What kind of body changes can I expect during pregnancy?
  • A noticeable change during pregnancy is weight gain contributed by an enlarged uterus, a growing fetus, increased food intake, and water retention
  • Breast growth is also another noticeable change during pregnancy because of an increase in breast size and the number of mammary cells. This is required for nursing the newborn after delivery.
  • A waddling gait is characteristically seen during the third trimester of pregnancy.
  • Swollen legs, feet, and sometimes the hands and even face, as a result of fluid retention, are seen during pregnancy and are more pronounced during the third trimester.
  • Hair and nail changes vary from woman to woman. In some, hormone changes can cause excessive hair shedding or hair loss. Some experience hair growth and thickening during pregnancy.
  • Hyperpigmentation during pregnancy can be due to hormonal changes. Some women also develop melasma or a ’’mask’’ of pregnancy. In most cases, melasma resolves after pregnancy.
  • Stretch marks (Striae gravidarum) are also common during pregnancy because of a combination of the physical stretching of skin as well as the effects of hormones on the skin’s elasticity.
  • There is also an increase in basal body temperature.
I’m experiencing mood swings. How can I manage my mood swings?

Mood swings during pregnancy like excitement and stress are very common. Mood changes during pregnancy can be caused by physical stresses, fatigue, changes in metabolism or by the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Significant changes in hormone levels can affect the level of neurotransmitters, which are brain chemicals that regulate mood.

Mood swings can be managed by:

  • Sleeping well
  • Getting regular physical activity
  • Eating well
  • Engaging in relaxing activities like reading or watching a movie
  • Taking naps whenever possible
I’m feeling swollen. Is this normal?

Swelling around the ankles and feet is common during pregnancy. Some women may even have mild swelling around the hands. The growing uterus puts pressure on your pelvic veins and your vena cava (the large vein on the right side of the body that carries blood from your lower limbs back to the heart). The pressure slows the return of blood from your legs, causing it to pool, which forces fluid accumulation into the tissues of your feet and ankles.

I’m feeling itchy, scratchy and have irritated skin. What should I do?

Dry, stretching skin during pregnancy tends to be itchy. Your growing belly is likely to be the itchiest part of your body as pregnancy progresses.

To manage dry, itchy skin, apply a moisturizer, wear smooth, loose cotton clothing and avoid hot water baths.

However, in rare occasions, intense itching of the hands and feet can be a sign of obstetric cholestasis, a serious pregnancy complication which requires careful monitoring.

How much weight gain is normal during pregnancy?
Pre-pregnancy BMI BMI Total weight gain(kg)
Underweight <18.5 13-18
Normal weight 18.5 – 24.9 11.5-16
Overweight 25-29.9 7-11.5
Obese >30 5-9
What should I eat during pregnancy?

Eat a variety of foods to get all the nutrients you need. Recommended daily servings include 6-11 servings of breads and grains, two to four servings of fruit, four or more servings of vegetables, four servings of dairy products, and three servings of protein sources (dried beans, legumes, lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs or nuts). Eat fats and sweets sparingly.

Choose foods high in fiber that are enriched, such as whole-grain breads, cereals and pasta and brown rice, as well as fruits and vegetables. Take antenatal vitamin supplements to meet the recommended daily vitamin and mineral requirements.

Can I exercise during pregnancy?

Maintaining a regular exercise routine throughout your pregnancy can help you stay healthy. It can also improve your posture and decrease common discomfort like backaches and overall fatigue. Reduce stress and anxiety to help you sleep well. Strengthen your muscles and heart to prepare your body for delivery. Prenatal exercise may even lower the risk of gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. It is better to avoid strenuous exercise.

What kind of exercises can I do during pregnancy?

Safe exercise options during pregnancy include:

  • Walking: Walking is one of the best cardiovascular exercises for pregnant women because it keeps you fit without jarring your knees and ankles.
  • Aerobics classes: Aerobic exercise strengthens your heart and tones your body.
  • Stretching: Stretching is a wonderful way to prevent muscle strain while keeping your body relaxed.
  • Yoga: Yoga maintains muscle tone and keeps you flexible with little or no impact on your joints.
  • Swimming: Healthcare providers and fitness experts alike hail swimming as the best and safest exercise for pregnant women. Swimming is ideal because it works both large muscle groups (arms and legs), provides cardiovascular benefits, reduces swelling, and allows expectant women to feel weightless despite the extra pounds of pregnancy.
I’m terribly stressed. What should I do to feel better?

Stress is probably due to mood changes caused by hormones and changes in the level of neurotransmitters in the brain.

Some measures that can be taken to relieve stress are:

  • Taking naps during the day
  • Sleeping well for 7-8 hours per night
  • Eating healthy and nutritious food

Consult your doctor if your stress does not improve.

Can I travel when I’m pregnant?

Travelling in the final months of pregnancy can be tiring and uncomfortable and should be avoided. Travelling while pregnant is safest during the second trimester. Pregnant women experiencing complications like high blood pressure, cervical problems, vaginal bleeding, gestational diabetes, previous miscarriage, premature labor, and a previous ectopic pregnancy are advised not to travel.

During travel, drink plenty of fluids. If you must remain seated, flex and extend your ankles often.

Are there special instructions on how to keep the genital area clean?

A healthy vagina is naturally acidic (pH: 3.5 – 4.5) and contains rich quantities of beneficial bacteria that help fend off infections and maintain a normal pH level.

The vaginal area is sensitive to infections and dryness because vaginal skin is more delicate, and soiling due to the passage of urine and stools can lead to infections.

Precautions to be followed to maintain genital hygiene are:

  • Keep the area as dry as possible.
  • Clean backwards (vagina to anus).
  • Eat healthy, exercise and relieve stress. Strong immunity is the key to protection from any infection.
  • Avoid the use of harsh soaps.
  • Avoid scrubbing. Clean private parts gently.
  • Intimate washes are mild and pH balanced. They may be used daily instead of soap.
  • Wear comfortable cotton inner wear and change twice daily. Synthetic underclothes may cause skin irritation.
  • Avoid wearing tight clothing.
  • Obese women are prone to more infections. So, aim to maintain a healthy weight.
When can I begin exercising post-delivery?

It depends on how fit you were when you had your baby, and how straightforward your labor was. You should begin exercising more gradually if you:

  • Didn't exercise regularly before or during pregnancy
  • Had an assisted birth
  • Experienced complications in labor
  • Had a caesarean delivery

Usually, it is safe to begin exercising a few days after giving birth—or as soon as you feel ready. Wait for six weeks after a caesarean section to start exercising.

Exercising after pregnancy might be one of the best things you can do for yourself.

Regular exercise after pregnancy can:

  • Promote weight loss, particularly when combined with reduced calorie intake
  • Improve your cardiovascular fitness
  • Restore muscle strength and tone
  • Condition your abdominal muscles
  • Boost your energy level
  • Improve your mood
  • Relieve stress
  • Help prevent and promote recovery from postpartum depression
What kind of exercises are safe post-delivery?

Exercises which are safe post-delivery are:

  • Brisk walking
  • Yoga
  • Moderate aerobic activity
  • Swimming
Can I swim post-delivery?

Swimming after childbirth helps you lose weight and restore muscle tone. It also boosts your strength and energy, which may be sapped after your pregnancy and delivery.

It is better to start swimming six weeks after delivery, once the uterus has involuted and reached its normal size, and the wound is healed in the case of a caesarean section.

Is it good for me to have a massage post-delivery?

A postnatal massage will help:

  • To ease sore spots and relax muscle tension
  • Increase the flow of blood and oxygen to your muscles
  • Improve well-being and immunity by stimulating lymph flow
  • Cope with postnatal depression
What can you tell me about breastfeeding?

Breast milk provides the ideal nutrition for infants. It has a nearly perfect mix of vitamins, protein, and fat. And it's all provided in a form more easily digested than infant formula. Breast milk contains antibodies that help your baby fight off viruses and bacteria.

Breastfeeding lowers your baby's risk of having asthma or allergies. Plus, babies who are breastfed exclusively for the first six months, without any formula, have fewer ear infections, respiratory illnesses, and bouts of diarrhea. They also have fewer incidences of hospitalization and trips to the doctor.

Breastfeeding burns extra calories, so it can help you lose pregnancy weight faster. It releases the hormone oxytocin, which helps the uterus return to its pre-pregnancy size and may reduce uterine bleeding after birth. Oxytocin is also called the love hormone which helps to strengthen the bond between mother and child. Breastfeeding also lowers your risk of breast and ovarian cancer. It may lower the risk of osteoporosis and gives you special time to relax quietly with your newborn as you bond.

Are secretions from breasts normal during pregnancy?

Leaking clear, creamy-white or yellowish discharge from your breasts is a sign that your body is getting ready to breastfeed your baby. This tends to happen toward the end of the third trimester, but can occur any time after five or six months of pregnancy.

In the early stages of pregnancy, some women notice clear breast discharge coming from their nipples. In the later stages of pregnancy, this discharge may take on a watery, milky appearance.

But, blood stained discharge may require immediate consultation with your obstetrician.