When you're pregnant, your body is undergoing transformation. You can expect to experience changes, such as mood swings, leg cramps, and stress. You've probably experienced these conditions before – just not with such intensity. The following sections cover these and other problems and let you know what you may be in for.

Coping with mood swings

Hormonal shifts affect mood, as most women, especially those who suffer from premenstrual syndrome (PMS), already know. The hormonal fluctuations that support pregnancy are perhaps the most dramatic a woman experiences in her lifetime, so it's hard surprising that emotional ups and downs are commonplace. And the fatigue that goes along with pregnancy can easily make these ups and downs more severe. Add to this biochemical mix the normal anxieties that the average expectant mother has about whether the baby will be healthy and whether she'll be a good mother, and you have plenty of fuel to produce good, old-fashioned mood swings.

You're not alone. Moodiness is a normal part of pregnancy, and you're not the first or only woman to experience it. So do not blame yourself. Your family and friends will understand

Your moodiness may be especially pronounced during the first trimester because your body is adjusting to its new condition. You may find yourself overreacting to little things. A silly, mushy television commercial, for example, may leave you in tears. Misplacing your appointment book may send you into a panic. A grocery store clerk who incidentally smashes your loaf of bread may draw you into a teeth-clenching rage. Do not worry – you're just pregnant. Take a few deep breaths, go out for a walk, or just close your eyes and take a short break. These feelings often pass as quickly as they arise.

Living through leg cramps

Leg cramps are a common annoyance of pregnancy, and they're likely to become more frequent as the months go along. They're due to a sudden tightening of the muscles. The muscles may tighten for many different reasons, including lack of fluids, muscle strain, or staying in one position for too long. Doctors once thought that leg cramps were due to too little calcium or potassium in the diet, although that has not been shown to be true. Some studies suggest that taking an oral magnesium supplement may reduce leg cramps.

To diminish leg cramps, you may want to try one of these suggestions:

  • Apply heat to the calves.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Stretch and extend your legs and feet.
  • Take a short walk.
  • Ask your partner to give you a foot or leg massage.

Noticing vaginal discharge

During pregnancy, your vaginal discharge normally increases substantially. Some women find that they need to wear thin panty liners every day. The discharge tends to be thin, white, and often odorless. Vaginal douches are not a good idea because they may alter a woman's natural ability to fight off vaginal infections.

If your vaginal discharge takes on a brown, yellow, or green color, or if it develops a noxious odor or causes itching, let your gynecologist know. Be sure to use your judgment about how much of an emergency this is.

Pregnancy does not prevent you from getting a vaginal infection, and the high levels of estrogen in your blood may predispose you to developing a yeast infection. A yeast infection usually produces a thick, white-yellow discharge, and it may, in some cases, cause itchiness or redness. Topical vaginal creams should solve the problem, and they pose no risk to the fetus. Most over-the-counter preparations come in 1, 3, and 7-day dosages and are completely safe for the baby. For hard-to-beat yeast infections, talk with your gynecologist about oral fluconazole, which may be used safely in pregnancy.

Handling stress

Many women wonder whether stress has any effect on pregnancy. That question is difficult to answer because stress is such an elusive concept. We all know what stress is, but each woman seems to handle it in her own way, and no one can really measure its intensity. We do know that chronic stress – unrelieved day after day – can increase the levels of stress hormones circulating in the bloodstream. Many gynecologists think that such elevated levels of stress hormones can promote preterm labor or blood pressure problems during pregnancy, but few studies have been able to prove this idea.

While you're pregnant, pay attention to your own personal comfort and happiness. Everyone has her own way of relaxing-whether it's getting a massage, going to a movie, having dinner with friends, taking a shower or bubble bath, or just sitting back and putting her feet up. Take the time you need to be good to yourself.