Your midwife's seen it all but if you're squeamish about leaky boobs, piles or ‘excess wind', read our no blushes guide
There's no doubt pregnancy's a wonderful experience, but no one warned you about leaky boobs, piles and, er, ‘excess wind'. But despite the unsexy side-effects, your sex drives at an all-time high and you can't seem to get enough. None of this will surprise your midwife who's seen it all before, so if you are at all worried, take a deep breath and spill the beans to her.
I can't get enough of sex...
Surges in pregnancy hormones can do more for your sex life than a man on Viagra could ever dream about. Add to this the increased sensitivity in your breasts and vagina and you could be looking at a lusty nine months ahead. And don't worry - sex won't harm your baby. However, if you've had any bleeding, which you should report to your midwife or GP, it may be recommended you hold off for a while, especially in the first 12 weeks. Don't worry if sex is the last thing on your mind - it's also not unusual to lose interest temporarily. Rest assured those feelings will return.
...but my partner's gone off it
The reasons why some blokes go off sex with a pregnant partner can be complicated. He may be afraid it will harm the baby or he may be unsure about what he's allowed to touch, especially if your breasts are tender. Some men also feel confused about their feelings once they start to see you as a mother as well as a sexual partner. Acknowledging his feelings and reassuring him can help diffuse tension and bring you closer together. If it becomes a stumbling block, talk to a third party such as your GP.
Eek! My breasts are leaky
Most women expect their breasts to leak milk at least once they've had the baby, but don't be surprised if two damp patches appear on your T-shirt before you get anywhere near the labour ward. Many women start to leak colostrum, the first ‘milk' to appear after the birth, throughout the last months of pregnancy. If it becomes a nuisance, buy some lightweight breast pads from chemists or Mothercare.
More like this
Ouch, I'm constipated
This can start as early as the first few months. The hormone progesterone can make things a bit sluggish and slow your bowel movements. The best defence is a combination of gentle exercise every day, drinking plenty of water and eating fibre rich foods such as wholemeal bread, fresh fruit and vegetables and dried fruit. If constipation continues to be a problem, ask your GP to recommend a laxative that's safe for pregnancy, such as Fybogel.
Blowing in the wind
If pregnancy means you've suddenly changed your eating habits and you've gone all wholemeal overnight you may find yourself with uncomfortable wind. While excess wind can be embarrassing, it won't actually do you any harm, but you may find you need to adjust your diet slightly and avoid or cut down on culprit foods such as baked beans.
A sore subject
About a third of pregnant women develop piles, usually in the later months. They're best prevented by avoiding constipation, but giving birth can make them worse. Over-the-counter treatments can help, but check with your pharmacist first. If you're at home and in need of some instant relief, apply a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a towel. Piles usually disappear within six weeks of giving birth. If they continue to be a problem after this, speak to your midwife.
I'm itchy ‘down there'
From quite early in pregnancy you may notice your normal vaginal discharge become heavier. This is nothing to worry about and is caused by an increased blood supply to the vagina and neck of the womb. Do see your midwife if the discharge smells, becomes brown or greenish in colour or is itchy. Pregnant women are vulnerable to thrush, a fungal infection that produces a heavy white discharge which can be sore or itchy. Some vaginal infections have been linked to miscarriage or premature labour and may need antibiotics. Most topical thrush treatments such as Canesten are fine to use in pregnancy but oral ones aren't. Check with your pharmacist first.
Ooops, I've wet myself
in the last couple of months of pregnancy, it's not unusual to wet yourself slightly every time you cough, sneeze or laugh. It's caused by the weight of your bump and the relaxing effect of the hormone progesterone. Rest assured, for 90% of women this does disappear once you've had the baby, although around 20% find it takes several weeks to settle down completely. The best way to prevent stress incontinence is with pelvic floor exercises but you have to do them frequently. Imagine you're clenching a tampon or trying to stop yourself from peeing.
For more advice and info, call The Continence Foundation Helpline on 0845 345 0165 or visit www.continence-foundation.org.uk/
Internals - do I really have to?
There's little to be gained from a routine vaginal examination during pregnancy. If a doctor suggests one, ask why. Unless a good reason is given, you can always refuse. Having said that, a vaginal examination is necessary if you develop an unusual discharge and once labour starts, it can be valuable in monitoring the progress of the birth. If your labour progresses normally though, they're not always essential. If you do need to be examined, there are ways to make it less uncomfortable. Place your bottom on a pillow to tilt the pelvis forwards and try distraction techniques, such as deep breathing or visualising rolling waves. This will help you relax and stop your muscles tensing. Vaginal examinations are easier if you can stay relaxed.
I don't want to have an HIV test
All women are now offered HIV screening, but you can opt out of having the test. If you're worried you may be at risk of HIV infection, it's worth thinking about how this could affect your pregnancy. If you should be infected, treatment can greatly reduce the risk of infection passing to your baby and reduce your chances of developing AIDS.
Don't be shy to buy....
Some problems can be treated with over-the-counter products, but always check they're safe for pregnancy.
For thrush - Visit your GP for a proper diagnosis first. Canesten Combi costs £9.99 but check with your GP or midwife before use. For more information call the Canesten Advice Line on 0845 758 5030.
For Constipation - Senokot Hi-Fibre costs £2.79/10 sachets and is available from Boots Chemist; visit www.constipationadvice.co.uk/ for more information.
For Piles - Germoloids Cream costs £3.49/25gm; for more advice call the Pile Advice Line on 0845 601 0901.
For leaky breasts - Mothercare Disposable Breast Pads, £4.50/100 pads. Call 08453 30 40 30.
Don't be embarrassed to mention...
You'll be asked questions about the health of you and your partner at your antenatal checks. Always tell your midwife if you have any of the following problems:
- If you have genital warts
- If you have genital herpes
- If you're concerned you might have an STD such as Chlamydia
For more information, visit www.netdoctor.co.uk/