become distinct (sex becomes determinable at this point)

Fifth month

Fifth Month Fetus(19 - 22 weeks)
  • baby is about eight to ten inches long and weighs 10-12 ounces
  • frequent movement, since bones are harder and muscles are stronger, actual movements are -beginning to be felt.
  • soft, downy hair called lanugo covers baby's body
  • a coating called vernix protects the baby's skin from its constant exposure to amniotic fluid
  • hair may be growing on the head
  • if the baby is female, eggs have begin to form in her ovaries awaiting to begin the cycle of life years later

Sixth Months

Sixth Month Fetus(23-26 weeks)
  • by the end of the month, baby is about 13 inches long and weighs about 1 3/4 lbs.
  • has no body fat and skin is wrinkled
  • can suck his thumb
  • bones are hardening through deposits of calcium
  • lungs begin to stretch, preparing to breathe after birth
  • miniature version of how the baby will be at birth

Seventh Month

Seventh Month Fetus(beginning of third trimester, 27-30 weeks)
  • baby is about 15 inches long and weighs about 3 pounds
  • becoming very active --maybe able to see -movement on belly
  • may suck thumb or hiccup
  • the eyelids, which have been closed since about -the fourth month, slowly open – eyes respond to changes in light and dark within the womb
  • can make grasping motions with hands
  • if baby is male, testicles begin to descend from the abdomen (where they developed) into his scrotum

Eighth month

Eighth Month Fetus(31-34 weeks)
  • baby is now about 18 inches long and weighs about five pounds
  • can see and hear
  • brain and nerves are growing rapidly, directing bodily functions
  • arms and legs are smooth and plumb and skin is a healthy color
  • lungs are still immature, but other organs are well developed
  • acquired immunity to many infections as protective antibodies are passed through the placenta, into the blood stream
  • baby shifts into a position that will remain until birth

Ninth month

Ninth Month Fetus(35 weeks to delivery)
  • baby is about 20 inches long and weighs six to seven pounds
  • continues to gain about half a pound a week until delivery
  • lungs are mature
  • lanugo and much of the vernix is gone
  • baby gets into position for delivery settling down further into the pelvis; since baby is confined in this position, it may seem less active – but movement is still felt

References and Resources

1. American Pregnancy Association. (2012). Pregnancy Symptoms- Early Signs of Pregnancy.  Retrieved on November 16, 2011 from http://www.americanpregnancy.org/gettingpregnant/earlypregnancysymptoms.html

2. Epigee Women’s Health.  Pregnancy Symptoms.  Retrieved on November 18, 2011 from http://www.epigee.org/pregnancy/symptoms.html

3. Planned Parenthood. (2012). Pregnancy Week by Week.  Retrieved on November 16, 2011 from  http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/pregnancy/stages-pregnancy-23953.htm

Last updated 07/2012