things first timers need to know about pregnancy

5 things first timers need to know about pregnancy

The key to a relaxing and enjoyable pregnancy is to know what to expect. But with so much information on offer it can be confusing. We keep things simple with some bite-sized information of what you need to know if you are expecting for the first time.

Here are the top 5 things first timers need to know about pregnancy:

1. First antenatal visit and ultrasound

At your first antenatal visit, your midwife/GP will weigh you, take your blood pressure and a urine sample. At subsequent antenatal visits, you will be asked for a urine sample, which will be tested for UTIs, dehydration, diabetes and pre-eclampsia. Your blood will be screened for sexually transmitted diseases, Rubella antibody levels and to confirm your blood type. This will include a Rhesus factor test, which will indicate whether your blood is Rh positive or Rh negative. Your first ultrasound is usually around the 12th week of your pregnancy. This scan is to confirm the pregnancy and check for a heartbeat. You will also be told how many babies are in there! The sonographer will confirm your due dates based on the size your baby is measuring.

2. Hair, skin and teeth changes

During pregnancy, higher levels of oestrogen arrest the hair in the growth phase. This means that your hair will appear thicker, shinier and will shed less than normal. Once you’ve had your baby, all the hair you’d have ordinarily lost over the previous nine months will now fall out. Don’t panic!

This is just your hair returning to its normal growth/shed cycle. Increased oral acidity in pregnancy means a higher risk of tooth decay. Women who suffer with morning sickness may discover that brushing their teeth causes them to gag. Because of changing progesterone and oestrogen levels, teeth can loosen and gums are more prone to infection. Scheduling a visit to your dentist during pregnancy will help to ensure you’re maintaining a good standard of dental hygiene. Stretch marks are pinkish lines that appear usually on the breasts, hips and abdomen later on in pregnancy, when your belly is growing and your skin is rapidly stretching to accommodate your growing baby. While stretch marks will never completely disappear, they will fade to very faint, barely noticeable slivery streaks. As your abdomen grows, you may notice a dark line running both upwards and downwards from your navel. This too will fade post-pregnancy.

3. Breasts

Hormone changes and increased blood flow can cause your breasts to feel uncomfortable and sore in the early stages of pregnancy. You may notice the colour of your nipples and areola; the surrounding skin, changing and the little bumps on the areola, called Montgomery’s tubercles, may appear more prominent. Your breasts may leak a small amount of liquid called colostrum, but this doesn’t happen to every pregnant woman. Wearing a correctly fitted maternity bra will help reduce breast discomfort.

4. Food safety, cravings and morning sickness

In pregnancy, you may discover that foods you once loved now repulse you, whereas foods that bored you before pregnancy have become your favourites! As long as you avoid foods that pose a risk to you or your baby’s health, there are no major diet changes needed while you are pregnant, other than upping your water intake.

Foods that should be avoided in pregnancy include raw and undercooked foods, alcohol, caffeine and foods containing high levels of vitamin A.

Foods containing folic acid and iron-rich foods should be included in your diet. It is important for a pregnant woman to take 400mcg per day of folic acid. It is recommended that women take this in supplement form.

While not every pregnant woman is affected, hormonal changes in the first trimester can often cause nausea and vomiting. If you are suffering with morning sickness, try nibbling on a dry biscuit or a cracker. Where possible, avoid smells that upset your stomach. Eating several small meals throughout the day rather than three large ones will help to settle your stomach.

5. Heartburn

Again, hormonal changes are responsible for heartburn in the earlier stages of pregnancy. Later on, your expanding uterus can cause indigestion and heartburn discomfort. Eating several small meals daily rather than three large ones will help. Avoid drinking while you eat and stay away from acidic or fatty foods. Try not to eat too close to bedtime, as lying down can aggravate heartburn.

More like this:

 20 things I learned while pregnant
Body changes in pregnancy
How to treat heartburn


Q. I’m would like to start an exercise programme that will benefit my emotional health as much as my physical health, but I don’t know which type of class would be best. Should I consider choosing from yoga, pilates, tai chi, or could you recommend a class, please?

A It’s great that you have decided to get into exercise. The benefits to you are going to be great. You’ll sleep better, have more energy, better skin, reduced stressed, not to mention all the amazing physical benefits of your clothes fitting better, and looking healthy, trim and toned! My advice to you would be to try them all. Even if some don’t offer pay-as-you-go sessions, if you get in touch directly with the instructor, they will almost always let you try it out first to see if it’s for you. All of the above things that you mentioned are great for mental health, so it really will be a personal preference as to which you go for. On top of the classes you mention, all forms of exercise will give you great mental rewards so consider the not so obvious interval training sessions, bootcamp, and circuits too, as you will also feel on top of the world after a class like that.


Ask Tracey

Midwife Tracey Donegan answers your questions about pregnancy and birth

Q When should I have my first pregnancy scan? And how many scans should I get throughout my pregnancy?

Your first scan is known as your dating scan and is routine in all hospitals. Most mums will have this scan at their booking visit, which can be anywhere between 12-18 weeks. The earlier the scan the more accurate it will be. If you have experienced recurrent miscarriages some hospitals will scan you earlier. Contact your antenatal clinic for more information. In Ireland, most women will have two scans in a healthy pregnancy – a dating scan and an anomaly scan at around 20 weeks. However, some units provide a dating scan only. Private scans are also available in most cities and many parents use these services for additional reassurance and to find out the sex of their baby.