Women ask questions all through their pregnancy but there are some that do seem to come up repeatedly. Here are the three I am asked most often.
How big do you think my baby is?
It is very common for women to ask how big you think their baby is, particularly towards the end of pregnancy. People seem to consider pregnant women’s bodies as public property and make comments about their size that they wouldn’t dare make if they weren’t pregnant. I have noticed no one ever tells pregnant women that they are just right. Women having their first baby often get the ‘you’re not very big’ comment because their taught abdominal muscles keep everything in, whilst mothers having subsequent babies often get the ‘you’re quite big’ comment. As well intended as these comments are, they cause women great distress and anxiety. Studies have shown mothers actually make very accurate estimations of their baby’s weight, especially if they have had a baby previously. You can ask your midwife or doctor how big they think your baby is, but remember it is only an estimate. Every time you have your antenatal visit you will notice that the midwife or doctor measures your uterus with a tape measure. Generally the weeks of pregnancy are similar to a measurement in centimetres. So at 33 weeks of pregnancy you will measure approximately 33cm from the top of the uterus to the top of your pubic bone. If this measurement differs by more than 3 cm in either direction then the midwife or doctor may suggest you have an ultrasound to check that the baby is growing well. The problem with ultrasounds is the later they are done in the pregnancy the more inaccurate they are and estimations of the weight of the baby can be up to a kilo out! Most mothers and babies are perfectly matched and given the right information and support the majority can have wonderful births. Next time you see a pregnant woman tell her how wonderful she looks and then please leave it at that!
When do you think the baby will come?
Firstly, the day you are due is very unlikely to be the day you will give birth, as it is just an estimated date. Approximately 3% of babies come on their actual due date. The majority of babies are born between 38 and 42 weeks gestation. This is classified as full term. No one can really predict when your baby will come. There are some ‘soft’ signs that labour might be imminent, such as: the baby’s head being engaged (down in your pelvis); increasing Braxton Hicks (practice contractions) and a ‘show’ (mucous plug). Some women get a strong desire to ‘nest’ and begin to clean and tidy everything in sight. If you went into labour after your due date, or a couple of weeks earlier than your due date with the first baby you are more likely to repeat the same pattern in subsequent pregnancies. Your baby begins labour when the time is right and when it has reached sufficient maturity to come safely into the world. After 41 weeks of pregnancy the risks to the baby start to increase very slightly because the placenta begins to slow down, so induction will usually be discussed with you at this point. Wanting to be induced because you are sick of being pregnant is understandable but not advisable, because of the added risks to you and your baby. We know women, especially first time mothers, are more likely to end up having a caesarean or a forceps or vacuum birth if they are have an induction for non medical reasons compared to women who start labour spontaneously. Mothers and babies are also at increased risk of rare but serious complications that can affect their health.
Help! I’m getting stretch marks
Not every one gets stretch marks-which start off as fine, red lines on your abdomen and sometimes on your breasts, hips and buttocks. Most women get one or two stretch marks while some women get a lot. Unfortunately there is no way to prevent stretch marks. Rapid, or excessive weight gain and certain skin types can increase your chance of getting stretch marks. There is no evidence that magic oils and creams that are advertised can prevent stretch marks but they can ease the itching you sometimes get as your skin stretches or where your clothes rub. They will also help to keep dry skin in good condition. The good news is after the pregnancy ends stretch marks fade to faint, silvery white lines.