Pregnancy: What exactly should I expect?

First time pregnancy brings with it oodles of joy. and an equal amount of doubts and questions. Here's answering the commonest of them

When should I get my first sonography done?

pregnant woman talking on phoneIdeally, in the first two months. This is to help date the pregnancy correctly. It also helps in early diagnosis of abnormalities like a molar pregnancy, twin pregnancy, or a pregnancy occuring outside the uterus.

Are frequent sonographies harmful to the baby? How many sonographies are considered safe?

A sonography is not radiation. It is a non-invasive technique, which uses high-frequency sound wave impedance against tissues to evaluate internal structures. Hence, it is harmless. Ideally, sonographic evaluations are to be performed as follows:

  • First trimester dating ultrasonography [USG] around eight weeks.
  • Between 18 – 22 week to detect structural abnormalities in the baby and to know the placental location.
  • During 28 – 32 weeks for growth assessment by biometric measurements and assessment of the liquor around the baby.
  • Between 38 – 40 weeks for biophysical profile to assess the growth and the capability of baby to safely face labour.

In addition to these, a scan is performed at 11 weeks in certain special situations for assessment of nuchal translucency [the thickness on the babies neck], which is a soft tissue marker for trisomies—chromosomal abnormalities such as the Down’s syndrome.

Also, scans are necessary to assess growth more frequently if there have been any episodes of bleeding or leaking of water. In addition, colour doppler studies to examine the perfusion of the baby and the placenta may be suggested. A foetal 2D echo may be requested to evaluate the baby’s condition in special situations.

If I am healthy and eat a well-balanced diet, should I still take prenatal vitamins?

Yes, you may need to take these medicines as proper assimilation of the diet that you are taking is not assured. Plus requirements of certain mineral and micronutrients during pregnancy are increased and their absence can cause untoward consequences.

Are prenatal vitamins harmful to the baby if taken without a doctor’s consultation?

They are not harmful, but have to be consumed at the appropriate time. For instance, they are not to be consumed during the first three months. Consult your doctor, as only s/he can guide you about these things.

Which foods should I avoid during pregnancy?

You should avoid unclean, spicy, stored, stale and pickled foods. Also abstain from foods containing excessive sodium [salty foods], and foods that have no nutritive value and that offer only empty calories [refined food like pastries, bread].

What alterations should I make in my daily schedule once I know I am pregnant?

The changes are both physical as well as psychological.

  • Avoid stress and strain of any kind—strenuous exercise/work or thought that triggers stress.
  • Allot a fixed time for physical fitness—it could even be just a walk.
  • Get adequate rest and sleep.
  • Do not engage in any kind of substance abuse.
  • Think positive thoughts and enjoy your pregnancy.

Are spa/beauty/hair treatments to be completely avoided during pregnancy?

When you are pregnant, the skin turgidity is increased due to water retention. So, it is best to avoid engaging in too many tightening facials and massages. Also, refrain from undergoing sudden temperature variations as in a sauna. Further, if you use a hair dye, test it for allergic reaction before applying it.

What can I do to manage the common symptoms like nausea and cramps?

Nausea usually subsides by the end of the third month of pregnancy. Consume dry foods like biscuits and dry fruits during this time. Always maintain normal blood sugar level with small frequent feeds.

For cramps, ensure an adequate calcium supply to your body by consuming lots of fluids, fresh vegetable, fruits. Walking helps too. But if you don’t get any of the above symptoms, don’t worry; it doesn’t mean that there are complications.

Can having sex during pregnancy harm the baby?

No, it does not harm the baby. There are, however, certain situations when the doctor may advise you to abstain from sex for a specific period.

How soon should I begin planning for labour and delivery?

Mentally, you must plan for it from the time you get pregnant. Financial planning for the expenses of hospital stay also should start well in advance. Apart from that, you should prepare for labour and delivery in the last month of your pregnancy.

Does travelling by bus/train/taxi/auto harm the baby?

No. It does not.

Are prenatal therapies like yoga, acupressure and massage helpful or harmful?

Every thing can be practised and is safe as long as it is done in moderation and under correct guidance.

What precautions need to be taken in the workplace?

Like I mentioned earlier, you should have a healthy environment and avoid stress of any kind. Stay away from colleagues who are not well, avoid crowded places and consume healthy food and water.

Can I go on vacations or long trips when pregnant? Any precautions to be taken?

It’s best avoided. If you still go, be very careful about food and cleanliness. Go to a place where medical help is easily accessible. Strenuous adventurous trips such as scuba diving, trekking should not be undertaken.

Will exposure to eclipses, metal detectors, UV rays, X rays and so on have an adverse effect on the baby?

Avoid exposure to X-rays and UV rays.

Girija Wagh
Dr Girija Wagh, MD, FICOG, diploma [Endoscopy], is a practising gynaecologist for the past 17 years in Pune. She is also the Joint Secretary of FOGSI 2010 and a professor at Bharati Vidyapeeth University Hospital in Pune. Her other interests include playing basket ball, sitar and kathak.


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