Trying for a baby
• I’ve heard about diets for determining the sex of the child. Do they work?
Their effectiveness has never been proven. Such diets are restrictive, unpleasant to follow, and often poorly balanced. And after all, there’s only a one-in-two chance of getting it wrong!
Expecting a baby
• How is my baby growing?
In 39 weeks of pregnancy, your child will grow at an amazing speed, going from the cellular stage to an average of 50cm and 3.3kg at birth.
The doctor responsible for monitoring your pregnancy will be able to keep you informed, answer your questions, track the development of your child in utero, and check and tell you about how baby is changing.
• What can I do about nausea?
It is thought that nausea is caused by hormonal variations in the early stages of pregnancy, but its precise cause is unknown. Some are lucky enough not to be affected.
Tips for prevention: Do not leave your stomach empty for too long. Avoid strong smells, which can turn your stomach. If your nausea becomes too much to bear, talk to your doctor.
Good news! It should disappear at around the twelfth week of pregnancy.
• Is it normal to feel tired all the time?
This feeling of fatigue is brought on by a hormone, progesterone, secreted in large quantities during pregnancy. In the first few months, you may fall asleep the second you see a pillow! However, during the last few months you are more likely to suffer from insomnia. Don’t try to stay awake. Don’t hesitate to allow yourself the extra hours of sleep which your body needs in order to cope more easily with this great adventure.
• What if I’m expecting twins?
You will still have nine months to prepare yourself. Being pregnant with twins is not all that different to a standard pregnancy. Of course, mum may gain a little more weight – 3 to 4kg extra on average. The babies are more restricted in the womb and will be born sooner. But rest assured, they are generally only 15 days ahead compared to the maturity of a single foetus.
• What is toxoplasmosis?
This is an infectious disease caused by a parasite. Although normally harmless, in pregnant women who have not been in contact with the parasite before their pregnancy, it can have serious consequences for the baby.
How does contamination occur? Toxoplasmosis can be contracted by consuming uncooked contaminated meat, inadequately washed raw vegetables, or dirty water. This is why it is important to thoroughly cook food and to carefully wash fruit and vegetables. More rarely, this disease can also be transmitted by cats, who spread the parasite in their excrement.
• What is the purpose of an ultrasound scan?
- to carry out a morphological examination of the baby: general observation of the development of the foetus and its organs, and identification of any genetic abnormalities or deformities.
- to carry out a biometric study of the foetus: monitoring growth by measuring its limbs, skull and abdomen diameter.
- to check the baby’s health: responsiveness, limb mobility, respiratory and cardiac activity, swallowing.
- to check the uterine environment: quantity of amniotic fluid, condition, position and location of the placenta.
• How do ultrasound scans work?
This is a painless examination, totally harmless to you and your baby.
Why? Because this scan uses ultrasound technology able to go through tissue, rebound off obstacles and return to transmit an extremely detailed image of the foetus and its organs.
• What is the procedure for an ultrasound scan?
Before: the practitioner will ask you not to apply creams, gels or other substances to your abdomen during the week before the examination.
You will also be asked to drink lots of water to enlarge your bladder.
During: they will apply a gel to your skin before placing the ultrasound probe on it and sliding it around to scan the entire area to be examined.
This is a very moving moment: you will hear the baby’s heartbeat and the first images will appear.
• I’m sweating a lot. What can I do?
Pregnancy hormones stimulate the glands which produce sweat. All places where the skin creates a fold (armpits, chest) are likely to sweat.
Tips for prevention: Choose a pH neutral soap. Wear cotton clothes. Opt for a paraben-free deodorant or try talc. Your doctor will be able to advise you.
• I’m suffering from heartburn and acid reflux. What can I do?
This is a frequent complaint which can have two causes:
- hormonal: progesterone, a hormone which is heavily secreted during pregnancy, can upset your digestion.
- physical: in late pregnancy, the uterus presses against the stomach, which can lead to reflux.
How can this be remedied?
- Do not lie down immediately after meals, do not prepare very large meals in the evening, and sleep with your head slightly raised.
- avoid acidic foods (gherkins, vinegar, citrus fruit, etc.), stimulants (coffee, tea), fizzy water and drinks, and meals with a high fat content.
- If in doubt, seek advice from your doctor.
• I need to pee all the time. What can I do?
During the first trimester, this is one of the first symptoms of pregnancy and is related to hormonal upheaval. During the third trimester, it is caused by increasing pressure on the bladder from the uterus and the baby moving around.
Not drinking in order to pee less is not the right solution: it is essential to keep yourself regularly hydrated. When thirst becomes regular, your cells suffer and so do those of your baby. Drink at least 1.5 litres of water throughout the day.
• I’m constipated. What can I do?
The problem is mainly physical: the expanding uterus presses against the digestive tract and obstructs transit. Progesterone, a hormone produced in large quantities, can disrupt digestion. During pregnancy you are also more sedentary, and this reduction in your physical activity can lead to constipation.
Tips for prevention:
Drink lots of (preferably magnesium-enriched) water. Increase your consumption of high-fibre foods (vegetables, fruit, whole cereals, etc.). Be more active: half an hour of walking every day will help solve the problem if you are not too tired. Talk to your doctor for advice about this.
• I have sharp pains in my lower abdomen as if I was having my period. Is this dangerous?
This type of pain may make you immediately worry about a miscarriage and cause concern.
At the start of pregnancy, this type of pain is caused by changes in your uterus.
At the end of pregnancy, the joints of the pelvis gradually relax as childbirth approaches.
Try to relax and get plenty of rest. If these pains persist, talk to your doctor about them.
• I’m suffering from bleeding. Is this dangerous?
This kind of diffuse and sparse bleeding is part of the symptoms of early pregnancy. You may find it worrying, but most of the time it is not dangerous. It marks the time when you would have had your period. It may also be caused by implantation of the egg in the uterine wall. If in doubt, consult the doctor who is monitoring you.
• I have cramps and muscle pain. What can I do?
Cramps most often occur at night, as of the second trimester of pregnancy. They may be due to blood circulation problems, or to deficiency in vitamin B or calcium.
There are several types of muscle pain: back pain, pelvic pain in the lower abdomen, and rib or buttock pain. They are caused by the changing posture of the spinal column. They are a side effect of hormonal changes or vitamin deficiency. Rest will ease them. If they persist, your doctor will be able to advise you.
• My legs feel heavy. What can I do?
This is a blood circulation problem, and one to which pregnant women are predisposed.
Tips for prevention: Rest and raise your legs when lying down in order to improve your venous circulation. Your doctor may also recommend that you wear support stockings to provide relief. Avoid hot baths and heat in general. And do not stand for too long without moving. Walking is once again a good way of getting the blood flowing, as is swimming. Ask your doctor for advice.
• I have frequent back pain. What can I do?
These pains are due to the increasing weight of the baby and the displacement of your centre of gravity when your abdomen becomes both rounder and heavier.
Tips for prevention: Adopt a good posture: avoid arching the lower back, and try to stand straight while tensing and relaxing your pelvis in order to put less pressure on your back.
Never give in to the temptation of self-medicating.
If the pain becomes too much to bear, consult your doctor.
• What is the mask of pregnancy and how can I avoid it?
Brown marks on white skin or white marks on brown skin, generally appearing between the fourth and sixth months of pregnancy. They will disappear later as long as you do not expose yourself to sunshine.
These pigmentation problems are due to hormonal changes. The marks mainly appear on the forehead and upper lip, creating a mask effect.
Tips for prevention: Apply a day cream every day, with a high sun protection factor and a sun block if you are going to be in the sun. Protect your eyes with sunglasses and wear a hat and t-shirt.
• How can I prevent stretch marks?
The scourge of pregnant women, these marks indicate broken elastic fibres in the skin. Their initial purple colour will become toned down and leave pearly white traces.
They are the result of genetic predisposition. Overly rapid weight gain stretches the tissues and aggravates the problem. Massages with a special stretch mark moisturiser or sweet almond oil for at least five minutes every day can reduce the effects.
Baby is coming
• How do I know if I am about to go into labour?
The moment when labour begins is not always very clear, especially in a first pregnancy. It can be identified by several signs:
- Long, regular and painful uterine contractions felt in the abdomen and lower back are the main signal.
• How do I know if these are real contractions?
- their rhythm is very precise,
- they become closer and closer, and increasingly long, intense and painful,
- they “disconnect” you from reality,
- you have trouble walking between two contractions.
Avoid tensing up during contractions. Relax your muscles and control your breathing by taking deep breaths, which will encourage dilation.
• What are the other signs?
- the expulsion of the mucous plug may go unnoticed and take place 24 to 48 hours before labour actually begins. This takes place when the cervix begins to change.
- waters breaking: the time at which the amniotic sac bursts is variable. It sometimes even has to be induced. A whitish liquid is discharged. Bear in mind that the baby will continue to be surrounded by a fluid which is renewed right up until birth.
All three cases indicate the onset of labour. Have yourself transported lying down or reclining. If you have to give birth at home, call the midwife.
At the maternity hospital
If your delivery is imminent, you will be taken in immediately.
Otherwise you will have plenty of time to complete the administrative procedures. You will first be taken to an examination room where the midwife will check your weight, blood pressure and temperature, and measure cervical dilation to see what stage you are at. While waiting for dilation to occur, you will be kept in a room under the surveillance of midwives before going into the labour ward.
The midwife will be able to guide you. Trust her, tell her how you are feeling, listen to what she tells you, and follow her instructions very carefully.