Pregnancy is associated with many complex and interrelated changes that occur throughout the entire body. These may be both physical and psychological and whilst some of them become obvious early in pregnancy, others do not become noticeable until pregnancy is well advanced. It must also be remembered that there are many minor alterations in bodily function of which the pregnant woman is completely unaware. Doctors and midwives can understand only some of these changes, many are inadequately understood and there are still some, mostly minor, about which very little or nothing is known and doubtless others as yet unrecognized even by medical science. It is all the more confusing because one woman will demonstrate one particular change more than another and any one woman will nearly always experience different phenomena during subsequent pregnancies and labours. You frequently hear a woman saying ‘ I feel much more tired in this pregnancy than in the last one ’ or ‘During my first pregnancy I felt sick in the morning and during my second pregnancy I had no nausea at all and during this one I feel sick in the evening.’
There is an extremely close relationship between the physical and psychological reactions to pregnancy and, although it is a normal physiological process, it must also be accepted that some women will undergo a profound change in their emotional state as well as in their psychological balance.
It is important to appreciate that neither the physical nor the psychological changes end with the onset of labour or even with delivery. From a purely legal point of view it is accepted in Great Britain that psychological changes associated with pregnancy may continue for at least six months after delivery, and it is probably true that the physical and psychological equilibrium of the mother does not return to normal until up to a year after delivery, particularly if she breast-feeds for several months.
To understand what is happening during pregnancy is half-way- towards enjoying a happy and successful pregnancy, but it is important that your husband and your family should appreciate why you are asked to attend the antenatal clinic. There is little point in trying to restrict your weight if the rest of the family insist on malting you eat ‘food for two’.
The importance of information is paramount. If you understand about your pregnancy and what is happening to your mind and body you will have more confidence in yourself and your ability to produce a baby. Furthermore, you will not be afraid of the unknown, of your labour or delivery.
Doctors and midwives can only do a certain amount to guide and help you. The more you know about the whole process of producing a baby, the easier will be their important duty of caring for you, because you will understand what they want you to do and why.
Don’t Read Medical Textbooks
There is nothing secret in medical textbooks. You can see them in your local library or bookshop, or if you happen to be near a university you will nearly always find that there is a specialized bookshop which sells educational books. Most textbooks on obstetrics, midwifery and gynaecology deal with the abnormal: they are written for medical students who must be taught how to prevent complications from occurring as well as how to deal with them should they arise. The great art, indeed the whole basis, of modem midwifery is one of preventive medicine and early treatment, designed to stop any complication from developing. Do not settle down to some good solid reading about a rather frightening complication that you imagine might be affecting you. British medical textbooks have a very wide circulation throughout the world, especially in countries where medical services are less developed and places where antenatal clinics are unknown. Our own doctors and midwives often visit such countries, and have to know how to cope with many of the complications not normally seen in Britain. Similarly, our medical schools and hospitals have to teach doctors and midwives from these countries how to deal with their native problems when they do arise. Many complications of pregnancy and childbirth are, however, no longer seen in this country except in those now mercifully rare instances where a patient refuses any form of antenatal supervision. Complicated obstetric operations and forcible delivery involving danger of damage to the baby (or his mother) have now been eliminated by the safety of Caesarean section, and the appropriate instruments for performing those procedures will be found only in the museums of our medical schools.