What to Expect When You're Expecting: Symptoms and Doctor-Approved Cures

No advice is better than speaking directly with your doctor when you have a symptom in your pregnancy that concerns you, but there are plenty of physical changes you can prepare for and mild symptoms that you can handle on your own. Since your body will go through nine months of creating a new person, arm yourself with this brief guide for what to expect and what are common, over-the-counter-cures that your doctor would approve.

First Trimester – Weeks 1 through 12

In your First Trimester of pregnancy, you likely realized you were pregnant when you missed a menstrual period, showing hormonal changes. More hormonal changes will continue, creating such symptoms as fatigue, breast tenderness, increased urination, fullness or mild aching in your lower abdomen, nausea and vomiting (that is, typical "morning sickness").

While nausea and vomiting will be an early symptom, they can possibly continue throughout pregnancy. Suggested treatment is having small frequent meals in lieu of three large meals. Eat bland foods such as dry toast, bananas, rice, applesauce and plain tea. Cut out greasy, fatty and spicy foods. Room-temperature foods and drinks are easiest to tolerate. Drink as much water as possible and carbonated beverages are okay, especially as they are better tolerated when nauseous. The approved self-treatments for nausea are 50 mg of Vitamin B6, Mylanta, Maalox, Unisom, Pepcid, Tums and Zantac, and approved devices are Sea Bands.

Dizziness and a light-headed feeling are common during the First Trimester since your blood pressure normally lowers in pregnancy. The dizziness may also be due to low blood sugar which can occur in pregnancy. To alleviate your dizziness, eat small frequent meals and drink plenty of water throughout the day. Also, don't make any sudden moves, especially avoid bending your head down and lifting it quickly. In work or exercise, change your head positions carefully.

Headaches can show up in the First Trimester and they are usually produced by increase in circulation that is experienced during this phase. Unless you have a history of migraines which you should discuss with your doctor, most headaches can be prevented. The treatment is much the same as for nausea and dizziness, that is, eat small frequent meals and drink 6 to 8 glasses of water throughout the day. This avoids headaches from hunger and dehydration. Your doctor-approved self-medication for this symptom is Tylenol.

Second Trimester – Weeks 13 through 27

During the Second Trimester of pregnancy you start to look pregnant as the "baby bump" shows! For many women, the Second Trimester is the easiest period. Breast tenderness and morning sickness ease or disappear. Even the pressure on your bladder may ease as your uterus grows and moves up out of the pelvis.

Nonetheless, throughout the Second Trimester you may feel a great assortment of symptoms such as breast changes, leg cramps, back pain, pelvic ache and hip pain, hemorrhoids and constipation, heartburn from gastro-esophageal reflux disease, also called GERD, nosebleeds and bleeding gums, hand pain, numbness, or carpal tunnel syndrome. You may see stretch marks and some skin changes, and you may even have Braxton Hicks contractions which are called "warm-up" contractions that don't lead to labor.

Heartburn can be treated by avoiding greasy, spicy foods, caffeine and chocolate. Avoid eating from 4 to 6 hours before going to bed and sleep with your head propped up with pillows. Your doctor-approved medications for this symptom are Mylanta, Maalox, Tums, Pepcid AC and Zantac.

Hemorrhoids can be avoided by preventing constipation. Here again treatment is assuring that you are drinking 6 to 8 glasses of water per day and adding more fiber in your diet. Your approved self-treatments for hemorrhoids include Tucks, Preparation H and Annusol Cream or suppositories.

Third Trimester – Weeks 28 to Birth

Possible symptoms from the Second Trimester can continue into the Third Trimester, such as the Braxton Hicks contractions, fatigue, heartburn, hemorrhoids and constipation. However, many bodily stresses develop from expansion of your baby and swelling of your body from fluid building up in your body. You will experience swelling of your feet and ankles, called edema, due to the extra pressure that your uterus places on your legs. Also, since your uterus is now just below your rib cage, your lungs have less room to expand and you likely will experience shortness of breath. In addition, you will have to urinate frequently due to your enlarged uterus and the pressure of your baby's head on your bladder.

Discomfort comes from your belly getting bigger and the fluid build-up in your body. This discomfort manifests as an assortment of aches and pains, pelvic ache and hip pain. You may even have hand pain, numbness, or hand weakness such as carpal tunnel syndrome.

Back pain is your most common pain. It may be experienced throughout your pregnancy but likely will be more noticeable during the Third Trimester. Whether lower back or upper back pain, self-treatment includes keeping yourself well hydrated. Stretching exercises are useful and there are pregnancy belts that can help support your back. Hot water bottles, heating pads and massages also provide comforting relief. Doctor-approved medications include Tylenol or any acetaminophen product, and approved devices for self-treatment include heating pads (used on low settings) and maternity belts.

Take care! Back pain that occurs every 5-10 minutes may indicate pre-term labor and you should call your doctor immediately. Or, if your back pain is accompanied by a 100.4 F fever and you have some burning when you urinate, you may have a urinary tract infection and should call your doctor.

Often Insomnia is a result of the discomfort and back pain from the Third Trimester swelling. You will have difficulty finding a comfortable position for sleeping. Lying on your back interferes with blood circulation and lying on your stomach isn't an option. You will have to sleep on your side and use pillows to support your belly and place between your knees. Doctors suggest that it is best to lie on your left side, since lying on your right side and on your back increases the weight of your uterus, and this increased weight can partly block the large blood vessel in front of your backbone. Your doctor-approved self-medications for Insomnia include Tylenol PM, Benadryl and Unisom.

How to Deal with Common Illnesses During Pregnancy

If you are one of those women who don't approve of taking any medications whatsoever while you are pregnant, none of the over-the-counter measures will do for you, even if "doctor approved." You will refuse to take anything even for a common cold during pregnancy. Nonetheless, here are common ailments and over-the-counter medications which most doctors easily approve, and most women will find tolerable for themselves and their unborn baby.

Allergies and Sinusitis

Doctor-approved medications for pregnant women having allergy problems include Benadryl, Claritin, Claritin D, Tylenol Sinus, Actifed, Sudafed, Chlortrimetron, Zyrtec and Zyrtec D. If your nasal problems are due to sinusitis, take Saline Mist Nasal Spray, Benadryl, Chlortrimetron , plain Sudafed, Actifed, Tylenol Sinus or Vicks Nasal Spray.

Cold or Flu

While pregnant, if you have a cold or flu with accompanying sore throat, stuffiness, congestion, aches and sniffles, your doctor-approved medications include any cough lozenges, Tylenol Cold and Flu, Mucinex, Robitussin DM, Sudafed, Actifed, Dimetapp and Vicks Nasal Spray. Keep your thermometer handy and take your temperature often. If your temperature goes over 100.4 F, call your doctor. Sore throats, colds and coughs are due to a virus and most of the approved medications will ease the symptoms. Antibiotics will not help cure a cold or flu. However, if your nasal discharge turns a greenish color, or you have a temperature of more than 100.4 F, these indicate a bacterial infection. You likely need to take an antibiotic prescribed by your doctor.

Constipation, Diarrhea or Gas

If you develop constipation, drink 6 to 8 glasses of water per day. Eat fiber-rich foods like high-fiber cereals, crackers, beans, vegetables and fruits. Prunes and prune juice are always helpful. The doctor-approved supplements for pregnant women are Citracil, Metamucil, Colace, Konsul, Perdiem and Fiber-con. Approved medications are Milk of Magnesia and Ducolax pills or suppositories.

For diarrhea, it is important to drink plenty of water and stay hydrated. Diarrhea usually lasts less than 24 hours but if it persists or is accompanied by fever greater than 100.4 F, call your doctor. Approved medications are Imodium AD or Kaopectate, not Pepto-Bismo.

Excessive gas can be treated with Simethicon or Gas-Ex.

Medications not approved during pregnancy are Aspirin, Advil, Aleve, Ibuprofen, Motrin and Pepto-Bismo. Also diabetic pregnant women need to consult their doctors before taking any medications and check for sugar-free products. While medications change and new ones come on the market, it is always good to check which ones are approved for pregnant women. As your body goes through its nine months of changes, it's excellent to know what to take and what not to take. Then anticipate and have common home cures and over-the-counter, doctor-approved medications ready for your aches and pains, common illnesses and bodily stresses that will accompany carrying your little bundle, or "bump," of joy.

(c) 2012 Elizabeth McMillian

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