Early pregnancy care

Physical changes in early pregnancy

Pregnant BellyA woman’s body undergoes many changes during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy (the first trimester). Some changes may be quite obvious, while others are more subtle. Often it is¬†only once the pregnancy is confirmed that signs become clear (for example, feeling unwell or unlike your usual self). Many women don‚Äôt even¬†realise they are pregnant until their period is a few weeks late, while others may “know”¬†even before missing a period because they feel different or unusual.

Sometimes, early signs of pregnancy can be confusing. This is because many of the¬†first physical¬†indications¬†(swollen, tender breasts;¬†tiredness; cramping and/or pelvic pain;¬†bloating) can be similar to normal pre-menstrual signs. It can be even more confusing in the early days if there is an “implantation bleed” and/or light bleeds or “spotting” during the first few weeks. These are often mistaken for normal periods.

It is common to¬†be unsure about what is normal during early pregnancy, and anything that feels unfamiliar can often cause concern about your health or the baby’s. Some women also become concerned if they don‚Äôt experience any of the “typical” pregnancy signs and symptoms, such as¬†morning sickness and feeling overly tired.¬† The absence of such¬†things can also be¬†normal. Every woman’s body will react differently to being pregnant. For example, some¬†will experience morning sickness but have plenty of energy, while others will have no morning sickness but feel extremely tired.


Exercise during pregnancy

exercise-600Being pregnant can be both mentally and physically demanding. Regular exercise can help you cope with these demands and prepare you for labour (Clapp et al, 2002; Berk, 2004; Hatch et al, 1998). Some of the common pregnancy niggles, such as back pain, constipation and fatigue, will be easier to keep at bay, too. Exercise is also great for relieving stress.

Maintaining a healthy level of fitness is all part of staying well during pregnancy and will help to keep control of your weight gain. It can also improve your general mood and self-image, along with aiding the prevention of pregnancy conditions such as pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes. If you have difficulty sleeping at night, you may also find that a workout during the day helps.

The benefits of exercising throughout your pregnancy will continue after your baby is born, making it easier for you to get back into shape (Clapp et al, 2002).

The best types of exercise during pregnancy are those that:

  • Get your heart pumping.
  • Keep you supple.
  • Manage weight gain.
  • Prepare your muscles for¬†labour and birth.
  • Do not cause undue physical stress for you or your baby.

As long as you don’t overdo it, walking, jogging, swimming, water aerobics¬†and cycling on a¬†stationary bike are all considered good, safe forms of exercise. Yoga and Pilates are also very good, but¬†ensure you find a registered, qualified teacher who is experienced in dealing with pregnant women.

Generally speaking, any activity in which you could be thrown off balance or fall over is not recommended. Ball sports are also risky because you may be hit in the stomach. Be guided by your antenatal care provider if you are uncertain.


Pregnancy and your diet

Pregnancy eating

  • Eat vegetables every day, and mix the colours ‚Äď you get lots of vitamins that way.
  • Choose water as a drink.

Even if you already consider that you have a healthy diet, there are some important things to keep in mind now that you are “eating for two”. As most of us already know, fresh is best and¬†including more fruit and vegetables in your diet is one of the best ways to increase your intake of vitamins and minerals.

To meet nutritional requirements, eat healthy, fresh and unprocessed foods, particularly lots of vegetables, along with red and white meat, seafood, dairy products and cereals. If you are a vegetarian, ensure you’re getting enough iron and other nutrients from alternative dietary sources.

Vitamins and minerals essential for you and your baby include:

  • Vitamins A, B, C, D and E.
  • Calcium.
  • Folic acid.
  • Omega 3.
  • Protein.
  • Iron.
  • Zinc.
  • Iodine.


Foods to avoid during pregnancy

Some foods should not¬†be eaten¬†during pregnancy as they can potentially cause problems before giving birth¬†and throughout your child’s life. These include:

  • Foods that may contain a bacterium called listeria: soft cheeses, uncooked deli-style meats, sushi and unpasteurised milk and milk products.
  • Foods¬†high in mercury: raw and predatory fish (shark, barramundi and swordfish). Salmon is a good alternative as it is relatively low in mercury.
  • Alcohol and caffeine.


Pregnancy diet and morning sickness

  • Listen to your body in terms of food that you do or don’t want to eat. Try to avoid¬†foods you don’t like just because¬†they are¬†good for you. It is important to remain well hydrated even if you can’t tolerate much solid food. To maintain hydration,¬†try sips of water, cups of weak tea, fruit smoothies, cereal with low-fat milk, and even flat lemonade.
  • To prepare for¬†that first round of daily morning sickness, keep some dry crackers and a glass of water on your bedside table so you can have something in your stomach before you even get up for the day.
  • If cooking makes you feel queasy, ask your partner to cook until you feel better (which may not be until after your first trimester). The sight and smell of raw meat can be too much for many pregnant women, so avoid it if you need to.
  • Avoid¬†highly spicy, fatty or¬†overly sweet food. It may be better to opt for bland, easy-to-digest foods such as rice, pasta, noodles, sandwiches, fruit and toast until the morning sickness stops.


To learn more, please read our fact sheet: Early pregnancy frequently asked questions.





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