I can’t tell you how many times during my pregnancy things would happen to my body and I would frantically wonder, “Is this supposed to be happening or not?” Thankfully, I had friends who had been pregnant before me and could tell me what I should be worried about and what I just needed to deal with until the baby came.*
In the beginning of pregnancy, cramping is quite normal, though downright scary. The cramping is actually an indication that the baby is settling deep into your uterus and your uterus is responding as it does so. This is a mild, menstrual-like cramping.
Cramping is not normal and should give great cause for concern when it becomes severe enough that you want something for the pain. Take-your-breath away cramps, especially coupled with bleeding, needs immediate medical attention.
Like cramping, this can be either normal or cause for concern. When the baby first implants there may be what is called “implantation bleeding” for some. This is slight and only needs a liner to accommodate in the first few days of pregnancy.
As the weeks of the pregnancy progress however, should bleeding occur, contact your doctor immediately. This should raise a caution in your mind and can not be taken lightly, especially in the second and third trimester.
With that said, some women will have light spotting all through pregnancy. I was one of those women, and honestly, I hated it. It always made me scared that I was losing my baby, but my OB told me that some women experience it and it is called “decidual bleeding.” Although I was restricted because of it, the pregnancy progressed as normal and my baby girl was fine when she was born. If you are bleeding, don’t assume it is decidual bleeding. Get to your doctor as soon as you can and let her make the determination. (Decidual bleeding will only be a light, periodic spotting, not heavy bleeding in which more than a panty liner is needed.)
Bleeding may also take place after intercourse or an internal exam, simply because changes in the blood vessels of the vagina and cervix can cause some bleeding when they are irritated. Again, communicate this with your Doctor as soon as you can, yet at the same time know that this can be a normal occurrence during pregnancy.
Round ligament pain
Other than the bleeding, this is what freaked me out the most during my pregnancy and made me wonder if I was ok. Round ligament pain can be annoying to some and down-right incapacitating to others. Some women even find themselves unable to stay standing when getting hit with this pain, it can become so severe. Again, I was one of those women.
What is happening is the ligaments surrounding your uterus are expanding to accommodate your growing belly. As they expand they can cause mild to sharp shooting pains throughout your groin area, causing you to feel like your legs are going to give out. This is normal.
What is not normal is if the pains shoot into your abdomen. Round ligament pain will be under your belly and into your groin. It is not round ligament pain if your actual abdomen is experiencing sharp cramping.
Mild contractions, also known as Braxton Hicks, are normal and do not mean you are going into early labor. How do you tell the difference between those and regular contractions? Several ways:
Braxton Hicks will be infrequent contractions (cramps) in your belly and will often change in intensity. Real contractions, on the other hand, will grow more and more regular and increase in intensity. Braxton Hicks will also be felt more in the front part of your belly, whereas true contractions will be like a belt that wraps all the way around your back and belly.
Braxton Hicks will often stop when you hydrate yourself with water and lay down and rest. Regular contractions will not, and will instead continue to grow in frequency and intensity, no matter what you do.
For some women, the colostrum will begin coming in several months before the baby is born. While it can be a bit of an annoyance to begin leaking that early on, it’s normal. Some women may leak regularly enough to need nursing pads, while others will just see a white, dried substance that can be gently washed off with a warm washcloth when taking a shower.
Swelling in the hands and feet is a part of pregnancy as blood and fluids (up to 50%) have increased in the body in response to your growing baby. This is called edema and can be helped by getting off your feet and drinking plenty of fluids.
Swelling that is cause for concern and may indicate a condition known as preeclampsia is sudden and severe. Preeclampsia is a result of elevated blood pressure and is accompanied by headaches, inability to tolerate bright light, nausea, blurred vision, pain in the right abdomen, and shortness of breath. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms you need to call your obstetrician immediately.
An inactive baby
In the beginning of feeling those amazing flutters and kicks, it’s going to be normal to feel them and then go several hours, even days, without feeling them again. The baby is still small enough that, depending on its location and the direction it’s facing, you may not always feel it when it moves around.
Starting at 25-28 weeks, however, you should start noticing a regular pattern of kicks and moves. At that point, some doctors even recommend doing “kick counts” daily, usually after eating a meal or having a sugary type of drink. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that moms take notice of how long it takes to feel ten movements from the baby. This ideally takes place within two hours, though usually it will happen sooner than that.
If you have not felt the baby move, try drinking something, preferably something like juice, and lie on your left side. If the baby still does not move, or gives you less than ten movements in two hours after this second test, then call your doctor immediately!
Happy one minute, crying the next
One minute you can’t wait for the baby to get here and are in the nursery daydreaming about little fingers and toes and the next minute you are wondering what in the world you were thinking to get pregnant and you’re a weeping mess thinking about what labor is going to be like. It’s frustrating and exhausting to have these mood changes but it’s a normal part of pregnancy. Hormones are raging, and with them are emotions. Don’t fight the emotions when they come, but rather, picture yourself riding them like a wave.
Pregnancy raises a ton of concerns and questions all through-out and it’s more than ok to address those concerns with both your doctor and friends who have done this before. With time, the questions and concerns will shift from pregnancy to that newborn baby in your arms, and then a new round of what’s normal and what isn’t will start up!
*Always contact your doctor immediately should you experience any medical concerns during your pregnancy. This is what they are there for, even if it’s a “stupid” question. Most OB’s and their nurses would rather you call about something that is easily explained than have you wait and have something go wrong with you and/or the baby.