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Side-Effects of Pregnancy

Momma Said There'd Be Days Like This

During my first pregnancy certain odors were triggers for potential barfing. For example, I love to cook with sesame oil but could not be in the room with it while I was pregnant with my oldest daughter. Instead, I pretty much lived on bland soda crackers—they're all I could keep down.


Morning sickness refers to periodic episodes of nausea common during the early months of pregnancy. It can happen at any time of day (or night), but generally ends around the third or fourth month.

Pregnancy is not without very real—and sometimes very annoying—symptoms. Particularly during a first pregnancy, your hormones will very likely treat you to such wonderful experiences as the legendary morning sickness. Your body is preparing itself for the process of gestation. Each person has a different threshold for tolerating nausea but for some it can be quite debilitating. It usually settles down after a few weeks but sometimes can plague you throughout the entire pregnancy.

And by the way, although it's commonly called morning sickness, you can experience nausea at any time of day or night. A good way to ward off the queasies is to stick to bland foods like soda crackers or dry toast. Fluids also help. If you are actually vomiting, make sure you replace your fluids and electrolytes with drinks designed for that purpose. Gatorade or other sports drinks can help.

Restricting your diet to accommodate your morning sickness can be tough—especially if old favorites of your prepregnancy days are now triggering the nausea response. Just keep in mind that this, too, shall pass. And promise yourself a great post-pregnancy reward of all the foods you're denying yourself now.

Sleepy-Time Gal

So many physical changes happen when you are pregnant that it sometimes feels as though you're only renting your body and are at the mercy of an absentee landlord. During your first trimester you will very likely feel greater fatigue than you have ever felt before.

Listen to what your body is telling you. When you are tired do your best to catch a nap. If you're working during your pregnancy, even a few minutes with your head down on your desk can make a big difference—you might want to put a co-worker on “snore alert,” just in case. Don't try to overcome the drowsiness with caffeine; it is not good for you or your baby.


A nine-month pregnancy is usually divided into three 3-month-long periods, called trimesters. Certain changes or symptoms—like morning sickness—are commonly experienced in particular trimesters but not in others.

Food Fancies

Even if you're one of the many lucky ones who don't have to deal with morning sickness, you'll probably still find your food preferences changing. For some reason, foods you might not have been crazy about before can start to taste incredibly delicious. (For me it was Japanese food, but you should skip the sushi—it's not recommended during pregnancy.)

You may even experience that old stereotype of pregnancy: food cravings. Don't feel guilty! Although there's no hard-and-fast scientific proof, many doctors believe that some cravings are actually your body's way of telling you what you need. For example, a craving for very salty foods may indicate that your body is in a stage of doubling the volume of blood in your uterus to accommodate the needs of the baby—a process that depletes your system of its normal complement of salt.

Spacing Out—My Hormones Made Me Do It

Momma Said There'd Be Days Like This

At one point in my pregnancy I became lightheaded whenever I rose quickly from a chair or bed. Of course, I panicked. But my doctor said not to worry. He told me to drink extra fluids and eat something salty like potato chips so that I could balance out the fluid my body was using for the baby.

Your hormones guide the changes that occur in your body during pregnancy. Once the fertilized egg attaches to the uterus, your body's off and running with changes designed to provide everything your baby needs—and everything you need to ultimately give birth.

But while your hormones are making these changes, you might find yourself more absentminded than usual. Do not worry about this too much—it's a very common occurrence during pregnancy. Just accept that you may need some extra sets of keys. The worst of it is the teasing you may end up taking when you space out every once in a while.

Figuring on a New Figure

As your pregnancy progresses your body is going to fill out. For some women this means more cleavage than ever. And, for some women, this is a welcome change—it can make you feel very womanly. But for other women it can be an unwelcome change—the extra weight in the chest changes both posture and carriage, and can be uncomfortable.

While you are gaining cleavage you are also filling out in the hips—and certainly in the stomach. This was nothing new to me, a lifetime weight watcher, but for some women the change in shape can be depressing.

Womanly Wisdom

If your partner's empathy for your pregnancy symptoms isn't all you'd like it to be, drop him a reminder of his role in this whole process. A little creatively applied guilt works wonders, since men are generally baffled by this whole “woman” thing.

Momma Said There'd Be Days Like This

I didn't eat for two during my first pregnancy—I ate for 23! So I took a little longer than most to regain my prepregnancy shape. When I got around to it, however, I lost the weight and was in great shape for the deliveries of both my second and third children. So don't obsess over your weight during pregnancy. Use good sense in your food choices but do not allow concern about your changing figure to make you feel down about yourself. Tell yourself how beautiful you are, because you are beautiful.

And it certainly takes some getting used to: As you begin to show you lose your waist and fill out in all kinds of directions. This is a very good thing for your baby and your skeletal system, but initially it can interfere with your sense of balance. Never fear—your body will find its equilibrium eventually, so you won't topple over with the weight of the baby.

Again, your attitude will determine how well you accept the physical changes that occur during the course of your pregnancy. Remember that your bodily changes are all natural aspects of preparing for the birth of your child. You will not always be built as though you are carrying a basketball under your ribcage. And with a little effort, once the baby's born you can completely regain your prepregnancy shape.

If you are eating reasonably healthy foods, don't freak out when you see the scale creep up with each monthly visit to your ob-gyn. You are supposed to gain weight during pregnancy. Your baby is growing, and you have increased fluids and have changing nutritional needs. The thing to keep in mind is that if you're not taking care of yourself nutritionally, your body will fill your baby's needs at your expense.

Make sure that you take a good prenatal vitamin and that you eat well. Do not even consider restrictive diets or excessive exercise. Your doctor will advise you if your weight gain or loss is healthy or not.

Most of all, don't let yourself obsess about your changing figure. You have many more important and rewarding things to think about when you're having a baby—why waste time worrying about how your shape has changed?

Picture-Perfect Pregnancy

Rather than focus on your changing girth, concentrate on the positive physical changes of pregnancy. For one thing, during pregnancy your hair thickens and becomes shinier. You may also find that your nails are stronger and grow faster than usual. During a first pregnancy, why not indulge yourself with manicures? If you're worried about toxins and chemicals, there are toluene-free nailpolishes available to keep baby free from chemical exposure. You might not be able to wear your rings if you retain fluids, but at least your nails will be nice.

And don't forget that well-known glow—it's real! Your body is working overtime to keep all your internal systems working at peak efficiency—your blood circulation and hormonal system in particular. You really do end up with rosier cheeks and clearer skin during pregnancy.

Swinging with Your Moods

Many of the changes that occur during pregnancy are not visible. In fact, you may be the only one completely aware of what is going on inside you. You may find that during pregnancy you become what I call hormotional—experiencing those bouts of unexplainable weepies or grouchies that every pregnant woman seems to get.

Don't let the mood swings get you down—hormotionalism is a perfectly natural aspect of being pregnant and it is your right as a woman to be as hormotional as you please. Indulge your moods if you can, but remember that your partner won't always understand what's going on. If he protests about your unpredictable moods, just remind him that you are pregnant—and leave it at that.

Your emotions will balance out, once your hormones settle down. But until that happens, be careful: If you get the weepies you may have a tendency to allow all your fears to surface. You may even have scary, pregnancy-related dreams (a common one is that you have had your baby but you keep leaving it places). While it's normal to have a few fears when you are adjusting to the concept of being responsible for another living thing, don't let yourself obsess.

Most people need time to adjust to the idea of taking on the responsibility of a baby—someone who'll be completely dependent on you, at least for a while. And nine months of pregnancy seems to be just long enough to allow you to become utterly terrified, if you let that happen. But you're not the first to feel those fears, and you won't be the last. What you will do, eventually, is work through your fears.

One way to work past any fears you have is to turn them on their heads. Instead of focusing on your doubts (“It's such a big responsibility…how can I live up to it?”), concentrate on the opportunity that pregnancy offers: Your role as a mother is really one of the most precious and important things you can do with your life. It will have far-reaching impact and could influence future generations.

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Motherhood © 1999 by Deborah Levine Herman. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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