Most women like to try and see their doctor for a prenatal (pre-birth) check up as soon as they find out they are pregnant which is around 6-8 weeks. From there, visits will likely occur every 4-6 weeks and become more regular as you get closer to your due date, or as often as your health care professional deems necessary. As every woman is unique and different in their pregnancy journey, your health care professional will help guide how often these should be.
Pregnancy on average is about 40 weeks. As pregnancy is counted from the first day of a woman’s last period, this means the baby is inside the womb for about 37-38 weeks to fully develop. A baby born prior to 37 weeks is considered ‘preterm’ and in most cases women will be induced if the baby hasn’t arrived on their own terms by 42 weeks.
The rate of weight gain and growth around the stomach varies widely among women, and can even change from one pregnancy to the next for the same woman so unfortunately there is no straight answer for this question. Your height, body shape, and the size of your baby will all influence this. Your health care professional will take various measurements throughout your pregnancy to track your progress and make sure you’re progressing safely.
Labour is divided into three stages, starting from your first contraction, and ending with the birth of your baby and placenta. The first stage of labour starts with contractions and ends with complete dilation of the cervix. The second stage of labour begins when the cervix is fully dilated and ends with the birth of your baby. The third stage of labour begins after the birth of your baby and ends with the delivery of the placenta.
Contractions can be experienced differently by everyone. They can vary in intensity, duration and frequency, throughout your labour. During the early stages of labour you may not even notice contractions as they start small, and fairly irregular. It may feel a bit like period cramping, or a dull pain in your lower back, inner thighs or legs. Contractions intensify in the ‘active’ phase during the second stage of labour, and this is when most women feel them as strong and painful, and become more challenging to manage as the frequency and duration also increases.
Contractions will usually start quite irregularly and last about 30 seconds in the first stage of labour, eventually increasing up to 75 seconds towards the end of the second stage of labour. The length will vary between women, and increase at different rates. It’s a good idea to time your contractions from beginning to end, as well as the time between contractions. Your doctor or midwife will often ask this when you first call the hospital when you are in labour.
You may think it’ll be obvious when you go into labour, but it isn’t always what you see in the movies. A few common early signs of labour to look out for include back ache or what feels like intense period pain.; sudden urge to use the toilet; or your waters breaking.
Labour for a lot of women starts spontaneously, anywhere between 38 – 42 weeks of pregnancy. This means it’s likely your labour will only begin when both your body and your baby are ready, a bit of a waiting game I’m afraid. If labour doesn’t start on its own, or there are complications, you may be induced by medical intervention, or a caesarean section will be performed.
For most mums-to-be, being pregnant does require extra kilojoules (calories) over the course of your pregnancy. Food provides the nutrients that you and your baby need, and the kilojoules that your baby needs to grow. This increase in kilojoules doesn’t usually occur until the second and third trimesters, there are no additional energy needs during the first trimester. On average, you will require an extra 1400kJ/day during your second trimester, and an extra 1900kJ/day during the third trimester, if you started your pregnancy at a healthy weight.
For the most part, there won’t be many changes from your healthy pre-pregnancy diet. Some foods should be avoided because they have a higher risk of containing bacteria Listeria, or salmonella, or other substances which can be harmful to pregnant women and their baby. Alcohol, including in food, should also be avoided. For a full list read here.
If spicy food was part of your normal healthy diet before pregnancy, there is no reason you will need to stop it during pregnancy. Symptoms of morning sickness early in your pregnancy, or heartburn during later stages of your pregnancy as your baby grows and places pressure on your abdomen, may affect your taste preferences and tolerance of some foods. This might just mean you will need to pause these until after the baby is born. This will be an individual response and not necessarily related to spicy food.
Fermented foods are becoming more common in our diets, but there is reason to be cautious of these foods if you are pregnant. Fermentation is a high-risk process and needs to be done correctly to ensure the final product is safe for human consumption. Fermented drinks like kombucha, kvass, kefir and ginger beer can contain residual alcohol as a by-product of the fermentation process. Alcohol passes across the placenta to the baby which can be harmful.
Changes in taste and smell are often reported by pregnant women, with varying degrees of severity, it is very much an individual response. These taste changes can be caused by hormonal changes, or they can simply arise as a result of some of the classic symptoms of pregnancy such as morning sickness in the early stages, or heartburn in later pregnancy. Remember pregnancy is relatively short, if you need to avoid certain foods or your taste preferences change during this time, know that it may not last forever and you’ll be back to your ’normal’ diet in no time.