Minor Problems in Pregnancy
This is due to the ligaments softening and stretching during pregnancy, which can put a strain on the joints of the lower back and pelvis. As pregnancy progresses, you gain weight and your posture changes to cater for your growing baby. This puts strain on your back which may result in backache. Gentle stretching, massage or heat packs may help to relieve pain. Special yoga classes for pregnant women and acupuncture can help. If you are in severe pain, always contact your midwife or doctor, as you may need to see a physiotherapist for specialist treatment.
To prevent backache:
- avoid lifting heavy loads.
- always bend your knees and keep your back straight when lifting objects.
- wear flat or low-heeled shoes as these allow your weight to be more evenly distributed.
During pregnancy, you may find any physical exertion difficult and it may cause breathlessness. This is due to the growing baby pushing up your diaphragm, which makes it harder for you to take deep breaths. When this happens, stop what you are doing and breathe slowly in order to get the correct amount of oxygen. There is no risk to your baby.
High levels of the hormone progesterone occur in pregnancy and can slow down the intestinal process which can result in constipation. To prevent or relieve constipation you should drink lots of water, eat fresh fruit and vegetables every day and include high fibre foods in your diet. Avoid sugary and fatty foods and try to exercise regularly.
Suddenly feeling faint or dizzy can occur at any stage of pregnancy but it is more common in the early weeks and towards the end of pregnancy. This can happen when your blood sugar level falls, especially if you have morning sickness. Eat small meals at regular intervals and drink plenty of fluids during this stage of your pregnancy. Your blood pressure can fall if you are lying on your back for some time, or you suddenly get up from bed or a chair. To relieve dizziness, sit down with your head between your knees, or lie down on your side. Try to avoid hot areas, don’t stand for long periods of time and don’t stand up or change position quickly.
These are swollen veins around your anus (back passage) which can itch, feel painful or bleed. You may feel a ‘lump’ around your back passage. Piles can make passing a bowel motion difficult and painful. To relieve the swelling and reduce the pain, use a haemorrhoid cream from the pharmacy or apply a cold compress. Avoid constipation and standing for long periods of time.
These are common in pregnancy especially in the first few weeks. This is due to hormone changes and an increase in your blood supply. Drink plenty of water, rest as much as possible and take some gentle exercise to help alleviate the pain. If headaches are persistent, always inform your midwife or doctor, as it could be a sign of a more serious problem. See the section on serious problems in pregnancy.
This is caused by the hormonal changes occurring in your body and by your growing womb pressing on your stomach. The valve at the top of the stomach relaxes during pregnancy allowing acid to rise. Try eating small amounts of food regularly and avoid fatty and spicy foods. There are a number of over-the-counter medications (simple antacids) available from your local pharmacy which can help to ease the symptoms of heartburn. Always read the instructions carefully and make sure you do not take more than the recommended dose. Your pharmacist will be able to offer advice on the product you buy.
This is a sudden sharp pain usually in the calf of the leg or the feet, which is more common at night time. To relieve cramp, flex (bend) your knee and/or ankle and pull your toes up towards your ankle. Massaging the affected area can also help relieve the pain. If pain in the calf of your leg persists or your leg becomes swollen, contact your midwife or doctor.
Nausea or Morning Sickness
This is very common in the early stages of pregnancy. Some women may feel sick or vomit early in the morning. For others, it may last all day or occur only in the evening time. It is caused by the change in hormone levels in early pregnancy and the symptoms usually go away by 12 – 14 weeks. Try eating a plain biscuit or dry toast and eat small amounts frequently. Drink plenty of fluids to avoid becoming dehydrated. For most women, morning sickness will pass. Some women though are unable to keep any food or fluids in their stomach and become ill, requiring admission to hospital for treatment.
Some women suffer from nosebleeds during pregnancy which are due to the effects of the increased hormone levels. The bleeding usually stops by pressing the sides of the nose together with your thumb and forefinger. If the bleeding persists or is difficult to stop, please consult your midwife or doctor.
This is due to the increased blood supply to the skin and the stretching of the skin on the tummy. To relieve the itch, apply some calamine lotion from the pharmacy. If you have severe or persistent itching, contact your midwife or doctor as it could be a sign of a more serious problem. See the section on serious problems in pregnancy.
These occur around your tummy, breasts and the top of your legs. As the skin stretches during pregnancy, some of the fibres in the skin will tear resulting in red spidery ‘stretch marks’. This can occur at any stage of the pregnancy and depends on your skin type. Some women will benefit from applying oils or creams to the area but for others, stretch marks will just happen as part of pregnancy. The marks will gradually become less noticeable after the pregnancy.
Swollen Ankles and Hands
This usually occurs towards the end of pregnancy as the body holds more fluid and the circulation is restricted due to the pressure of your growing baby. It is more common in hot weather and in the evening time, especially if you have been standing a lot. To prevent this occurring, avoid long periods of standing, sit down when possible and avoid wearing high-heeled shoes. Foot exercises can also help to ease the discomfort. Swollen ankles and hands can also be a sign of pre-eclampsia. See the section on serious problems in pregnancy.
Thrush is a yeast infection in the vagina caused by a fungus called candida. It results in a thick vaginal discharge and itchiness of the surrounding area. It is common in pregnancy as high oestrogen levels lower the acidity of the vagina. To relieve the symptoms, use an antifungal cream available from the pharmacy and wear cotton underwear. Eating natural yoghurt helps to prevent thrush. It may also help to relieve itching, if it is applied to the affected area.
Teeth and gum problems
Bleeding gums can be a problem for some women caused by the build up of plaque on their teeth. Due to the hormonal changes in pregnancy, the plaque makes the gums inflamed and they become swollen and bleed. Using a mouthwash will reduce the build up of plaque and you might want to use a softer toothbrush. Avoid sugary drinks and food. Visit your dentist for further advice.
This occurs when small amounts of urine leak when you sneeze, laugh or cough. The softening of the ligaments and your growing baby putting pressure on your bladder causes it. If this becomes a problem for you, contact your midwife or doctor who will refer you to the physiotherapist for pelvic floor exercises to help tone up the muscles. At parent education classes, exercises to prevent this happening are discussed.
These occur during pregnancy as rising hormone levels relax the walls of the blood vessels and the veins become swollen and painful. They are more common in the legs but can occur in the vulva (around the vaginal opening). The weight of the growing baby also puts pressure on the veins. Try not to stand for long periods of time and do not cross your legs. Compression stockings will help relieve the discomfort of varicose veins.