The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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A good night’s rest often proves elusive during the third trimester, however. “You may have a lot of aches and pains that you didn’t have before,” says Joan McCarthy, M.D., assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of South Florida College of Medicine in Tampa. And as your belly grows, you’ll find it difficult to lie on your stomach. At the same time, it’s best not to sleep on your back because your uterus can press on the vein that returns blood from your lower body to your heart (the inferior vena cava). Heartburn may wake you up and, thanks to pressure on your bladder from your growing uterus, you’ll likely need to urinate several times a night.
To get more comfortable, lie on your left side with a pillow under your belly and another one between your knees. Or try using either a large body pillow or a “maternity pillow” that supports your back and belly at the same time. Both types are sold online at sites such as www.maternityshoppe.com and www.bigvpillow.com.
How your body changes
Here’s a guide to some of the most common physical changes of pregnancy. Not only are they normal, but most will go away after your baby is born.
Face and head
Changes} Brownish, blotchy patches (melasma, or “the mask of pregnancy”) develop around your eyes, nose and cheeks. Your face may look puffy, particularly in the last trimester (tell your doctor if you have severe swelling). You may become lightheaded as blood volume and vessel size increase and blood pressure decreases.
Relief} Avoid exposure to sunlight. Lie on your left side (so the fetus doesn’t press on a major blood vessel); drink plenty of water and avoid salty foods. Stand up slowly after you’ve been sitting or lying down.
Changes} Breast tenderness often is the earliest noticeable change and can continue throughout pregnancy. Breasts may grow two or three cup sizes bigger. Your nipples and areolas may get
darker, veins and stretch marks may appear and skin may feel tight and itchy.
Relief} Wear a soft, supportive bra. Apply moisturizer to damp skin after showering.
Changes} Nausea and vomiting are common in the first trimester. Acid reflux (heartburn) may start midpregnancy. A dark line (linea nigra) often develops from navel to pubic bone. Skin becomes tight.
Relief} Nibble on crackers or toast before rising from bed; eat smaller, more frequent meals; try acupressure bands and ginger. Take antacids (with doctor’s approval); don’t eat just before bedtime.