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Healthy In the Homestretch: The Final Weeks of Pregnancy

The final weeks of pregnancy can be exciting, stressful and just plain exhausting. Dr. Emily Senay shares some health tips for the homestretch on The Early Show.

Weight gain is expected during pregnancy, and the amount gained depends on many factors, such as your pre-pregnancy weight, your body type and diet, Senay says on average, women tend to gain about 25 to 35 pounds.

Don't attempt to lose weight during pregnancy, she says. Since the fetus needs a constant supply of energy, it's best to consume enough food to gain weight at a slow and gradual pace.

Sleep can be very sporadic during the last weeks of pregnancy, she says, since it gets hard to find a comfortable position. Pillows can be very helpful. You can sleep on your side with a pillow propped under you knee and leg for support, which also improves circulation.

If shortness of breath interferes with your sleep, you can lie on one side with your head and shoulders propped up with a pillow. Or try sleeping while sitting up in a recliner. Pregnant women should never take sleeping pills without consulting their doctor, Senay adds.

Exercising can bring lots of benefits for pregnant women, Senay says. Walking, water sports and stretching are great, and there are even special classes for expectant mothers.

Expectant women should avoid activities that could hurt the fetus, like rollerblading or anything that requires balance or involves mild abdominal trauma. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends no exercises after the fourth month in the "lying down" position, since this can dangerously reduce blood pressure. Also, swimming is not good if you think your membranes may have been ruptured or are leaking.

Senay says to call the doctor if you have any of the following symptoms, which may be a warning sign of possible complications:

  • "Spotting" or bleeding
  • Contractions or cramps
  • Don't feel the baby moving
  • Dizziness, swelling of legs
  • Blood in urine
  • Blurred vision

Later in pregnancy, vaginal bleeding may be caused by a miscarriage, but it may also be an indication of abnormal location of the placenta, such as placenta previa. Up to 10% of women have vaginal bleeding in late pregnancy, Senay says, and if it happens, you should call your doctor immediately.

Contractions could be premature labor, and are sometimes accompanied by a bloody discharge. They can occur anywhere from the 27th week to the 37th week. Premenstrual-like cramps with diarrhea, nausea or indigestion could signal premature labor and are considered an emergency situation.

High blood pressure, swelling, or blood in the urine could be preeclampsia, or toxemia. It is basically pregnancy-induced hypertension. Symptoms can appear suddenly or gradually become worse. Either way, the only cure is to deliver the baby. There are medications to keep women from getting more ill, but they will not completely relieve the situation.

Swelling othe hands, ankles and feet, is due to a high level of water accumulation. Unless elevated blood pressure and protein in the urine accompany the swelling, it's considered normal.

What about sex during pregnancy?

The bottom line here is, sex is OK, says Senay. For many couples sex continues during pregnancy, and it's fine as long as you're comfortable and have no bleeding or cramps. If you have a history of premature labor or birth, sexual activity may not be a good idea late in a pregnancy.

Expectant fathers should keep in mind, however, that during pregnancy, a woman's body goes through major hormonal and physical changes which can affect a their levels of desire.

Consult your doctor if you have any questions, Senay says.

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