By Edyta Zielinska
A woman's body goes through a huge number of changes during pregnancy. Not only does your belly expand, but your ligaments loosen up, your stomach muscles separate, all to make room for the baby that's steadily growing in your belly. Some symptoms are cause for concern, others are pretty common. But every pregnancy is different, even in the same woman, so it's important to keep a running list of your symptoms so that you can ask your obstetrician (OB) at your next visit.
We asked Jefferson experts about some of the ways a woman's body changes during pregnancy and after. Here's what they said:
Pregnancy Brain– Myth and reality. Although the science is still out on how exactly pregnancy affects the brain. But what researchers — and soon-to-be moms — do know is that women have more on their minds than usual when a baby's on the way. Add to that a low level of sleep deprivation due to night-time aches and pains or nausea, and you have a good recipe for forgetfulness. Since people can only remember around four things at once, and three are taken up by baby-thoughts, then it should be no surprise your car keys occasionally end up in the freezer. That's why it's a good idea to keep a running list of your symptoms and other questions on your phone or a piece of paper you keep in your wallet. You'll have the list ready the next time you visit with your doctor or nurse practitioner.
Follow Your Craving – Myth. It's not always a good idea to give into cravings. Women have cravings for all sorts of food during pregnancy, from kale or chocolate to fish and burgers. Some cravings lead you to nutrients your body needs, others are misleading. However, if you notice your cravings taking an usual turn, it's important to let your doctor know. Leslie Hughes, a Jefferson nurse practitioner who practices at the Center City and Methodist locations, has seen women who found themselves craving and eating things like toilet paper, plastic wrap, or corn starch. Many times, these cravings are the body's way of signaling a nutritional deficiency, often a lack of iron. The name for this condition is "pica" and can usually be brought under control with a healthy diet and iron supplements or the help of a nutritionist.
Exercising in Your Third Trimester is a Good Idea – True. While you may not be able to do the kinds of exercises you were used to before pregnancy, a recent study of 826 pregnant women found that exercise as late as 29 weeks is beneficial for both you and the baby. Especially moderately difficult activities that have you sweat. And to be honest, with the extra weight you're carrying from your baby, it probably won't take much to break a sweat – so take a brisk walk, go up a few stairs. 30 minutes a day is all you need to keep you and your baby's metabolic health primed before birth.
You'll be Ready to Jump in the Sack Again After 6 Weeks– Myth. At a woman's 6-week check-up after childbirth, doctors usually give the go-ahead for sexual activities. However, a recent study showed that women can experience pain or discomfort between several months to a year later. The study, following 1,200 women in Australia, found that pain was common and surprisingly more likely after a C-section. Women can feel hesitant to return to regular bedroom activities because of pain, dryness or simply fatigue of being constantly needed by a newborn. Jefferson's Dr. Ryan Sobel, an obstetric gynecologist recommends "a frank and open discussion with your partner." Part of that conversation, can be brainstorming a back-up plan for the nights you're not interested or are feeling physically uncomfortable, he says. But if your discomfort continues, it's also a good idea to get checked out to rule out more problematic causes of pain.
It's Safe to Drive as Soon as You Feel Ready– Yes and No. Whether you've had a C-section or a vaginal delivery, it's best to test your reflexes before getting in the car for trip with the baby. Feeling ready isn't the same as being ready to drive. Step one, says Dr. Sobel, is to sit in a chair and make the motions you would in a car – turn your head and body quickly to the left and right as you would to check a blind spot. If you feel no pain, great, go to step two. The second test is to drive in a parking lot and try your tolerance for hitting the breaks hard. Make sure you're not hesitating to break out of fear the belt will press on your belly or incision. If you are, you might want to wait a few more weeks.
Thinking about pregnancy? For your convenience, Jefferson now offers obstetric and gynecological (OBGYN) services in Center City Philadelphia and at Methodist Hospital in South Philly. Make an appointment today by calling 1-800-JEFF-NOW.
Meet the team
Dr. Ryan Sobel,MD is an OBGYN who specializes in diagnosing and treating complex vaginal problems that may get in the way of intimacy or cause discomfort in general. Dr. Sobel got into obstetrics and gynecology because it's one of the few areas of medicine where doctors have the opportunity to see a patient from youth through childbearing and old age, and through the growth of her family.
Dr. Shannon Davids, MD, is an OBGYN who trained at Thomas Jefferson University. She has three children, all of whom were delivered at Jefferson, and is currently expecting her fourth. Dr. Davids is passionate about supporting women's decisions regarding childbirth, natural childbirth, continuous labor support, breastfeeding support and prenatal education.
Dr. Patrick Teefey, MD, an OBGYN is excited to serve the South Philadelphia community at Jefferson's Methodist practice. Dr. Teefey enjoys managing complex gynecologic conditions, and offers minimally invasive techniques when surgery is indicated. A lifelong Floridian, Dr. Teefey is preparing for his first winter here in Philadelphia.