Pregnancy Symptoms by Trimester - Guide to Greater Tampa Bay
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Pregnancy Symptoms by Trimester

Pregnancy Symptoms by Trimester

Pregnancy brings dramatic changes to a woman’s body. Things get rounder, appetites change and symptoms range from pregnancy to pregnancy. Take comfort in knowing that most pregnancy symptoms are usually a normal part of the journey toward delivery.

Dr. Kay Roussos-Ross, a professor and chief in the University of Florida Division of Academic Specialists in General Obstetrics and Gynecology, gives an overview of the pregnancy symptoms women can expect during each trimester.

Whether the pregnancy journey is just beginning and the nausea is not subsiding, or delivery day is near and the bathroom visits are frequent, this guide will help determine what is happening in the body and what is coming next.

Discovering Pregnancy

After conception, it sometimes takes time for a woman to discover she is pregnant. Usually, a missed period is an early sign of pregnancy. However, those with irregular menstrual periods could miss this early detection sign.

Morning sickness, or nausea, often occurs in early pregnancy and is a common symptom that prompts women to take a pregnancy test. There are many easy-to-use home pregnancy tests that can be used as early as a missed period or after the first pregnancy sign. It is important to consult a physician after a positive pregnancy test so prenatal care can begin as early as possible.

Prenatal care is the care received during pregnancy prior to delivery. It is important to begin prenatal care within the first trimester under the guidance of a physician to ensure a healthy pregnancy. UF Health offers information on best practices for prenatal care during each trimester:

First Trimester

The first trimester brings numerous changes to the body. Symptoms include tender and swollen breasts, enlarged and slightly darker nipples and, later, a pronounced dark line running vertically down the belly called a linea nigra, which becomes more noticeable in the later trimesters.

Increased levels of progesterone are responsible for many changes, including heartburn, nausea and constipation. These changes can start in early pregnancy and last until the third trimester.

To help with nausea and heartburn, Roussos-Ross recommends a number of approaches.

“Carbs,” she laughed. “Antacids can also help with heartburn. If it gets too bad, a histamine H2-receptor, like PEPCID, can be helpful.”

Many women also start to experience food cravings and aversions during the first trimester as the body adapts.

Fatigue is another common pregnancy symptom. During early pregnancy, fatigue usually lasts a few months and then subsides. As the delivery date nears, fatigue often reemerges. Exercise and a well-rounded diet can do wonders to boost energy levels. Getting a good night’s sleep or taking naps also promotes better overall well-being during pregnancy.

Second Trimester

By the second trimester, the belly and breasts are usually noticeably bigger. Skin changes are also common during this period due to increased hormone levels. Sometimes this takes the form of more oily skin, and acne is quite common.

Constipation usually continues into the second trimester and vaginal discharge is also a normal symptom.

During early pregnancy, increased urination is common. The urge to use the bathroom more frequently will decrease after early pregnancy when the uterus gets bigger and positions itself higher than normal in the abdominal cavity.

For some women, coughing or sneezing can cause them to leak urine. Some pregnant women also leak urine when they cough or sneeze. This normally resolves after birth.

Third Trimester

Many women begin experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions during the third trimester, but these could start as soon as the second trimester. These are often mistaken for labor contractions, but they are not as uniform and are not as painful as true labor contractions. Many times, resting can resolve Braxton Hicks contractions.

Back pain and cramping, along with swelling around the ankles and feet are also common symptoms. Staying hydrated can help alleviate some of the fluid retention. Keeping feet slightly elevated overnight provides some relief.

See Also

Urination also becomes more frequent during the third trimester due to the increased pressure on the bladder. Urinary tract infections, or UTIs, can happen. If there is pain during urination or if blood is present, see a doctor.

“If there is vaginal bleeding or painful contractions, you should consult your physician,” Roussos-Ross said. “Many of the symptoms mentioned earlier are common and aren’t cause for concern. But there are some, such as pain or bleeding, that might require medical care.”

Roussos-Ross also noted that as the delivery date approaches, the mucus plug will be lost after the cervix begins to dilate.

“Many women think that losing their mucus plus means that labor is imminent,” she said. “That is an old wives’ tale. While this is sometimes the case, weeks can pass after the mucus plug is lost before labor begins.”

Labor and Delivery: The Big Day

For most women, delivery day brings a lot of apprehension, but it is also a time of great excitement as this journey through the round and uncomfortable is nearing completion and a new addition to the family is around the corner.

Once labor contractions begin, packing a bag and remembering a toothbrush will not likely be top of mind. It is good practice to prepare ahead of time. This guide on what to bring to your labor and delivery offers a nice list of suggestions.

Delivery via cesarean section requires a longer hospital stay and typically lasts two to three days compared with one to two days with a vaginal delivery. Sometimes cesarean deliveries are planned, which provides ample opportunity to ready a supply kit for your stay. Other times, long or complex labor ends up resulting in a cesarean delivery. So, it is a good idea to plan for a longer hospital stay and pack accordingly.

Do not forget to pack for the baby. A warm onesie, a blanket, socks and a knit cap are essential. Before hitting the road to the hospital, make sure the car seat is installed properly.

For a more comprehensive list, check out UF Health’s article on Common Pregnancy Symptoms to Expect During Each Trimester.

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