The first sign that a woman may be pregnant is that she fails to have a menstrual period when one is normally due. At about the same time as the period is missed, the woman may feel unwell, unduly tired, and her breasts may become swollen and uncomfortable.
A pregnant woman should not smoke because smoking adversely affects the baby’s growth, and smaller babies have more problems in the early months of life. The chemicals inhaled from cigarette smoke are absorbed into the bloodstream and pass through the placenta into the baby’s bloodstream, so that when the mother has a smoke, so does the baby.
Alcohol should be avoided especially during the first three months of pregnancy when the vital organs of the foetus are developing. Later in pregnancy it is advisable to have no more than one drink every day with a meal.
Early in the pregnancy the breasts start to prepare for the task of feeding the baby, and one of the first things the woman notices is enlarged tender breasts and a tingling in the nipples. With a first pregnancy, the skin around the nipple (the areola) will darken, and the small lubricating glands may become more prominent to create small bumps. This darkening may also occur with the oral contraceptive pill.
Most women are advised to take tablets containing iron and folic acid throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding, in order to prevent both the mild anaemia that often accompanies pregnancy, and nerve developmental abnormalities in the foetus.
As the skin of the belly stretches to accommodate the growing baby, and in other areas where fat may be found in the skin (such as breasts and buttocks), stretch marks in the form of reddish/purple streaks may develop. These will fade to a white/silver colour after the baby is born, but unfortunately they will not normally disappear completely.