Common Discomforts During Pregnancy
Symptoms of discomfort due to
pregnancy vary from woman to woman. Below are some common discomforts. But each
mother-to-be may have different symptoms or none at all:
Nausea and vomiting. About half of all pregnant women
have nausea and sometimes vomiting in the first trimester. This is also called
morning sickness. That’s because symptoms are most severe in the morning. Some women
may have nausea and vomiting throughout the pregnancy. Morning sickness may be due
the changes in hormone levels during pregnancy.
Morning sickness seems to
be made worse by stress, traveling, and certain foods, like spicy or fatty foods.
Eating small meals several times a day may help lessen the symptoms. A diet high in
protein and complex carbohydrates (like whole-wheat bread, pasta, bananas, and green,
leafy vegetables) may also help reduce the severity of the nausea.
If vomiting is severe, causing a
woman to lose fluids and weight, it may be a sign of a condition called hyperemesis
gravidarum. Hyperemesis can lead to dehydration and may require a hospital stay for
intravenous fluids and nutrition. Call your healthcare provider or midwife if you
having constant or severe nausea and vomiting.
Fatigue. As the body works overtime to provide a
nourishing environment for the fetus, it is no wonder a pregnant woman often feels
tired. In the first trimester, her blood volume and other fluids increase as her body
adjusts to the pregnancy. Sometimes anemia is the underlying cause of the fatigue.
Anemia is a drop in the ability of red blood cells to carry oxygen. It is often due
to low iron levels. A simple blood test done at a prenatal visit will check for
Hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids are common in late pregnancy.
That’s because of the increased pressure on the rectum and perineum, the increased
blood volume, and the increased likelihood of becoming constipated as the pregnancy
progresses. Avoiding constipation and straining may help to prevent hemorrhoids.
Always check with your healthcare provider or midwife before using any medicine to
treat this condition.
Varicose veins. Varicose veins—swollen, purple veins—are
common in the legs and around the vaginal opening during late pregnancy. In most
cases, varicose veins are caused by the increased pressure on the legs and the pelvic
veins. It is also caused by the increased blood volume.
Heartburn and indigestion. Heartburn and indigestion is
caused by pressure on the intestines and stomach (which, in turn, pushes stomach
contents back up into the esophagus). It can be prevented or reduced by eating
smaller meals throughout the day and by not lying down shortly after eating.
Bleeding gums. Gums may become more spongy as blood flow
increases during pregnancy. This causes them to bleed easily. A pregnant woman should
continue to take care of her teeth and gums and go to the dentist for regular
checkups. This symptom usually disappears after pregnancy.
Pica. Pica is a rare craving to eat substances other than
food, like dirt, clay, or coal. The craving may be a sign of a nutritional
Swelling or fluid retention. Mild swelling is common
during pregnancy. But severe swelling that lasts may be a sign of preeclampsia
(abnormal condition marked by high blood pressure). Lying on the left side, elevating
the legs, and wearing support hose and comfortable shoes may help to relieve the
swelling. Be sure to notify your healthcare provider or midwife about sudden
swelling, especially in the hands or face, or rapid weight gain.
Skin changes. Due to fluctuations in hormone levels,
including hormones that stimulate pigmentation of the skin, brown, blotchy patches
may happen on the face, forehead, or cheeks. This is often called the
mask of pregnancy, or
It often disappears soon after delivery. Using sunscreen when outside can reduce
the amount of darkening that happens.
Pigmentation may also increase
in the skin surrounding the nipples, called the areola. A dark line also often
appears down the middle of the stomach. Freckles may darken, and moles may grow.
Stretch marks. Pinkish stretch marks may appear on the
stomach, breasts, thighs, or buttocks. Stretch marks are generally caused by a rapid
increase in weight. The marks usually fade after pregnancy.
Yeast infections. Due to hormone changes and increased
vaginal discharge, also called leukorrhea, a pregnant woman is more prone to yeast
infections. Yeast infections cause a thick, whitish discharge from the vagina and
itching. Yeast infections are highly treatable. Always talk with your healthcare
provider or midwife before taking any medicine for this condition.
Congested or bloody nose. During pregnancy, the lining of
the respiratory tract receives more blood, often making it more congested. This
congestion can also cause stuffiness in the nose or nosebleeds. Small blood vessels
in the nose are also easily damaged due to the increased blood volume, causing
Constipation. Increased pressure from the pregnancy on
the rectum and intestines can interfere with digestion and bowel movements. Hormone
changes may also slow down the food being processed by the body. Increasing fluids,
exercising regularly, and increasing the fiber in your diet are some of the ways to
prevent constipation. Always check with your healthcare provider or midwife before
taking any medicine for this condition.
Backache. As a woman’s weight increases, her balance
changes. Her center of gravity is pulled forward, straining her back. Pelvic joints
that begin to loosen in preparation for childbirth also contribute to this back
strain. Proper posture and proper lifting techniques throughout the pregnancy can
help reduce the strain on the back.
Dizziness. Dizziness during pregnancy is a common
symptom. It may be caused by:
Low blood pressure due to
the uterus compressing major arteries
Low blood sugar
Quickly moving from a
sitting position to a standing position
To prevent injury from falling
during episodes of dizziness, a pregnant woman should stand up slowly and hold on
the walls and other stable structures for support and balance.
Headaches. Hormonal changes may be the cause of headaches
during pregnancy, especially during the first trimester. Rest, proper nutrition, and
adequate fluid intake may help ease headache symptoms. Always talk with your
healthcare provider or midwife before taking any medicine for this condition. If you
have a severe headache or a headache that does not go away, call your healthcare
provider. It may be a sign of preeclampsia.