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You and your body - month by month

You and your body month by month
From the moment you conceive there will be seen and unseen changes going on in your body. It is important to know what to expect and that almost all the aches and pains you will begin to experience are actually very normal. You should also be able to judge what adjustments you may need to make to your lifestyle to cope with these changes.

Up to two months
In the first few weeks of pregnancy there may be few outward signs, although some women will experience morning sickness ranging from mild nausea to severe vomiting and swollen, tender breasts from quite early on. As the first couple of months progress you are likely to get tired easily and may even feel faint. If you normally suffer with spots when your period is due, you may carry on experiencing them or alternatively your skin may become dry and itchy. Less obvious changes are that your blood volume begins to rise, with about 25% of it being used by the placental system. Also the blood supply to the vagina and vulva increases causing them to develop a purple colour. Your vaginal walls gradually soften and relax and a watery substance is produced, which increases in volume. This, plus the shedding of vaginal cells increases the total discharge from your vagina while you are pregnant.

Two to three months
If you have been suffering with morning sickness, it will probably have started to ease off by the end of your third month and you will start to feel generally better. You may have started to gain weight, unless sickness has been severe. Your erratic hormones will begin to settle down, leaving you feeling less emotional. Physically, the developing baby is causing the fundus of your uterus to grow through your pelvic brim, so that it can be felt when examined. The output from your heart has almost reached the maximum level, which will remain so until the end of your pregnancy. In order to balance your blood pressure, the arteries and veins in your hands and feet relax, leaving them feeling warm nearly all of the time.

Three to four months
For most women, their advancing pregnancy will now be starting to show, although you may not have put on much weight. You will also probably be feeling rather more energetic. You will notice that your nipples are darkening in colouration and they may feel tingly and sore. Also, the surface veins on your breasts will have started to become more obvious. By now your heart will be working twice as hard as usual as it supplies adequate blood (6 litres per minute) to sustain the greater requirements of your vital organs. It is about now that a dark line, called the linea nigra, may begin to appear down the centre of your abdomen. By the end of the fourth month you may begin to feel the first flutterings of your baby moving, although this is often later in first time pregnancies.

Four to five months
You are now into your second trimester and should by now be feeling much healthier and energetic. If you have not felt the baby's movements before, you should now. Unfortunately, your waistline will have disappeared and you may begin to notice stretch marks. Also, dilated blood vessels may cause tiny red marks to appear on your face, shoulders and arms however, these should disappear after the birth. You may start to experience heartburn and constipation and the risk of bladder infection increases. You may find that you are perspiring more, as you thyroid gland becomes more active. Your breathing will become deeper and you may experience shortness of breath, especially after exercise. It is essential that you visit your doctor at this time, as your gums can become spongy, due to hormonal influences.

Five to six months
You should be feeling quite strong movements from your baby every day now. Your weight gain will probably be about 0.5kg (1lb) per week although your general size will depend on your individual build. As your baby and uterus grow they will now begin to push up into your ribcage, causing it to rise by up to 5cm(2in) and you lower ribs to spread outwards, which can sometimes be painful. You may also start to have attacks of indigestion and heartburn and stitch-like pains down the sides of your abdomen.

Six to seven months
You are now at the end of your second trimester. You will probably be feeling quite tired and beginning to feel rather anxious about the impending birth of your baby. Sleeping can now be uncomfortable, especially if you are big, increasing the general feeling of tiredness. backache can become a problem, due to your change of posture and the slight loosening of your pelvic joints. You will also find that your growing baby will be putting a lot of pressure on your bladder, causing you to pass water more often. Colostrum will now be forming in your breasts, which provides your baby's first meals, before the milk comes in.

Seven to eight months
You may possibly begin to experience Braxton Hicks contractions during this month. These are 'practice' contractions caused by your uterus hardening and contracting. They only last for up to thirty seconds at a time and you may not even be aware of them. Your pelvis will have expanded and may ache from time to time. Your baby has grown to the point where the uterus is pushing hard against your lower ribs, causing them to feel quite sore. Your abdomen is so enlarged that your navel is forced outwards and the increased colouration of the linea nigra can make it appear very conspicuous.

Eight to nine months
At around thirty-six weeks, your baby's head will drop down (engage) into the pelvis, although it is quite normal for it not to engage until as late as the onset of labour. Once this has happened you will feel much more comfortable and your breathing should be easier. It may be harder to get a good night's sleep as your size makes finding a comfortable position more difficult. You should compensate for this by ensuring that you get plenty of rest during the day, preferably with your feet up. Within the last week or so, you make get an unresistable urge to spring clean the house. This is known as the nesting instinct, as you prepare for the imminent birth of your baby. While it keeps you active you should not overdo it, as you need to conserve your energy for giving birth.

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