Listening to Your Body
You often hear people recommending that you listen to your body during pregnancy. This may be easier said than done. Learning to hone in on the signals your body sends you is an important way to monitor your pregnancy.
The first thing to remember is that although it certainly affects your mental state, pregnancy is something that happens in your body, not your mind. You aren't in control of it, and you can't direct it. It may even seem like you are at its mercy. Because it is a physical condition, you need to learn to interpret the clues your body sends you and determine what they mean.
One important thing to remember during pregnancy is that your body really means business. When you're not pregnant, you may be able to work through fatigue, ignore thirst, bypass hunger, or push through discomfort. During pregnancy, however, you need to learn to pay heed to these signals. When you're thirsty, drink. When you're hungry, eat. Rest when you're tired. Those rules may seem obvious, but many women who have had years of experience controlling their bodies find it can be difficult to unlearn those controlling impulses.
If you want to take the advice to listen to your body literally, you can purchase or rent a handheld Doppler that will allow you to listen to your baby's heartbeat. Dopplers are considered safe during pregnancy and can be a great way to bond with your baby, but they do not work well until the fourth or fifth month. Additionally, it can be hard to find the heartbeat when the baby is very active.
Fatigue is another important signal from your body. There may seem to be absolutely no reason why you should feel so tired, but what you must remember is that your body is working extremely hard building and supporting a new life. This takes vast amounts of energy. Here are some other signs that should not be ignored during pregnancy:
Bleeding or spotting: While many women bleed or spot without consequences, it is always something you should be aware of and, if your health-care provider indicates, may be a sign you need to slow down. It is always a good idea to call your provider any time you have bleeding during pregnancy.
Pain: Always consult your health-care provider about any pain during pregnancy, and always stop any activity that causes you pain.
Contractions: While Braxton-Hicks contractions are normal in late pregnancy, painful, ongoing, or strong contractions are not, and they should be reported to your health-care provider. This kind of contraction means you need to stop whatever activity you are doing and rest. The key is that contraction sensations have a rhythm; they come and go. If you are in doubt, lie down quietly and put your hand over your uterus. If it is a contraction, you will feel the uterus become hard and then relax. If these increase in frequency, duration, and intensity, it may be preterm labor. If you are in doubt, always call your provider.
Swelling: Edema, or swelling, is common in pregnancy, but it should be discussed with your health-care provider. Continued swelling is a sign you need to elevate that part of your body. Sudden and progressive swelling of the hands and face or rapid weight gain of three to five pounds may be a problem. You should call your provider and have your blood pressure checked and urine tested for protein.
Faintness: Feeling dizzy or faint is something you should let your health-care provider know about, but when you experience it you need to sit or lie down. If you haven't eaten recently, do so.
Nausea: This is the most common pregnancy complaint and is something you have to pay heed to. If a food makes you feel nauseous, don't eat it.
Discomfort: While there's no getting around discomfort, particularly in late pregnancy, use your discomfort as a clue. If your groin muscles hurt, learn about exercises to strengthen them. If your feet hurt, put them up more often and wear more comfortable shoes.
Intuition: Some women sometimes have a sense that something simply is not right with their bodies or their pregnancy. If you feel this way, don't ignore it. Tell your health-care provider, and find out if there is a basis for this warning sign.