Pregnancy might not be as easy as A, B, C but it’s definitely a new and exciting time. From dirt cravings to skin tags, we spell out some of the things that can, might and will happen over the next nine months.
A is for Afterbirth
Let’s fast-forward a bit. First comes baby and then comes… afterbirth. The final stage of a vaginal delivery involves your uterus giving one final push (or two) to expel the placenta and membranes.
And if you’re so inclined, you can save your placenta and eat it. Advocates suggest that residual nutrients can help new mamas with much needed energy, milk production and even help stave off post-natal depression. The only question is – smoothie or pill form?
B is for Babymoon
Now, let’s rewind! If possible, a holiday is a great idea before bub arrives. However, although you can board a plane late into your pregnancy, some doctors recommend hanging out nearer to home once you pass the 20 week mark.
C is for Chloasma
Euphemistically called the ‘mask of pregnancy’, this is not something you’ll typically bust out for your next masquerade ball. Chloasma is the name given to the brown patches that can form on the forehead, upper lip, upper cheeks and nose during pregnancy.
It’s basically pigmentation gone giddy on hormones and it may go away again by itself or you can try various treatments if you are concerned. Your new best friend is sunscreen as UV rays stimulate pigment. Slather it on every. single. day.
D is for Doula
They may not provide medical treatment, but doulas specialise in giving emotional and physical support during pregnancy, labour and after birth. Think massage, breathing tips and heat packs during labour. Can we get one on retainer please?
E is for Epidural
An epidural is one of many pain relief alternatives available to women to help manage labour pain. And like all options, you should weigh the benefits and risks and make a decision based on your particular circumstances. The main thing is that you feel empowered to do what is right for you. Solidarity, ladies.
F is for Folate
This B-group vitamin is found in foods like broccoli and oranges, and can be taken as a supplement (folic acid). It helps prevent neural tube defects in your baby, which, at the most serious end of the scale, include conditions like spina bifida. So start chowing down on the good stuff at least one month before conception and for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
G is for Gestational diabetes
This form of diabetes affects some women during pregnancy and usually goes away after bub is born. Women are generally offered a test to screen for elevated blood sugars between 24-28 weeks, when this form of diabetes can rear its sugary head.
If you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, it can be managed with diet, exercise, monitoring and sometimes medication. There is more info at Diabetes Australia.
H is for Heartburn
Feeling the burn? It could be that nasty pastie heartburn, which is a common ailment in pregnancy. The burning feeling is caused by stomach acid creeping into the oesophagus. Try eating smaller portions more often, cutting out acidic/spicy/oily foods, chewing your food well and sleeping with your head and chest slightly elevated.
I is for Induction
Induction is the name given to the process (or processes) used to artificially kickstart labour. Your doctor or midwife may recommend induction for you for a range of reasons, including if bub doesn’t want to budge by the time you reach 42 weeks.
It is useful to learn about the process so you can make an informed choice. A good place to start is this helpful fact sheet from the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne.
J is for Jitters
It’s natural to feel nervous close to your due date. Speak to your midwife/doctor to allay any concerns and do things you find relaxing.
Some mums are also hit with the jitters after childbirth. And in this case, we mean the full blown body shakes. As your body deals with the wash of post birth hormones (yep, they’re at it again) you may experience shaking. It will certainly pass, but it can be a little disconcerting.
K is for Kegel exercises
These pelvic floor exercises – named after American gynaecologist Dr Kegel – help strengthen your vagina and perineum for birth. Tense the muscles, then gradually release them. And repeat. Often.
Post birth, it is good to get back in the Kegel saddle as soon as possible (obviously on your doctor or midwife’s advice). If you have any concerns about things not being quite right ‘down there’, make sure you speak to your doctor. Leakage and / or pain can be treated.
PS. You can buy devices called Kegel ‘exercisers’. For real.
L is for Linea Negra
Does it look as if someone has taken a black texta to the line between your bellybutton and the top of your pubic bone? That’s your linea negra and – you guessed it – those cheeky pregnancy hormones are to blame again. It will likely fade by itself once bub arrives. But in the meantime, you will literally have earned your pregnancy stripes.
M is for Meconium
We made it all the way to the letter ‘M’ before poo entered the discussion. Admirable we think, given how much attention baby poo receives. Meconium, delightfully described as ‘viscous’ and ‘tar-like’, is baby’s first poo. And it really is something to behold. I think we’ll leave it there.
N is for Night sweats
You know all that water you retained during pregnancy? Well, post childbirth, it will find various ways to vacate the postpartum building. And that includes via night sweats. It will stop and, in the meantime, sleeping on a towel will help keep you and your bed feeling a little fresher. Sweats accompanied by a fever are a totally different story. For those, you should definitely see your doctor.
O is for Oxytocin
Also called the ‘love hormone’, oxytocin is released during sex, childbirth and breastfeeding. It causes contractions, and makes you love your partner and bub to the moon and back. A synthetic form of oxytocin is one of the methods used in induction.
P is for Pica
We’ve all heard of (or experienced) pregnancy cravings, but they tend to be of the pickles-and-ice-cream kind. Pica is a more extreme form of craving for things that, well, you wouldn’t typically serve up at meal time. We’re talking dirt, paper, clay and paint, amongst others. If this is you, it’s no joking matter and it might be worth chatting with your doctor to strategise on management options.
Q is for Quickening
You’ll get butterflies when this happens! Quickening is the first time you feel your baby move inside you, usually between 18 and 22 weeks gestation.
R is for Relaxin
Not to be confused with ‘relaxing’, relaxin is the hormone that causes joints and ligaments to soften in pregnancy. This is one of our bodies’ magical ways of getting prepared for childbirth.
However, like most of those kooky pregnancy hormones, it can cause of range of unexpected responses, including hip pain in some women and a bigger foot size in others! And while you may feel more flexible in your pre-natal yoga classes, it is really important to make sure you don’t over stretch.
S is for Skin tags
At the risk of explaining the obvious, skin tags are little flaps (‘tags’) of skin that can appear during pregnancy in fun places like your underarms and on your boobs. Skin tags are harmless and these charming visitors will usually disappear again post pregnancy.
But if not (and you would like to hasten their exit) they can be removed by a doctor in a similar way to how a wart is removed. Now sing it with us: don’t blame it on the sunshine… blame it on the hormones.
T is for Transition
Transition heralds the end of the first stage of labour, when your cervix dilates from 8cm to 10cm. Which means if you are not already at the hospital, make haste! Transition is typically intense and can feel like one long contraction, but it does mean that your body is getting ready to push and your sweet baby will be in your arms soon.
U is Umbilical cord
The ropey wonder that is the umbilical cord is your baby’s lifeline in the womb, carrying nutrients and oxygen from the placenta. It also plays a central role in perhaps the most Hollywood-ised aspect of the birthing process – snip snip!
V is for Vernix
This creamy white stuff covers your bub in utero, protecting their skin from amniotic fluid and making them nice and slippery for delivery. Premature babies are born with lots of vernix and overdue bubs don’t have much.
W is for Wee
We’re talking about your first wee post childbirth. And can’t it be an elusive little minx? Some mums have difficulty passing urine or have a loss of sensation which may mean your bladder doesn’t fully empty.
Keep an eye on this, as continued failure to hit the big ‘E’ on the urine gauge can result in urinary retention and damage to the bladder. As always, ask your midwife or doctor if you have any concerns.
X is for XX
Let’s talk about sex. The sex of your baby, that is. A fertilized egg with two X chromosomes will grow into a girl, while an X and Y pair will become a boy.
Y is for Yummy mummy
We think all mummies are yummy and the power of the grapevine is about embracing and learning from all walks and talks. So get set to make new friends, learn new stuff (like changing a nappy in 19.5 seconds flat) and be the yummiest mummy your family could have!
Z is for Zygote
And so we end at the beginning. When your egg and his sperm first get it on during fertilisation, the result is a zygote, the very first developmental stage of your eventual bub. We like to think of this as the ‘twinkle in the eye’ stage.