There is no bigger news than finding out that you are expecting a child. The joy and happiness have no boundaries. But as your pregnancy progresses, the hormonal and other changes in your body may cause a variety of discomforts.
While a few lucky women sail through their pregnancies without any complaints, most expectant moms have to deal with issues ranging from morning sickness to swollen feet.
These discomforts are not dangerous but may need some attention. With some small changes, you can easily relieve the discomforts.
At the same time, you can always contact your doctor if you have any concerns about the discomforts you may be experiencing during your pregnancy.
Here are 10 common pregnancy discomforts and how to deal with them.
1. Nausea and Vomiting
Nausea and vomiting during pregnancy is commonly known as morning sickness. It is common during the first trimester and usually goes away by the fourth month of pregnancy.
The exact cause of morning sickness is unknown, but experts believe it is due to increased estrogen levels, increased levels of human chorionic gonadotrophin (the reproductive hormone known as hCG), gastric problems and nutritional deficiencies.
Morning sickness does not usually cause any problems for the unborn baby.
In fact, morning sickness can actually be a positive sign. A 2016 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine reports that nausea and vomiting during pregnancy is associated with a lower risk of miscarriage.
- Eat smaller meals more often and do not skip meals.
- Try eating crackers or a few salty potato chips before you get out of bed in the morning.
- Drinking ginger tea can help soothe nausea.
- Smelling lemons or ginger may calm your stomach.
- Eat a healthy snack before you go to bed at night.
- Avoid foods if their taste, smell or appearance makes you feel sick.
Heartburn is caused by stomach acid flowing back up into the esophagus, the tube that connects the stomach to the throat.
The problem is very common during pregnancy because of hormonal changes and pressure on the stomach from the growing womb.
While you might otherwise take some type of heartburn medicine, it is not recommended during pregnancy because it can have lasting effects on the unborn baby.
A 2017 study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology reports that children born to mothers who take heartburn medication during pregnancy may have a greater risk of developing asthma.
- Drink water with apple cider vinegar twice a day. Just add 1 tablespoon of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar to 1 cup of warm water.
- Drinking warm ginger tea also helps.
- Eat small, frequent meals and eat slowly and chew your food well.
- Stay away from greasy or fried foods, coffee and colas.
- Don’t lie down for at least 30 minutes after meals.
- Raise the head of your bed by about 6 inches (15 cm) to prevent heartburn at night.
3. Fatigue and Tiredness
Particularly in the first and third trimesters, fatigue and tiredness is another common problem for pregnant women.
A 1999 study published in the American Journal of Perinatology reports that women in the first trimester of pregnancy experience significantly greater fatigue than a similar group of non-pregnant women.
Soon after conceiving, your body goes through a lot of changes. The rising level of progesterone makes pregnant women tire more easily. Plus, lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels during pregnancy contribute more to the tiredness.
In addition, don’t forget that as the body is creating the placenta; it takes up all of your energy and causes you to feel tired.
There’s good reason to take steps to deal with your fatigue. A 2004 study published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing reports that fatigue during pregnancy predicts caesarean deliveries. In fact, managing fatigue can help reduce the number of caesarean cases.
- Get plenty of rest every day.
- Listen to your body. If you’re tired, forget everything and take some rest.
- Make time to sit with your feet up during the day.
- Eat foods rich in protein as well as iron.
- Ask for help, whenever you need it.
Bowel movements slow down during pregnancy, due to an increased level of progesterone in the body. Also, if you’re taking iron supplements during pregnancy, it can lead to constipation.
A 2007 study published in Obstetrics & Gynecology reports that constipation affects up to one-fourth of women throughout pregnancy and at three months postpartum.
If not treated or controlled early, constipation can lead to hemorrhoids (piles), which are swollen veins around your anus that can be very uncomfortable or even painful.
A 2012 study published in Canadian Family Physician reports that the first line of therapy for constipation during pregnancy includes increasing dietary fiber and water intake, along with moderate amounts of daily exercise. If these are ineffective, laxatives are the second line of therapy.
- Eat foods that are high in fiber.
- Exercise regularly to keep your muscles toned. Light exercises can help aid digestion and relieve constipation symptoms.
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
- Talk to your doctor about your options if you think iron supplements are making you constipated.
5. Blocked Nose
A stuffy nose is a classic discomfort associated with pregnancy.
A blocked and stuffy nose can be a real nuisance, as it can make it difficult for expectant mothers to get much-needed sleep.
A blocked nose happens due to higher levels of estrogen and other hormones made by the placenta, which in turn affect the mucous membranes that line the inside of your nose.
This problem can also be due to higher blood volume associated with pregnancy. It can start in the first few months and last until your baby is born.
- Applying a warm compress over yournose can help easethe symptoms.
- Try steam inhalation, especially before going to bed to enjoy proper sleep.
- A saline spray canhelp clear your nose.
- Drink herbal teas to help clear ablocked nose.
- Elevate the head of your bed or use a pillow to elevate your head while sleeping.
- Avoid blowing your nose too hard, as this can cause nosebleeds.
A backache, especially lower back pain, is another common discomfort during pregnancy. This problem usually occurs at the end of the second trimester and throughout the third trimester.
Your lower back hurts during pregnancy due to weight gain, posture changes and relaxed muscles.
A 2008 study published in Current Reviews in Musculoskeletal Medicine reports that there is an increased incidence of back pain associated with pregnancy. Low back pain can be the normal result of a multitude of mechanical, hormonal and vascular changes associated with pregnancy.
Home exercise is the most frequently used and most effective treatment for managing pregnancy-related lower back pain, according to a 2016 study published in Physiotherapy.
Do some light exercises to strengthen your back. For example, straight leg raises and pelvic tilts are safe and beneficial.
- Always keep your spine upright while sitting, standing or walking. Do this consciously to avoid slumping.
- Choose chairs with good lumbar support or put a little pillow behind the your back when sitting.
- Avoid wearing high heels and opt for flat shoes.
- Avoid lifting heavy objects. If it’s unavoidable, bend your knees and keep your back straight when lifting or picking up something.
- Avoid standing or sitting for long periods.
- When you sleep, keep a pillow tucked between your legs to ensure good back support.
- Use a firm mattress for sleeping to prevent and relieve backaches.
7. Swollen Hands and Feet
Ankles, feet and hands often swell a little during pregnancy. Additional production of blood and fluid in the body to support the unborn baby can cause the extremities to swell.
This type of swelling isn’t harmful to you or your baby, but it can be uncomfortable and your shoes can feel tight. Swelling usually occurs around the fifth month and lasts through the third trimester.
- Avoid standing or sitting for long periods.
- Light exercises like walking can help control swelling.
- Wear comfortable shoes and avoid any footwear with tight straps.
- Keep your feet elevated whenever possible.
- While sleeping, use extra pillows to raise your feet higher than your heart.
- Keep an eye on your sodium intake, which can cause even more fluid retention.
- Eat foods high in potassium like bananas.
- Using cold compresses and drinking plenty of water can also help.
Leg cramps or painful spasms are a common problem during pregnancy. These cramps, especially in the calves, occur mainly during the second and third trimesters and usually at night.
The painful cramps may be caused by increased body weight or compression of the blood vessels. It also may be due to low calcium and magnesium levels during pregnancy.
- To prevent cramps in your calves at night, stretch your calf muscles before you go to bed.
- Regular, gentle exercise that involves ankle and leg movements will improve your circulation and may help prevent cramping.
- When having a cramp, try to keep your leg straight and pull your toes back toward your knee. This will stretch your calf muscle and reduce the pain.
- When the pain eases, you can massage the area gently with some warm oil.
- You can also place a hot water bottle or heat pack on the area.
- Be sure to eat foods rich in magnesium and calcium. Also, eating a banana before bed can help prevent leg cramps.
- Put pillows under your legs while sleeping.
The hormonal changes and physical discomforts associated with pregnancy can affect your quality of sleep.
Especially during late pregnancy, your may have trouble falling or staying asleep during the night. This can be due to discomfort associated with your growing belly, heartburn, leg cramps or sinus congestion. Also, frequent nighttime urination affects sleep quality.
A 2012 study published in the Scientific World Journal found that more than half of the 486 pregnant participants reported having insomnia. Although the sleep duration of the pregnant women was within normal standards, it was found to decrease with the increasing gestational trimester. This study identified age, depression symptoms and gestational trimester as risk factors for insomnia.
Pregnancy-related insomnia should not be taken lightly. A 2014 study published in PLOS ONE reports that insomnia during pregnancy may be a marker for postpartum depression among women with previous depression.
A 2005 study published in Acupuncture in Medicine suggests acupuncture alleviates insomnia during pregnancy.
- Develop a calm bedtime routine.
- Keep a consistent sleep schedule.
- Practice abdominal breathing and guided imagery meditation before going to bed.
- Drinking a glass of warm milk may help bring on sleep.
- Take your vitamins and eat a healthy, balanced diet.
- Avoid computers, cell phones or televisions before bed.
- Use a body pillow to help keep you comfortable throughout the night.
10. Bladder Problems
Both frequent urination and incontinence are common bladder problems faced by pregnant women.
As the pregnancy enters the last trimester, you may feel the need to urinate at frequent intervals. This happens as the baby’s head presses or rests on your bladder. Also, you may have difficulty emptying your bladder completely when urinating.
Incontinence is another common problem that can affect you during and after pregnancy. Incontinence means you are not able to prevent a sudden spurt of urine or a small leak when you cough, laugh, sneeze or move suddenly. This may be due to relaxed pelvic floor muscles.
- Drink plenty of water to dilute your urine.
- Prevent incontinence by doing pelvic floor exercises.
- Don’t drink a lot of fluids in the early evening and before bedtime.
- Go to the bathroom when you feel the urge.
- When you urinate, lean forward to help the bladder empty more.