Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Nosebleeds, twitchy feet and backache - dispelling the naiveté of the newly pregnant

Before I got pregnant, I thought pregnancy would be a wonderful experience. I thought I’d enjoy feeling my body change as a whole new life grew inside me. How naïve was I?

Don’t get me wrong. There are lots of enjoyable moments. The baby is kicking as I type and every kick makes me marvel.

Yet there is still a lot that has come as a (not quite nasty but not altogether welcome either) surprise about just what’s involved in growing a baby. Actually, there are so many surprises that I’ve decided to list some of them here so that other mums-to-be can be forewarned. I’ve also listed what I do to remedy these unexpected symptoms of pregnancy. Where I haven’t listed a remedy, I’d appreciate it if any of you could provide one…

1: Very early on in pregnancy, you discover that getting out of bed is no longer the simple task it once was. You can't leap out of bed as you once did. Instead, you have to develop a get-out-of-bed strategy.
In the early days, this is so you don’t get light-headed and faint. In the latter days, it’s more about hauling your increasingly heavy body into an upright position.
Here’s what I do: I roll onto my right side and then push my feet out of the bed and onto the floor. Then I manoeuvre the rest of my body into a sitting position, hold that position for a moment and finally get up. Each of these steps is completed pretty slowly as I can get dizzy if I try to do it too quickly.

2: You’ll get nosebleeds. This is because there is now up to 50% more blood in your body and your blood pressure has increased as a result, making your blood vessels work harder and making it more likely that the delicate vessels in your nose will burst.
My remedy: always carry tissues. Lots and lots of tissues. 
(Slight diversion: I was teaching a class of teenagers in July when my nose suddenly started bleeding. At first, I didn’t realise it was blood but the teenagers quickly informed me what was happening. “Ah, miss,” they yelled. “You must be dying!”)

3: You shouldn’t sleep on your right side. I love sleeping on my right side. It’s where I feel most comfortable. But it’s thought not to be best for the baby as it can restrict blood flow by putting pressure on the vena cava and increasing swelling in the legs – a factor in developing varicose veins. 
Even if you do persist in trying to sleep on your right side (which I must admit I sometimes do), it gets very uncomfortable and you’ll eventually find that you end up turning over onto your left.
What works for me: I get into bed and turn onto my left side. I then ask my partner to jam a pillow behind my back. This doesn’t entirely stop me from moving onto my right side (I have been known to push the pillow out of bed!) but it makes it far less likely that I’ll do so.

4: You may get twitchy feet. Beyond keeping my toenails in check and exfoliating any dry skin, I didn’t used to spend much time thinking about my feet. Now, I rarely stop thinking about them. 
This is because they get sore and hardly ever stop feeling twitchy, not even when I lie down to sleep at night.
The fact that I’m now carrying extra weight might have something to do with this. So might the fact that I now have more blood in my body. But what seems to be the main factor for me is that my default setting appears to be crossing my ankles when I sit at my desk. (I’ve just checked and I was doing it now so I’ve made myself stop doing it. But I’m sure that when I check again in five minutes’ time, I’ll have unconsciously crossed them again. Sigh.)
Crossing your ankles when you sit is bad for your circulation. It’s also thought to be a contributory factor to developing varicose veins when you’re pregnant.  So try not to do it.
Also, having a pillow to prop your legs up on while you’re in bed helps.  
So do foot rubs. Foot rubs are the best.

5: I’ve mentioned varicose veins twice now. I might easily have mentioned them many times more as they’re a huge worry for me. Both my mother and father have them and I think their mothers and fathers had them too. I’ve always feared getting them and now I think the time is nigh… At least, I saw a little lump on my leg this weekend. I’m hoping it goes away.
In the meantime, I’m doing all I can to minimise the risk of getting them. I’m not spending too long sitting or standing at any one time. I try to get a moderate amount of exercise every day. I sleep on my left side. I try not to cross my legs or ankles. And every part of me is hoping that this is enough to spare me the fate of becoming a varicose-veined woman.

6: Warning: this is slightly gross! At 15 weeks pregnant, I was having a pregnancy massage and as I was getting dressed afterwards, I noticed a yellow crust on my nipples. I immediately panicked and thought my nipples were infected! I even imagined them falling off!
But luckily Dr Google came to the rescue and informed me that this crusty stuff was completely normal. Your body starts producing colostrum even at this early stage of pregnancy and this yellow crust is simply a sign that all is progressing as it should be. There’s no need to panic!
What do I do with it? All I do is gently wipe it off with warm water in the bath or shower.

7: Your back becomes sore. So sore. As you get heavier, the muscles and ligaments in your pelvis start to shift and become softer, in readiness for the birth of your baby. This means that they are no longer carrying as much of your weight as they once did so now all of that weight gets shifted to your back - your unbelievably sore back.
It’s hard to know what to do to remedy this. I’ve started to do some stretches, including one where I stand up, extend my arms above my head to their full extent, clasp them together and hold them there for 30 seconds. I do that whenever I go to the loo, which is usually about 10 to 15 times a day (see number eight).

8: You get really thirsty which means that you drink a lot, which in turn means that you have to go to the loo ridiculously often.
There’s no cure for this. Your body and the baby’s need hydration and because your bladder is forced to take up less space than it’s used to (your growing baby is hogging all that space now), it no longer has the same capacity it once had. Get used to it!
However, I have imposed a rule on myself.  I drink constantly throughout the day (approximately two litres of water and several cups of green or herbal tea) but unless I’m really thirsty, I don’t drink anything after 9pm. That way, I don’t have to get up too often during the night.  My sleep suffers enough as it is!


I’ll stop this list here but I have a feeling I might return to it as my body changes more in the future. If you’re also a mum-to-be or if you’ve had a baby in the past, I’d love to hear what tips worked for you. 

If any of you are curious about me and my bump, here's what we looked like during a spectacular sunset in West Kerry about two weeks ago.


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