The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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During the "honeymoon trimester," many of the annoyances of the first three months will disappear, and you'll really be able to start enjoying your pregnancy. If you want to go on a "babymoon," the end of this trimester is a good time.
What's on your mind?
The nausea and fatigue that marred the first three months have been replaced with energy and a feeling of well-being. Plus, you're not huge yet! Still, you may be plagued by underlying fears: everything from how healthy your baby is to what might happen during labor to whether you'll be a good mother.
Talking with your doctor or midwife, childbirth educator and other new moms during this time can help ease anxieties. But if you find yourself worrying excessively, you may want to seek professional help: High levels of anxiety and stress may be linked to low birth weight and preterm delivery and may have other negative effects on the baby's health.
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Gas Just as increased progesterone is at the root of constipation, its slowing effect on intestinal movement can cause gas to build up. Common culprits include cauliflower, broccoli, beans and fried/fatty foods.
Heartburn Make friends with Tums. They won't harm your baby, and they work wonders on the burning in your throat and chest. (Just to be safe, talk to your OB before taking them.)
Leg cramps These are most common at night. To help prevent them, stretch your legs, especially your calves, before going to bed. Also avoid standing or sitting in any one position for too long. And be sure to load up on fluids—particularly water—throughout the day; dehydration can be a contributing factor. If you do get a cramp, straighten your leg, heel first, and wiggle your toes. Leg massages also can help.
Sleep problems As your baby grows, you may find yourself becoming uncomfortable at night. If so, invest in a good body pillow. To prevent your growing uterus from putting too much pressure on a major vein called the vena cava, try to avoid sleeping flat on your back (but don't worry if you do—you'll likely roll over or wake up if your circulation is affected).
Try to exercise for 30 minutes every day throughout pregnancy, even if you just take a walk. Be sure to pay attention to your heart rate: If you can carry on a normal conversation, you're exercising in the right range. Also steer clear of any activities that pose the risk of a fall or abdominal trauma. (Scuba diving is out, too, in case you were wondering.) And from here on out, avoid doing any exercises that require you to lie flat on your back for more than a few seconds.
If you experience any of the following symptoms while working out, stop immediately and call your doctor: calf pain or swelling; chest pain; decreased fetal movement; difficult or labored breathing; dizziness; headache; leakage of amniotic fluid; muscle weakness; uterine contractions; vaginal bleeding.
The multiple marker (triple or quad screen) is a blood test, done between 15 and 20 weeks, that screens for chromosomal abnormalities as well as neural-tube and other defects. If you receive an abnormal result (don't panic—the test is notorious for its high number of false-positives), your doctor will likely recommend a detailed ultrasound and/or amniocentesis.
Amniocentesis can diagnose chromosomal abnormalities and other defects. Typically performed between weeks 15 and 20, the procedure involves inserting a thin needle through your abdomen into your uterus and withdrawing a small amount of amniotic fluid, which is then analyzed in a lab. Amnio poses a 1-in-370 risk of miscarriage.
A glucose screen checks for gestational diabetes. Conducted between the 24th and 28th week of pregnancy, this test involves drinking a sugary concoction and then having your blood analyzed for excessive amounts of glucose. The procedure can be unpleasant but poses no risks to you or the baby.
Sometime during the second trimester, you are likely to start experiencing Braxton Hicks, or "practice," contractions as your uterus gears up for actual labor. They are completely normal and typically feel like a tightening throughout the abdomen that occurs at irregular intervals; they happen more often when you are active or the baby moves.
If the contractions become closer together, stronger or more regular, call your doctor.
What about sex?
For most women, sex is perfectly safe throughout pregnancy. In fact, many find that hormonal changes and increased blood flow to the genitals make for a heightened experience. However, intercourse may not be safe if you have had preterm-labor symptoms during this or a previous pregnancy, if your water has broken or if you have had problems with bleeding.