Signs and Symptoms of Pregnancy(continued)

Stretch Marks

Worried about the dreaded stretch marks of pregnancy? Just about all pregnant women are. The good news is that only about half of pregnant women get stretch marks.

Stretch marks are red, pink, or purple streaks in the skin. Most often they appear on the thighs, buttocks, abdomen, and breasts. These scars are caused by the stretching of the skin, and usually appear in the second half of pregnancy. The color of stretch marks depends on a woman's skin color. They can be pink, reddish brown, or dark brown streaks. While creams and lotions can keep your skin well moisturized, they do not prevent stretch marks from forming. Most stretch marks fade after delivery to very light lines.

Other Skin Changes

Some women notice other skin changes during pregnancy. For many women, the nipples become darker and browner during pregnancy. Many pregnant women also develop a dark line (called the linea nigra) on the skin that runs from the belly button down to the pubic hairline. Blotchy brown pigmentations on the forehead, nose and cheeks are also common. These spots are called melasma or chloasma and are more common in darker-skinned women. Most of these skin changes are caused by pregnancy hormones and will fade or disappear after delivery.

Tingling and Itching

Tingling and numbness of the fingers and a feeling of swelling in the hands are common during pregnancy. These symptoms are due to swelling of tissues in the narrow passages in your wrists, and they should disappear after delivery. About 20 percent of pregnant women feel itchy during pregnancy. Usually women feel itchy in the abdomen. But red, itchy palms and soles of the feet are also common complaints. Pregnancy hormones and stretching skin are probably to blame for most of your discomfort. Usually the itchy feeling goes away after delivery.

In the meantime, try these tips to feel better:

Use thick moisturizing creams instead of lotions on your skin.

Use gentle soaps.

Avoid hot showers or baths that can dry your skin.

Avoid itchy fabrics and clothes.

Try not to get over-heated. Heat can make the itching worse.

Rarely, itchiness can be a sign of a serious condition called cholestasis of pregnancy. If you have nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, jaundice or fatigue with itchiness, call your doctor. Cholestasis of pregnancy is a serious liver problem.

Sleeping Troubles

During your pregnancy, you might feel tired even after you've had a lot of sleep. Many women find they're particularly exhausted in the first trimester. Don't worry, this is normal! This is your body's way of telling you that you need more rest.

In the second trimester, tiredness is usually replaced with a feeling of well being and energy. But in the third trimester, exhaustion often sets in again. As you get larger, sleeping may become more difficult. The baby's movements, bathroom runs, and an increase in the body's metabolism might interrupt or disturb your sleep. Leg cramping can also interfere with a good night's sleep.

Try these tips to feel and sleep better:

When you're tired, get some rest.

Try to get about eight hours of sleep every night, and a short nap during the day.

If you feel stressed, try to find ways to relax.

Sleep on your left side. This will relieve pressure on blood vessels that supply oxygen and nutrients to the fetus.

If you have high blood pressure during pregnancy, always lay on your left side when you're lying down.

Avoid eating large meals three hours before going to bed.

Get some mild exercise like walking.

Avoid long naps during the day.

Weight Gain

The amount of weight you need to gain during pregnancy depends upon how much you weighed before you became pregnant. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) women who have a normal weight before getting pregnant should gain 25 to 35 pounds. Women who are underweight before pregnancy should gain 28 to 40 pounds. And women who are overweight should gain 15 to 25 pounds.

Research shows that women who gain more than the recommended amount during pregnancy have a higher chance of being obese 10 years later. Ask your doctor how much weight gain during pregnancy is healthy for you.

Is it Safe to Have Sex?

Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, sexual intercourse is safe throughout your pregnancy. For many women, pregnancy increases their sex drive. For others, it has the opposite effect. And almost all women need to try different positions when they start to get large bellies. If you have problems during your pregnancy or have had miscarriages in the past your doctor may suggest you avoid sexual intercourse. Call your doctor if you have any of the following problems during or after sexual intercourse:

pain in the vagina or abdomen

bleeding from the vagina

leaking of fluid from the vagina

When to Call the Doctor

When you are pregnant you should not hesitate to call your doctor or midwife is something is bothering or worrying you. Sometimes physical changes can be signs of a problem.

Call your doctor or midwife immediately if you:

are bleeding or leaking fluid from the vagina

have sudden or severe swelling in the face, hands, or fingers

get severe or long-lasting headaches

have discomfort, pain or cramping in the abdomen

have a fever or chills

are vomiting or have persistent nausea

feel discomfort, pain or burning with urination

have problems seeing or blurred vision

feel dizzy

sense a change in your baby's movement

suspect your baby is moving less than normally after 28 weeks of pregnancy ( if you count less than 10 movements in 2 hours or less)

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