Every woman will experience pregnancy differently. Some women find it no problem at all and continue working and leading their normal lifestyles, while others may find pregnancy a challenge.
Some of the common discomforts in pregnancy include:
- Morning sickness
- Breast tenderness
- Frequent urination
- Stretch marks
- Leg cramps
- Swelling feet and ankles
- Varicose veins
- Back and abdominal pain
This often begins two to four weeks after the first missed period and lasts for about three months. It affects about 80% of all pregnant mothers. One of the best remedies is to eat small, frequent meals and snacks.
An empty stomach can increase the feeling of nausea. Getting something into your stomach before you rise may prevent an attack. Ginger or peppermint teas can help; sea sickness bands work well too. Vitamin B supplement can also offer relief from nausea.
As a general rule, avoid food that makes you sick - e.g. spicy, oily and fatty food as well as smells that you are not fond of. As most women don’t throw up while sleeping, so rest whenever you get a chance. Stress can also trigger nausea, so keep yourself as relaxed as possible. Listen to soothing music and have your spouse give you a massage.
Early in the pregnancy, the breasts will enlarge and change shape as they prepare to produce milk. They may become very tender and sensitive for a few months as a result. Stretch marks may appear. A larger, supportive and well-fitting bra is helpful to provide relief for breast tenderness.
This is common in early pregnancy as the growing uterus is pressing directly on your bladder, and again in the last trimester of pregnancy due to the entrance of the baby’s head into the pelvis (engagement). If there is pain, or burning sensation or blood in urination, it may be a sign of urinary tract infection. Treatment by the doctor may be necessary.
Constipation is usually due to lazy movements in the small and large intestines caused by hormonal changes in pregnancy. The added pressure of a pregnant uterus on the intestines can also cause constipation. Antenatal vitamins containing iron further contribute to this problem. Drinking plenty of water and eating lots of fibre e.g. fruits and vegetables may help.
Stretch marks are due to small tears in blood vessels (capillaries) in areas of stretched skin. They are usually red lines and occur on the abdomen as the womb grows. They may also occur on the breasts and buttocks. The colour usually fades and becomes silvery white months after delivery. They will become less noticeable but would not go away completely. Unfortunately, there is no reliable way of avoiding stretch marks. No pills, creams or exercise can stop these marks from developing, although there is no harm in trying these products.
Muscle fatigue is the cause of the leg cramps. It usually happens at night and can wake you up from sleep. Too much phosphorus (e.g. in processed meat and snack foods), and too little calcium and potassium in the blood can also cause muscle spasms. When a leg cramp occurs, immediately stretch out the leg. Massage it until the cramp is gone. Taking a glass of milk for extra calcium and eating a banana for potassium before bed may also help. Avoid standing or sitting with your legs crossed for long periods of time.
Swelling feet and ankles
Swelling of feet is due to excessive water retention. This is very common in the third trimester, causing discomfort, particularly in the ankles. The swelling increases over the course of the day. However, if hands or face begin to swell, it could be a sign of hypertensive disease in pregnancy and you should consult your obstetrician immediately. If there is no hypertension, you can prop up your legs more often and wear support hose designed specifically for pregnant women. Wear comfortable, low-heeled shoes. Avoid wearing elastic-top socks or stockings. Avoid crossing your legs when sitting. Avoid salty food including soya sauce.
Varicose veins are swollen veins that bulge near the surface of the skin. As the uterus grows, it presses on the large vein on the right side of the body which in turn increases pressure in the leg veins. Usually they do not cause any discomfort but may make the legs feel heavy and achy. The symptoms tend to be worse at the end of the day, especially if the pregnant mother is overweight, carrying twins or standing for long period of time. Varicose veins often improve within three or four months after delivery.
To relieve the symptoms, you can raise your feet and legs whenever possible. Use a stool to rest your legs on when you are sitting, and keep your feet elevated on a pillow when you are sleeping. Try to sleep on your left side. This will relieve the leg veins of the pressure from the weight of the uterus. A special support hose, which is twice as thick as normal pantyhose, may also help prevent varicose veins from getting worse.
Heartburn is fairly common in many women especially during the last part of pregnancy. It is a burning sensation that often extends from the bottom of the breastbone to the throat. The acid contents of the stomach may also give an intense sour feeling at the back of the throat.
There are some ways to relief heartburn. Sleep with several pillows or elevate the head of your bed as gravity will help keep your stomach acids down. Avoid foods and drinks that cause stomach upset. Don’t eat big meals but eat several small meals throughout the day. After meals you should stay upright for at least 20 minutes. Do not eat your meal 1 hour before bedtime and wear loose, comfortable clothing; avoid any tightness around your waist and tummy.
If these solutions do not work, antacid may be prescribed by your doctor to neutralize the gastric acid.
Back and abdominal pain
As the uterus grows, the growing weight of the baby causes the ligaments that support it to gradually stretch. This may cause occasional sharp pains in the lower part of abdomen. Relaxation of ligaments supporting the back during pregnancy can cause backaches. Bad posture worsens the aches. To ease the symptoms, wear low-heeled shoes and a supporting maternal girdle. Make sure your back is well-supported when you sit down. Avoid carrying heavy objects and practice correct ways for bending and lifting, and exercise to avoid back strain.