Wed, 02 Aug 2000

Pregnant women often face unexpected problems

JAKARTA (JP): In local traditional society, there is nothing a married woman looks forward to more than being pregnant and having a baby.

When the dream eventually comes true, it is usually accompanied by anxiety. There may be "unexpected" changes that the prospective mother will find disturbing and confusing at the same time.

Among the most common physical changes are darkening complexion -- or hyperpigmentation -- on some parts of their bodies, loss of hair, weight gain and a weakening of the hips.

Noted gynecologist and sex consultant Boyke Dian Nugraha says the changes are just part of the natural process for expectant mothers.

Boyke says some women find the changes disturbing and confusing, particularly when they become pregnant soon after getting married and are still trying to adjust to their new life.

Without the support and understanding of their husbands, expectant mothers can be overwhelmed by the changes.

"The husband's support and understanding is very important during this tiring and long waiting period. By understanding the changes that his wife is going through, he will help ease his wife's anxiety about being beautiful during and after she has a baby," he said when speaking during a seminar on pregnancy at Pantai Indah Kapuk Hospital on Saturday.

The seminar featured a number of experts on pregnancy who provided information on how to help expectant mothers understand their physical and emotional changes and overcome their fears.

"During pregnancy, 90 percent of women will experience hyperpigmentation, or a darkening of their complexion, mostly in their cheeks, belly, armpits, the inside part of their thighs and around their nipples. Changes in their skin, which is caused by increased production of the estrogen hormone, will remain until the postnatal period and disappear about a year later," Boyke said.

Expectant women should not be worried by this change because hyperpigmentation is common and can be helped by applying beauty creams or moisturizers, he added.

"But don't scratch the belly even if it itches because scratching will leave scars that do not easily disappear."

He also said those pregnant women who began to lose hair should not worry either, because it is a normal process caused by the increased production of estrogen, which slows down and even stops hair growth.

"The process will continue for four to 20 weeks after the end of the pregnancy," said Boyke, advising pregnant women to use hair tonic to strengthen their hair.

Expectant mothers will also find that their breasts become larger -- a natural process that prepares them for breast-feeding -- and their vaginas become bluish and moister than usual.

Boyke also told those in attendance at the seminar that pregnant women could continue to have sex if their gynecologists declared their pregnancies normal.

"But couples should avoid having sex, or they should use a safer technique, under certain circumstances, such as for women who have a history of miscarriage," said Boyke.

After giving birth, a couple's sex life can return to normal after 42 days, or six weeks.

"The husband should patiently wait for over 42 days. At that time, his wife's reproductive organ will have recovered, and mentally she will have recovered from the traumatic experience of giving birth and adjusted to her baby's habits."

Gaining weight

The most common complaint during pregnancy is gaining weight. According to Boyke, there's no need to worry about weight gains during pregnancy since it is important to assure the proper growth of the fetus and sufficient nourishment for both the fetus and the mother.

"The most ideal weight increase is between 10.5 and 17 kilograms ... and during pregnancy, women should stop smoking and dieting," Boyke said.

The physical changes experienced by pregnant women are accompanied by emotional changes, which vary from woman to woman depending on how emotionally prepared they are for the pregnancy.

Some expectant mothers, for example, experience the syndrome locally known as ngidam, where they crave certain foods, while others experience morning sickness, which makes them reluctant to eat.

"During this period, the husband's role is important in ensuring his wife gets the necessary nutrients for both the unborn baby and herself," Boyke said.

Citing an example, he said if women did not like to drink milk, their husbands should persuade them to eat ice cream. "They have to eat, anything, as long as they don't vomit it back up."

He also advised husbands to pay greater attention to their expectant wives. "The wife who is ngidam usually is craving for her husband's attention. Basically, the expectant woman needs more attention, more love and wants to share her feelings with her husband." (ste)