Being pregnant raises lots of questions – especially for first time mums. You may be wondering what the early signs of pregnancy are, which vitamins you need to take, or if you'll have any cravings. These questions are perfectly normal – especially when your body is going through so many changes. Hopefully, our top 10 pregnancy FAQs below will answer some of your questions!
1. Am I pregnant?
The earliest and most reliable sign of pregnancy is a missed period. If you have a regular monthly cycle, normally you get your period about 4 weeks from the start of your last period.
Take a home pregnancy test
To find out if you're pregnant, you can do a pregnancy test from the first day you miss your period. Home pregnancy tests are very reliable, but see your GP to be sure and also to start your antenatal care.
Early signs and symptoms
Many women still feel fine at 4 weeks, but others may notice sore breasts, fatigue, frequent urination, and nausea (feeling sick).
Sometimes pregnant women have some very light bleeding, called "spotting", at the time when their period would be due. This is also known as implantation bleeding, which is when the foetus plants itself into the wall of your womb. Spotting is completely normal and does not need any medical treatment.
Every woman is different and not all women will notice all these symptoms.
If you're eagerly looking out for any hints that you might be pregnant, other early signs of pregnancy include:
- feeling sick or being sick. This is commonly known as morning sickness, but it can happen at any time of day. If you feel nauseous and can't keep anything down, contact your GP
- changes in your breasts. They may become larger and feel tender, like they might do before your period. They may also tingle. The veins may show up more and the nipples may darken and stand out
- needing to pee more often. You may find you have to get up in the night
- being constipated
- increased vaginal discharge without any soreness or irritation
- feeling tired
- having a strange taste in your mouth. Many women describe it as metallic
- "going off" some things, such as tea, coffee, tobacco smoke or fatty food
2. When do pregnancy cravings start?
There isn't a specific time when pregnancy food cravings start. It's different for every woman – and you may not necessarily have any cravings.
If you do start having cravings, it'll probably be in your first trimester (it could be as early as 5 weeks into pregnancy). They'll get stronger in your second trimester, and then eventually stop in your third trimester.
Cravings come in all shapes and sizes. Some women crave fatty foods like chips. Others get pregnancy cravings for things they didn't like before they got pregnant, or strange combinations of food such as mars bars with bacon.
Try to eat as healthily as possible – keep those unhealthy temptations to a minimum!
If you find yourself craving things that aren't food, like toothpaste, coal or even soil, speak to your midwife or doctor, as this may be a sign of a vitamin deficiency.
3. How much weight should I gain in pregnancy?
Weight gain in pregnancy varies from person to person. It also depends on your weight before you become pregnant.
Most pregnant women gain between 10kg and 12.5kg (22lb to 26lb), putting on most of the weight after week 20. Much of the extra weight is due to your baby growing, but your body will also be storing fat, ready to make breast milk after your baby is born.
Putting on too much or too little weight while you're pregnant can lead to health problems for you or your unborn baby. But don't worry, it's easy to make healthy food choices. Find out what to eat when pregnant and what foods to avoid.
4. What prenatal vitamins should I take?
You'll get most of the vitamins and minerals you need by eating a healthy, varied diet. But when you're pregnant (and while you are trying to get pregnant) you also need to take a folic acid supplement.
Also, it's that time of year in the UK when our bodies stop making vitamin D from sunshine. To keep your bones and muscles healthy, it's best to take a vitamin D supplement every day between October and early March. This is especially important as many of us have been indoors more than usual this spring and summer. You can get vitamin D from most pharmacies, and supermarkets and other retailers. You just need 10 micrograms a day.
Along with the vitamins you should take, there are also some to watch out for and avoid. You should avoid supplements and multivitamins containing vitamin A (retinol) – as too much of it can harm your baby's development. You should also avoid liver and liver products (including fish liver oil), as they are high in vitamin A.
Find out more about vitamins and supplements in pregnancy.
5. How do I stay fit in pregnancy?
Keeping active and doing exercise while you're pregnant is great for you and your baby. You can keep up your normal level of daily activity and exercise regime, as long as it still feels comfortable.
Here are some tips for exercising while pregnant:
- You should be able to hold a conversation while you exercise.
- Always warm up and cool down to keep you from pulling any muscles.
- Stay hydrated - drink lots of water.
- You can find online workouts that are safe during pregnancy, check out Sport England's #StayInWorkOut exercises (scroll to the pregnancy section).
- Other good activities to try while pregnant include walking, yoga, pilates, aerobics and pelvic floor exercises.
- Some exercises, like running and weight training, will need to be modified as your belly grows.
- The best combination of exercise is aerobic and muscle-strengthening, as this helps you breathe properly and allows to deal with the increased weight you'll be carrying around.
- If you're not already active, try building it into your daily life by taking the stairs, doing housework or gardening.
For a few pregnancy exercises, read about exercises for a fitter pregnancy.
What to avoid
- Try not to lie on your back for long periods, as your bump will press on a big blood vessel that brings blood back to your heart, which can make you feel faint.
- Avoid anything that risks you falling, for example: horse riding, skiing and gymnastics.
- Contact sports are not a good idea either – things like squash, tennis, martial arts, football and rugby. where there's a risk of your bump being hit.
6. How should I sleep in pregnancy?
Depending on how you normally like to snooze, you might have to rethink your favourite position while you're pregnant.
If you sleep on your back, it's safe to continue during the first trimester, but as your bump gets bigger and heavier you'll need to sleep on your side, so it's best to get into the habit as soon as you can.
By the third trimester (after 28 weeks of pregnancy), sleeping on your side is the safest position for your baby as it helps prevent the risk of stillbirth. Don't worry, if your pregnancy is uncomplicated your risk of stillbirth is low (1 in 200 babies are stillborn) and going to sleep on your side will make it even lower.
It's ok if you end up in all sorts of positions when you are asleep. The important thing to remember is to fall asleep on your side, as this means you are sleeping safely for your baby. If you wake up on your back, don't be alarmed, just turn onto your side and go back to sleep.
Try sleeping on one side with your knees bent, it'll help reduce the amount of pressure on your uterus and help you breathe better. Plus, this position can help relieve backache. You can use pillows under your belly, between your legs, and behind your back if you like.
You should go to sleep on your side whenever you have a snooze, including:
- going to sleep at night
- getting back to sleep, after waking up at night
- daytime naps
7. What happens in an antenatal class?
Antenatal classes are available to give you and your partner lots of helpful information on labour, birth and early parenthood.
They're usually informal, fun and sociable, which makes them a great place to meet other parents-to-be. The friends you make at antenatal classes can become a great support network. You can now find many antenatal courses and workshops online.
Antenatal classes usually start 8 to 10 weeks before your baby is born, and happen once a week for about 2 hours.
You can choose classes that are just for pregnant women, or classes that welcome a partner or a friend. There are sometimes classes especially designed for single mothers or teenagers.
Antenatal classes may include info on:
- Diet: how to stay healthy and have a good diet while you're pregnant
- Exercise: what types of exercise are good for keeping fit in pregnancy
- Labour: what to expect
- Relaxation: how to relax while you're pregnant and after you've had your baby
- Delivery methods: different birth methods and interventions
- After the birth: how to look after your newborn, and how you can stay healthy
- Emotional wellbeing: how you might feel during and after your pregnancy
8. What are the different types of breast pump?
There are 2 different types of breast pump: electric and manual. They're both designed to mimic the sucking action your baby makes when they're breastfeeding.
Manual breast pumps
When you use a manual pump, you squeeze the plunger by hand. This type of pump:
- Is cheaper than an electric pump
- Is simple to use
- Is lightweight
- Is quiet
- Takes a bit longer to use than an electric pump
Electric breast pumps
An electric pump does the hard work for you. This type of pump:
- Is less effort than a manual pump
- Takes less time to use than a manual pump
- Can be noisy
- Can be expensive
Mums often say that a manual breast pump is better if you're only expressing occasionally, while an electric pump is more efficient if you need to express milk quickly and often, for example if you've gone back to work.
9. Which type of baby bottle should I buy?
If you're giving your baby expressed or formula milk, you'll need to buy some bottles. The choice of baby bottles can be overwhelming as there are quite a few options.
When you start bottle feeding, don't buy loads as your baby may not necessarily like the ones you've chosen. Better to start off with a few and, if your baby approves, you can always buy more.
The main types of bottle include:
- Standard – widely available, and the least expensive option
- Wide-necked – easier to clean, but take up more space
- Anti-colic – reduce the amount of air your baby takes in while they're drinking
- Shaped – some bottles come with holes in the middle or special handles to make them easier for your baby to hold
- Heat-sensitive – change colour if the milk is too hot
- Self-sterilising – you just need a microwave to sterilise these bottles
- Disposable – sterilised bags that fit inside bottles and are thrown away after feeds
- Glass – more environmentally friendly than plastic bottles, but more breakable
You can choose between silicone and latex teats for most of these bottle types.
- Silicone is more durable.
- Latex is softer and more flexible, but needs to be replaced more often.
The teats come in a bell shape, or a bulbous shape that's designed to feel more like a nipple. You might want to try both shapes when your baby first starts bottle feeding to see which one they prefer.
The teats often come with different flow rates. To find out which flow rate is best for your baby takes a bit of trial and error. If they're spluttering or choking with their current bottle, they need a slower flow. But if they're sucking quite hard and seem to be getting frustrated while they're feeding, you might want to try a faster flow.
You can also get variflow teats – some of these can be manually adjusted, while others automatically increase in flow as your baby's sucking gets stronger.
10. What is a birth plan?
A birth plan is a way of letting your midwife, nurses and doctors know what you want to happen during your labour. It's a chance to plan things like where you want to give birth, who's going to be with you during the birth, and what facilities you'd like to use.
If you're concerned about how coronavirus might affect your birth plan, visit the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists for the most up-to-date advice.
It's important to remember that giving birth doesn't always go perfectly to plan, and things may have to change at the last minute (but your midwife will be there to help you make the best and safest decision for you and your baby).
Things to think about and include in your birth plan:
- Where do you want to give birth? This could be at home, in a midwifery unit or in hospital.
- Do you want someone with you during the birth, such as your partner or a family member?
- If you need a forceps or vacuum delivery, would you want someone with you?
- If a caesarean is necessary, do you want someone with you?
- What birthing equipment do you want to use? This could include mats or beanbags.
- Do you want to use any special facilities, such as a birthing pool?
- Do you want to keep active during labour?
- What position would you prefer to be in while you're in labour?
- Do you want immediate skin-to-skin contact with your baby, before the cord is cut?
- Are you happy for midwives, nurses and doctors in training to be present during your labour?
- What are your pain relief preferences?
- How do you want to feed your baby?
- Can your baby be given vitamin K if they need it?
You can download an NHS birth plan template. While you're writing your birth plan, talk to your midwife about your choices so they understand and can advise you.
11. Should I have the flu vaccine?
The flu jab is the safest way to help protect pregnant women and their babies against flu, regardless of their stage in pregnancy, or how fit and healthy they feel.
Pregnancy naturally weakens the immune system, which means it's harder to fight off infections. As a result, flu can cause serious complications.
One of the most common flu complications is bronchitis - a chest infection that can become serious and develop into pneumonia. Read more about the flu jab in pregnancy on the NHS website.