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Understanding Pregnancy Tests: All you need to know about pregnancy testing.

Pregnancy tests: What you need to know.

Order a digital reusable self pregnancy test HERE

When is the best time to test, where can you buy testing kits and are they 100% accurate? All is revealed here in our quick guide to pregnancy tests.

pregnancy-tests

How do pregnancy tests work?

Pregnancy tests work by detecting the hormone hCG (human chorionic gonadotrophin) in your urine. This is the hormone that is produced by the cells that will form into the placenta so will give you an accurate answer to whether you’re pregnant or not. When you become pregnant the amount of hCG in your body will increase rapidly. It usually takes two weeks after you get pregnant to be at a level to show up as a positive pregnancy test, so try not to test too early!

Which pregnancy test is right for me?

When shopping for pregnancy tests you’ll see there are several factors to think about before choosing one.

The key factors to look for are:

  • Earliest ability to detect pregnancy after conception
  • Price
  • When you can take the test

Early testing
The more sensitive the test is to the pregnancy hormone, hCG, the quicker it will be able to accurately test for pregnancy. Check the box for how early the test you are thinking of buying can test as some will be able to test earlier than others.

Order a digital reusable self pregnancy test HERE

Price
Pregnancy tests can vary from a few pounds to more than a tenner but although they will all give you same result, there are some differences in what you get. The cheaper tests are more likely to have a classic ‘line’ on the screen that you need to look for to see if you are pregnant, and no line indicates a negative result. If you invest more in your chosen test, it will clearly  state whether you’re ‘pregnant’ or ‘not pregnant’. So the answer is the same in both but more explicit with the fancier test. You can however invest more in a test that can indicate roughly how far along you are straight away, but if you feel the cost of this is too much, don’t forget your GP will verify this for you anyway.

When to take the test
If you are running out to get a test and desperate to take it before the next morning (most tests advice you take the test  during your morning wee), make sure you choose one that specifically says you can test any time of the day but try to remember hCG is most concentrated your morning urine.

How early can I use a pregnancy test?

hCG starts being produced around six days after fertilisation, and it takes about two weeks from conception for hCG to reach a level that will be picked up to give you a positive pregnancy test. This is probably around the time your period is due, so a great time to do that test! Pregnancy testing at home is not 100% accurate though, and if you do get a negative result, it’s sometimes worth doing another test a few days or week after your missed period to see if it comes back positive as the hCG levels increase.

Order a digital reusable self pregnancy test HERE

How do I use a pregnancy test?

Start by reading the instructions carefully, as brands differ. Make sure, you know how the test will tell you if you’re pregnant or not. Also it’s a good idea to check the expiration date on the test if you’ve not recently bought it to ensure it’s in date and as accurate as possible!

To perform the test you need to get urine on the end of the stick. You can wee into a urine pot and pop the stick in it, or you can wee over the stick, into the loo. Then there will be a loooooong wait of a few minutes before the answer is shown. Best not to peek, as you may mistake the reading if you look while it’s working.

Different brands of test will vary in how they tell you the result. Some will show a pink or blue line for a positive pregnancy test or a plus symbol. It’s also now possible to get pregnancy tests with a digital readout that will tell you if you’re pregnant, these usually come with an old fashioned lines result too so you can confirm that the readout is correct.

Any special instructions?

The best time to take one is first thing in the morning, as the hormone will be more concentrated in your urine – though you can take one any time of the day. Try not to drink much fluid before a test, as it can dilute the hCG in your urine.

Where can I get a pregnancy test?

You can get pregnancy tests free of charge from your GP, local community sexual health clinic and NHS walk-in centres. You can also buy do-it-yourself pregnancy testing kits from most chemists and large supermarkets.

Does my GP test me too?

Not usually, as home kits are just as good as the ones doctors use. If they think it’s necessary for some reason, a doctor may give you a urine or blood test to confirm the pregnancy.

Order a digital reusable self pregnancy test HERE

Are home pregnancy tests accurate?

Home test kits have become extremely reliable over the past couple of decades, so if you get a positive result, then you almost certainly are pregnant.

If you’ve recently had a miscarriage though, be cautious, as the levels of hCG hormone in your blood take a while to return to normal. It’s also possible to have a false positive if you’ve been taking any fertility drugs containing the hCG hormone and if you’re using an expired or faulty pregnancy test.

Negative results, however, are less reliable. For example, if you test really early on, before the hormone has risen to a level that can be tested it will say negative even if you’re pregnant. So even if you’re desperate to find out, dig deep, be patient and try again a few days after your period would have been due.

In the meantime you might like to check if you are experiencing other early signs of pregnancy that may include needing to wee more often, sore boobs or even a metallic taste in your mouth.

Order a digital reusable self pregnancy test HERE

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Ovulation calculator tool

Try our handy ovulation calculator tool

Are you trying for a baby? Getting pregnant isn’t always as straightforward as it sounds, so increase your chances by using our ovulation calculator to find out when you are most fertile.

How does the ovulation calculator work?

You’re most likely to get pregnant within a day or so of ovulation. This usually happens around the 14th day after your last period however everyone is a little different so this is where our calculator comes in handy. By adding your own personal dates, the ovulation calculator tool is able to do the maths for you and work out when you are most likely to ovulate.

Simply select the first day of your last menstrual period. Then, tell us:

1. The average length of your cycle

2. The average length of your ‘luteal phase.’ This means the part of your cycle which starts at ovulation and ends the day before your next period. If you are unsure, just leave it as 14 days.

The ovulation calculator will then tell you which days you’re at your most fertile, including the date ’most likely’ for you to conceive.

Is the ovulation calculator accurate?

Please bear in mind that these are just estimates, based on a regular menstrual cycle. If your cycle is irregular the ovulation calculator may not be the most accurate way to work out when you are ovulating.

How can you improve your chances of getting pregnant?

Now you know your most fertile days you can improve your chances of getting pregnant by:

1. Having lots of sex

Regular sex around your fertility window will ensure there’s always sperm in the fallopian tube ready to meet the egg when it’s released.

2. Maintaining a healthy diet

Being overweight or underweight can make periods irregular and affect your chances of conceiving so it’s important to maintain a healthy BMI. Drinking too much alcohol and smoking can also effect fertility for you & your partner, if you’re trying for a baby it’s advised that you cut down.

3. Stop the stress

Stress isn’t good for fertility. Take time out to relax and spend time doing something you enjoy, a hot bath or massage works a treat.

Read more on how to increase your chances of conception in our getting pregnant section.

The guide to Folic Acid in Pregnancy

A guide to folic acid in pregnancy

Folic, also known as vitamin B9, is a daily supplement to help your unborn baby’s healthy development in the womb

Folic acid for getting pregnant

Why do we need folic acid in pregnancy?

Folic acid (also known as vitamin B9) is important for the development of a healthy baby, reducing the risk of neural tube defects (NTDs), such as spina bifida. It also helps to make new proteins and healthy red and white blood cells.

As well as helping with your unborn baby’s development, folic acid is also good for you too. A lack of folic acid can lead to fewer red blood cells and anaemia, so it’s important that you get enough folic acid in pregnancy for both you and your baby.

How much folic acid do I need to take?

The Department of Health recommends you take a daily 400 micrograms (mcg) supplement of folic acid starting three months before you start trying for a baby. Your baby’s spine starts developing straight after you conceive, so you should start taking folic acid when you stop using contraception. Just one daily tablet contains exactly the amount you need.

You need take a higher dose of folic acid – 5 milligrams (mg) – daily if:

  • You have had a baby with a neural tube defect before
  • You or your partner has a neural tube defect
  • You are on anti-epilepsy drugs
  • You have coeliac disease, diabetes, small bowel disease, short bowel syndrome, sickle cell disease or thalassaemia

If you’re concerned, have a chat with your doctor.

When should I stop taking folic acid?

Once you reach 12 weeks pregnant your baby’s spine will have developed, so you can stop taking folic acid if you wish. However you can continue to take supplements after 12 weeks if you choose to and it won’t harm your baby to do so. Pregnancy vitamins and supplements which are designed to be taken all the way through pregnancy contain folic acid, as well as other key vitamins for a healthy pregnancy, such as vitamin D.

Can I get folic acid from food?

You can, but probably not enough. The natural form of folic acid, folates, is found in lots of different foods, including green leafy vegetables, beans, chickpeas, lentils and yeast extract. It’s worth remembering that folates will dissolve in water so make sure you’re steaming your veggies to keep the goodness in.

Some foods, such as bread and cereals, are fortified with folic acid – it’ll say so on the packaging. But steer clear of liver– it is high in folic acid, but also contains lots of vitamin A, which could harm your unborn baby. It’s hard to get enough folic acid just from food – the only way you can really know for sure is by popping a supplement.

What if it’s too late to take folic acid?

Don’t worry – the risk of your baby having a neural tube defect is small, even if you haven’t been taking folic acid. Why not chat to your midwife or GP if you feel concerned?

Where can I get folic acid supplements from?

You’ll find them in chemists, health food shops and big supermarkets. And you can get them on prescription from your doctor. If you get Healthy Start vouchers, you can get the supplements free from the NHS without a prescription.

Increase your chances of getting pregnant naturally

Stack the odds in your favour

Once you’ve decided to try for a baby, an active happy sex life is probably all you’ll need to conceive. But if you want to increase your fertility right from the get go, check out these top tips for boosting your chances of getting pregnant.

Increase your chances

Quit smoking

We know it’s not easy to quit smoking, but it’s worth it.

“Smoking can affect egg quality and is one of main causes of low birth weight babies,”  says Richard Smith, Consultant Obstetrician.

It also brings the menopause forward and damages the ovaries too. Men need to kick the habit too – smoking affects sperm quality and quantity.”

It feels tough now, but when you’re holding your baby, it will all be worth it.

Find a healthy weight

If you want to get pregnant, finding a healthy weight will really help you conceive.

If you have a body mass index of 29 or more, excess oestrogen (a female sex hormone) gets stored in your body fat cells, causing hormone imbalances that reduce ovulation,”  says Smith.

The good news? Losing just 5-10 per cent of your body weight can trigger ovulation again. Being underweight is also bad for your fertility – half of women with a BMI of 19 or less suffer from irregular periods. So best to hit the middle ground if you can.

Get him involved too…

It’s the same with men too. If they’re overweight, the male hormone testosterone can convert to the female sex hormone oestrogen, reducing the sperm count. And men with a BMI of less than 20 also have lower sperm counts.

Keep calm and chill out…

We all know too much stress isn’t great for fertility, so it’s time to do some serious relaxing. Pick treats you really enjoy, like a luxury facial, gentle yoga or a glorious soak in the bath. A 30 minute workout works just as well, but make sure you don’t over train. Breathe and unwind…

Get busy in the bedroom

If you consistently have sex two or three times a week, you’re guaranteed to hit your fertile period at some point in the month.

Know when you’re ovulating

If you want to boost your chances of getting pregnant, find out when you’re fertile and have lots of sex. Use our ovulation calculator, look out for common signs , or use an ovulation predictor kit. Having sex once a day when you’re most fertile, will certainly increase your chances of getting pregnant. But if your partner has a low sperm count, chat to your doctor first.

Try those fertility positions

Some people believe the position you have sex in makes a difference. While it’s no guarantee, some say the good old missionary position works the best as it allows for deeper penetration and gives the sperm less of a swim to the cervix. It’s also said that placing a small pillow placed under the hips during sex and for about 10 minutes after is believed to help.

Keep those testicles cool

Believe it or not, keeping testicles one or two degrees cooler than the rest of your man’s body, can boost fertility. Tight underwear, hot showers and hot baths can all raise the temperature of the testicles, so you might want to ask your man to keep things cool down there.

Give your man zinc

“Supplements can make a difference.” Says Smith “Zinc can boost fertility, so take a supplement or eat zinc-rich foods such Brazil nuts, eggs and seafood. Include plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables too, for their high vitamin C content which can also help.”

Fertility treatments – an overview

If you’ve been trying to get pregnant for a while, you may be starting to think about fertility treatment.

Here’s our overview of what treatments are available.

removing-the-coil

When to see your GP

If you’ve been trying to conceive for a year or more, it’s time to have a chat with your GP. Or if you’re over 35, or you’re concerned you or your partner may have a fertility problem, your GP may be able to help after six months. Your GP will probably refer you to a fertility clinic – usually in a hospital – and staff there will chat to you about the best fertility treatment for you.

Fertility drugs

These are often used first , before the treatments outlined below. Doctors tend to use these three drugs:

  • Clomid (clomifene) – this stimulates the ovaries to produce eggs. Your doctor may prescribe it if tests have shown you are not ovulating or you are ovulating irregularly
  • Tamoxifen – an alternative to clomifene
  • Metformin – often used to trigger ovulation in women who have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Pulsed gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH) – this is used to stimulate egg production if you’re not producing this hormone naturall

These fertility drugs may also help the fertility treatments below, like IVF.

Assisted conception

IVF (in vitro fertilisation)

The best known fertility treatment, IVF involves an egg being surgically removed from the woman’s ovaries, then fertilised with sperm in a laboratory. The fertilised egg, now called an embryo, is then popped back in the woman’s womb to hopefully grow and develop.

ICSI (intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection)

ICSI involves a similar process to IVF. However, instead of simply mixing the egg and sperm together in the laboratory, doctors choose a single sperm and inject it directly into the egg.

This technique is becoming more common and is particularly helpful for couples where the male partner has poor sperm quality or doesn’t ejaculate any sperm.

IUI (intrauterine insemination)

You might be offered IUI if you have infertility or ovulation problems that can’t be explained. It’s also helpful for couples where the man has poor sperm quality.

With IUI, doctors separate fast-moving sperm from the slower ones, then use IUI to pop them in your womb, around the time you ovulate. You might also be asked to take a fertility drug to boost the amount of eggs you produce beforehand. IUI is also used as part of other fertility treatments, such as sperm donation or surrogacy.

Where to get treatment

Fertility treatment funded by the NHS varies across the UK, and waiting lists can be sometimes be quite long. The best way to get started is having a chat with your GP about treatment in your area.

Going private

You may also decide to consider private treatment. “It will cost a few thousand and there’s unfortunately no guarantee of success,” says Richard Smith, consultant obstetrician. “But it does mean you can choose from a wider range of treatments and be treated sooner. If you decide to go private, ask your GP for advice, and make sure you choose a clinic licensed by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA).”

What is the best time to get pregnant?

The best time to get pregnant

If you’re planning on starting a family it’s a good idea to understand how your body works and when in your cycle you are most likely to fall pregnant

the best time to get pregnant

Is there a best time to get pregnant?

Everyone’s menstrual cycle is different but you are most likely to get pregnant if you have sex within a day or so of ovulation.

How do I know if I’m ovulating?

Ovulation is when an egg is released from one of your ovaries. It usually occurs around two weeks after the first day of your last period if your cycle is around 28 days long.

Some women claim to know exactly when they’re ovulating while others don’t notice at all. But if you’re planning on getting pregnant it’s wise to look out for these three main signs that you’re ovulating.

  • Vaginal discharge with a stretchy egg white consistency. This is known as fertile mucus.
  • Mittelschmerz –pain on one side of your lower back or abdomen which can be range from a dull ache to a stabbing pain
  • Increased libido

One of the simplest ways of working out your fertile days is to check your cervical mucus every day. Changes to your mucus are one of the easiest things for you to spot. An egg survives for between 12-14 hours after being released, so in order to get pregnant the egg needs to be fertilised by a sperm within this time.

How can I ensure I will get pregnant?

There is no way to guarantee you will get pregnant, but there are things you can do to increase your chances.

Having sex every two days will mean that there is always sperm in the fallopian tubes to meet the egg when it is released. Amazingly, sperm can live for up to seven days inside a woman’s body, so if you’ve had sex in the days leading up to ovulation there will be sperm in the fallopian tubes ready to meet and fertilise the egg.

What is my fertile window?

Scheduling sex every two days isn’t always possible, so the most effective time to have sex is during what’s known as your fertile window – the five days leading up to ovulation and the day of ovulation. These six days are when you are at your most fertile.

You can use our ovulation calculator to help determine your fertile window. And read our article on how to boost your chances of getting pregnant.

What if my periods are irregular?

When you ovulate depends on the length of your menstrual cycle and also how regular your periods are.

So, if your menstrual cycle length varies from month to month, your fertile window may also vary by about a week between each period. An irregular cycle doesn’t necessarily mean you are less fertile, but it can be more difficult to pinpoint your fertile window. So you may find it easier to just have regular sex throughout your cycle every two or three days or whenever you notice fertile mucus.

If your cycle is more than 36 days long, it is worth talking to your GP about running a few basic fertility tests. Irregular periods can sometimes be due to conditions such as polycycstic ovarian syndrome or a thyroid disorder which can both affect your fertility so it’s worth seeking medical advice earlier rather than later.

Are You Ready For A Baby? Checkout This.

Whether you’re planning your first baby or your fifth, even the quietest new addition can change everything.

From your career plans and income, to finances and life for older siblings. So what do you need to consider before you take plunge?

Are you ready for a baby?

Finances under fire!

Even if you don’t splurge on all the latest gorgeous kit, having a baby can get expensive. Think about whether you can manage on one income, or cover the extra childcare costs? Will you need to move to a bigger house or buy a bigger car? It’s a good idea to save in advance – not only does it teach you how to cut back, but it will gather together a tidy lump sum to help you through maternity leave. Also consider which costs, like life insurance, you can’t afford to cut.

Ready for responsibility?

While babies are the best thing in the world, let’s be honest – they do stop you going out as often, bully you with lack of sleep and pretty much banish those luxury lie-ins! We all know it’s 100 per cent worth it – but are you ready right now?

What about work?

Balancing your gorgeous children with a fulfilling a career is do-able, but it takes some serious consideration, ingenuity and sometimes compromise. What will you do about your job? Will you go back to work? Will you stay at home? Can you work part time? Will your partner be flexible with their work? You don’t have to decide anything now, but it’s good to find out what you both think before you get started.

Need a bigger pad?

Do you need to take on a bigger property to fit in your new little person? They may start off snuggled into a moses basket, but it won’t be long before their stuff is exploding all over the house and the spare room becomes a nursery.

Family dynamics

How will a new baby affect your other kids and the overall family dynamic? Many children love the idea of having a younger brother or sister to look after and can be very caring and helpful. But others may be less certain, especially if you’re having this baby with a new partner. Have a think about how your children will react and ways you can help prepare them for the change, so they enjoy having a new sibling.

Very early symptoms of pregnancy: What are the earliest signs of pregnancy?

Understanding the earliest signs of pregnancy

Late period, sore boobs, weird tastes in your mouth – there are a lot of early signs and symptoms that suggest you might be pregnant and you may experience very early on in your pregnancy

Woman holding tummy

Noticing the early signs of pregnancy

You may notice the early signs and symptoms of pregnancy as little as within one week of conception. Most early pregnancy symptoms occur within the first four weeks and first signs of pregnancy may include:

Top five early signs of pregnancy

  1. Nausea or sickness can start very early for some women – a common early pregnancy symptom will be morning sickness. This will usually start when you’re around six weeks pregnant. It might just be nausea but can also include vomiting and despite its name, can happen at any time day or night.
  2. Needing to have a wee more often – an early pregnancy symptom may be the need to wee more. This is down to a combination of pregnancy hormones, a larger volume of blood in your system and your kidneys working harder
  3. Headaches  – You may experience headaches in the early stages of pregnancy. This is due to the sudden rise of hormones in your body as it adjusts to being pregnant.
  4. Darkening of the skin around your nipples – another common early pregnancy symptom will be the skin around your nipples (the areolas) getting darker. You may also find the nipples become erect and the bumps around your nipples more pronounced.
  5. Food cravings or aversions – It’s possible you might be put off by certain foods, especially if you’re experiencing nausea from morning sickness too! However you may also find that you develop cravings for certain foods (and perhaps strange ones!) from an very early stage of your pregnancy.

There are a lot more pregnancy symptoms that can be your body’s way of letting you know you are pregnant.

Common early pregnancy symptoms

Period pains

A pregnancy symptom you might not expect as you may have missed your period, but you can experience pains at the time you would expect your period. Not the most common symptom, but some women do experience it.

Tummy twinges

A slightly odd pregnancy symptom but you might feel like your muscles are almost being pinched from the inside or even stretched, you may experience this on one side of your tummy and then later on the other side of your tummy.

Bloated tummy

Caused by the pregnancy hormone progesterone, you can actually show signs of a bump before your baby has even grown. Feeling full and swollen, particularly after a meal is a symptom some women experience.

Stomach cramps

Your ligaments can start stretching very early as your uterus changes shape and this can cause some to feel stomach cramps.

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

Even though going to the loo more often is in itself associated with early signs of pregnancy, it can also be a sign of a urinary or bladder infection. This is common early pregnancy symptom due to your changing hormones. If you think you may have a UTI, visit your GP.

Thrush

Another pregnancy symptom we can blame on the increasing level of the hormone progesterone. A sign of thrush can be increased cervical mucus and it may be thicker and creamier. Experiencing itching, soreness, and even a stinging sensation when you wee can all be symptoms of thrush.

Trapped wind

Trapped wind can be very painful and you can experience it in very early pregnancy. Passing the wind can make you feel better instantly.

Constipation

An early symptom of pregnancy can be the onset of constipation that once again is due to changes in your hormone progesterone.

Diarrhoea

The polar opposite of constipation, you could also suffer with diarrhoea in the early stages of pregnancy.

Strange metallic taste in the mouth

Described as a sour or metallic taste in the mouth in early pregnancy is known as dysgeusia.

More saliva

It’s not uncommon to experience more saliva in your mouth in the early stages of pregnancy and this can often be highlighted by a little drool on the pillow when you wake up in the morning!

Dry mouth

pregnancy symptoms are all about extremes and this one is no different. Where some experience excess saliva as an early pregnancy symptom, others may have the complete opposite, a dry mouth. Drinking more to try and combat the dry mouth may be one way you notice this symptom.

Bleeding gums

Another early sign of pregnancy can be some bleeding of your gums you notice when you brush your teeth. It is the hormonal changes that make your gums more sensitive than usual to the bacteria in plaque.

If you have early signs of pregnancy – take a pregnancy test

First you want to know for sure if you’re pregnant and the best way is by doing a pregnancy test. Just visit your GP or buy a kit from your local chemist. You can do a test from the first day of your missed period. It takes two weeks from when you conceive for the pregnancy hormone, human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG) to show in your urine, so try not to test too early. It’s possible that your first test might be a negative but if you’re displaying the common early signs of pregnancy and you’re period hasn’t arrived, you should re-test a few days later to confirm.

There are some other factors to think about, including:

Still having periods

It’s surprisingly common to have ‘break-though’ bleeding or ‘implantation’ bleeding during the first few months of pregnancy. It’s thought this could be due to the egg implanting in your uterus or the hormones that regulate your period being higher. It even means some people don’t realise they’re pregnant for a while. Always, get it checked out though, to make sure there isn’t a problem.

See your doctor if you’re displaying the early signs of pregnancy

The first thing you need to do is see your doctor or local midwife, who can get you registered with the maternity services in your local area. They are a great source of information and support if you’re ever unsure of anything during your pregnancy.

Mixed emotions are normal

Finding out you’re pregnant is huge! You might feel wildly excited one minute and terrified the next, and your partner might be on a rollercoaster, too. Not only are you processing major news, but your body is changing fast and dealing with a riot of new hormones. So if you’re feeling a bit all over the shop, it’s perfectly normal!

Keep taking folic acid

Taking folic acid during pregnancy helps lower your unborn baby’s risk of spina bifida and other neural tube defects. The Department of Health recommends you take a daily 400 micrograms (mcg) supplement three months before conception, ideally, and up to the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Wait to tell people

The nanosecond you find out you’re pregnant you’ll probably want to call everyone you know, share it on every social media channel you have, and sing it from the rooftops – and you absolutely can. But many people play it safe and wait until their first scan at around 12 weeks before sharing their fantastic news.

Stay off the booze

It’s best that you avoid drinking alcohol if you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant. This is because alcohol passes from your blood through the placenta and to your baby, potentially affecting their development and even increasing the risk of miscarriage early on. If you’re already displaying the early signs of pregnancy then you should be avoiding alcohol.

Types of pregnancy discharge and what they mean

We have meetings as experts about the most common types of discharges in pregnancy and when you should see your doctor.

5 types of pregnancy discharge and what they mean

Although pregnancy is filled with many exciting moments and a beautiful growing belly, it can also come with some unwanted side effects, such as tender breasts, hormonal changes and discharge. We look at what’s normal and what’s not…

ALSO SEE: 10 pregnancy warning signs to look out for

Mucosal discharge

During pregnancy, a lot of blood flows into the cervical area, which can cause more discharge from the cervix – also known as the neck of the womb, explains Dr Diana Du Plessis, childbirth educator and consultant to Philips Mother and Child Division. “This increased discharge is nothing to be concerned about, as it is fairly common for pregnant women and it is usually harmless,” she says.

As this type of discharge is more common in the first and third trimester, you might want to use panty liners at this time, change your underwear regularly, and use unscented, non-irritating soaps when washing, advises Dr Du Plessis.

What it looks like

Mild or musky-smelling milky fluid that’s designed to keep the vagina clean. Even though it’s normal, it can be irritating and uncomfortable at times.

When to see the doctor

See your gynae or midwife if you have discharge with a strong, unpleasant smell, if it is white, grey yellow or even green, and if it is watery and/or frothy.

Show

Show is also known as the mucus plug. Its purpose is to seal the cervix to help prevent infections. It forms early in pregnancy, at about seven weeks, explains Dr Du Plessis. When show starts to be released, it’s a sign that your cervix is starting to open and labour may follow. For a first-time mom, labour may only start in another week or so after losing the mucus plug, whereas if you’ve had a baby before, it may mean that active labour is a few hours away.

What it looks like

The mucus plug is usually clear, slightly pink or blood tinged in colour, according to the American Pregnancy Association. It can also be sticky or stringy in consistency.

When to see the doctor

If your mucus plug comes out, it’s always a good idea to see your doctor, who will need to assess how far you are from delivery and how much your cervix has dilated. It’s even more important to see your doctor if you experience any bleeding.

ALSO SEE: 6 things you need to know about your cervix

Spotting

Although it might be alarming to see any bloody discharge in your underwear, in some cases, especially in the first trimester, spotting is fairly normal, explains Dr Du Plessis.

What it looks like

It’s a bloody discharge that’s either pale pink or brown in colour. If it’s red, it’s a sign to see your doctor.

When to see the doctor

Spotting can be caused by several things, including sexual intercourse, a tear in the vaginal wall or an infection, says Dr Du Plessis. Some moms may also experience a menstrual cycle in their first trimester, which is quite rare.

However, bleeding in pregnancy should never be ignored, says Natalie Peters, senior midwife at Flora Clinic in Johannesburg. This is because, in some cases, spotting could be an early sign of miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy or placenta praevia.

ALSO SEE: Bleeding during pregnancy

Yeast infections

Pregnancy hormones affect the vaginal pH, making it more susceptible to pathogenic organisms that cause infections such as yeast infections, says Natalie. Therefore, pregnant women often experience yeast infections, especially in the second trimester.

Yeast infections can be harder to treat during pregnancy, and may take up to two weeks to go away, explains Dr Du Plessis. To prevent additional infections, wear cotton underwear and always wipe from front to back after a bowel movement, she suggests.

What it looks like

It’s a thin, white, strong-smelling discharge, which can also have a “cottage cheese”-type texture.

When to see the doctor

If you think you have a yeast infection, contact your gynae or midwife, who will take a vaginal swab to confirm the diagnosis. They may recommend an over-the-counter vaginal cream, too, says Dr Du Plessis.

ALSO SEE: Dealing with thrush dearing pregnancy

Amniotic fluid

Also described as “liquor”, amniotic fluid can leak anytime during pregnancy – but it normally happens in the second or third trimester, as you approach your due date. It’s usually warm and you’ll feel wet immediately – it won’t feel like you’ve passed urine, explains Natalie.

What it looks like

It can be clear, cloudy or light pink if mixed with a bit of blood, says Natalie. It can also be yellowish or green if meconium (a dark greenish substance) is present, she says.  It’s a myth that amniotic fluid smells like urine. In fact, it tends to have no odour or have a faint sweet scent.

When to see the doctor

If you suspect your discharge is amniotic fluid, go to your maternity unit or labour ward immediately.

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