Most pregnancies are medically uneventful and end happily in the birth of a healthy baby. Your first and most important step is to sign up for a comprehensive prenatal program with your physician. You and your developing baby will get routine monitoring to make sure everything is going well, and if it isn't, you will be referred for appropriate care. You and your partner will get confidence-building information about each stage of your pregnancy, including labor, childbirth, and the care and feeding of a new born. Yet you still have 40 weeks to wonder whether certain physical discomforts are serious enough for medical intervention or are minor problems you can deal with on your own.
You'll have various kinds of discomforts during pregnancy: some fleeting and some more permanent. Some may happen in the early weeks, while others emerge closer to the time of delivery. Still others may start early and then go away, only to return later. Every person's pregnancy is unique, so you may not have all of the changes described below.
Talk to your doctor if:
l You have severe nausea and vomiting, dehydration, a persistent rapid heartbeat, or pale, dry skin; you may have hyperemesis gravidarum, a severe form of morning sickness.
l You have vaginal spotting or bleeding; you may be having a miscarriage or serious placental complication.
l You have sudden weight gain over a few days, severe headache, or blurred vision; you may have preeclampsia, a form of high blood pressure that can endanger your health and the health of your baby.
l You have a fever and chills, backache, or blood in your urine; you may have a kidney infection or other infection.
l After the baby begins to move, you feel less or no movement for more than 2 hours; your baby may be in fetal distress.
l You feel wetness or a leaking of fluid, unlike normal vaginal secretions or urinary leakage; you may have ruptured membranes or leaking of amniotic fluid.
Pregnancy breast changes
Most pregnant women will feel some changes in their breasts. Your breasts will get bigger as your milk glands enlarge and the fat tissue enlarges, causing breast firmness and tenderness, typically during pregnancy's first and last few months. Bluish veins may also appear as your blood supply increases.
Your breasts might leak a yellowish fluid called colostrum, usually during the third trimester. Colostrum is the “Pre-milk” that will nourish your baby in the first days of life until your milk comes in. As you get closer to delivery, it changes to a thin, colorless liquid.
Your nipples can also darken. They may stick out more, and the areolas may get bigger. Small glands around the nipples become raised. They make oil to keep your nipples soft. These changes make it easier for your baby to find and latch onto your nipples for breastfeeding.
The freckles and moles on your body may be darker, too. Talk to your doctor if you have a mole or freckle that is growing, changing color and shape, itching or bleeding, or larger than a pencil eraser. These may be signs of skin cancer.
a. Wear a bra that provides firm support.
b. Choose cotton bras or those made from natural fibers.
c. Get a bigger bra as your breasts become larger and fuller. Your bra should fit well without irritating your nipples.
d. Try maternity or nursing bras, which provide more support and can be used after pregnancy if you choose to breastfeed.
e. Try wearing a bra during the night.
f. Tuck a cotton handkerchief or gauze pad into each bra cup to absorb leaking fluid.
g. You can also buy nursing pads in the drugstore or maternity/baby store that fit into your bra.
f. Make sure to change these pads as needed so your skin doesn't get irritated.
h. Wash your breasts with warm water and mild soap that will not cause dryness.
It means feeling tired. That might be because your growing baby requires extra energy. Sometimes, it's a sign of anemia (low iron in the blood), which is common during pregnancy.
a. Get plenty of rest; go to bed earlier and take naps.
b. Keep a regular schedule when possible.
c. Pace yourself. Balance activity with rest.
d. Moderate exercise daily boosts your energy level.
e. Ask your health care provider to test your blood routinely for anemia.
Pregnancy nausea or vomiting
It's very common and normal to have an upset stomach when you're pregnant. Chalk it up to pregnancy's hormonal changes. It usually happens early in pregnancy, while your body is adjusting to the higher hormone levels.
Good news: Nausea usually disappears by the fourth month of pregnancy (although in some cases it can persist throughout the pregnancy). It can happen at any time of the day but maybe worse in the morning, when your stomach is empty (that's why it's called "morning sickness") or if you aren't eating enough.
a. If nausea is a problem in the morning, eat dry foods like cereal,toast or crackers before getting out of bed.
b. Try eating a high-protein snack such as lean meat or cheese before going to bed (protein takes longer to digest).
c. If you are hungry but extremely nauseated, try the BRAT (Bananas,Rice and Tea) diet as well as bland foods.
d. Acupressure wristbands offer some pregnant women comfort.
e. Ginger may combat nausea.
f. Eat small meals or snacks every two to three hours rather than three large meals.
g. Eat slowly and chew your food completely.
h. Sip on fluids throughout the day. Avoid large amounts of fluids at one time.
i. Try cool, clear fruit juices, such as apple or grape juice.
j. Avoid spicy, fried, or greasy foods.
k. If you are bothered by strong smells, eat foods cold or at room temperature to minimize or avoid odors that bother you.
L. Talk to your doctor about taking vitamin B6. Other natural treatments and prescription medications can provide relief.
m. Contact your health care provider if your vomiting is constant or so severe that you can't keep fluids or foods down. This can cause dehydration and should be treated right away.
Diarrhea usually doesn't mean anything is wrong. But it can be distressing. It may be related to your prenatal vitamin or your attempts to eat better, or it could just be a bug you caught. In any case, when diarrhea strikes during pregnancy, it's even more important to take good care of yourself.
Consult your doctor if the diarrhea is serious or lasts more than 24 hours,if you get dehydrated or dizzy, if the stool has blood or pus, if it's black and tarry, if you also have a fever or severe belly pain, or if you think medication might help ease your symptoms.
a. Eat bland, soft, and low-fiber foods such as bananas, rice, toast, mashed potatoes, yogurt, or cottage cheese.
b. Drink plenty of water and electrolyte drinks such as Pedialyte to replace lost fluids.(If you have gestational diabetes, check with your doctor first.)
c. It's especially dangerous to become dehydrated during pregnancy. Dehydration can trigger preterm contractions.
Your pants may feel tight even if you're not that far along. Blame hormone changes. Early in pregnancy, rising progesterone can cause your digestive system to slow and your smooth muscle tissue to relax. This can cause bloating. It's similar to what happens to many women right before their period starts.
a. Do gentle exercise, such as walking or swimming, which helps keep the digestive system moving.
b. Drink water throughout the day to help digestion.
c. Eat smaller meals more often. It's easier on the digestive system.
d. Eat foods high in fiber, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Frequent urination during pregnancy
It's normal to have to pee a lot when you're pregnant. Early in your pregnancy, your body makes a hormone that may increase urination. Your growing uterus and baby also press against your bladder. The pressure can wake you up several times a night to go to the bathroom. You may also have the urge to go even when your bladder is almost empty. This problem usually goes away a few days after your baby is born.
Consult your doctor if you have a fever or blood in your urine, or if you have the urge to go again just after you've emptied your bladder. If it hurts, burns, or stings when you pee, you could have a urinary tract infection. This needs treatment right away.
a. Don't wear tight-fitting underwear, pants, or pantyhose.
b. Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. Try to get them mostly during the day. Drink less in the evening and at night. This should help you cut back on night time bathroom visits.
c. Avoid coffee, tea, colas, and other caffeinated drinks. These can make you urinate more often.
Headaches can happen anytime during pregnancy. They can be caused by tension, congestion, constipation, or in some cases, preeclampsia (detected after 20 weeks).
a. Put an ice pack on your forehead or the back of your neck.
b. Rest, sit, or lie quietly in a low-lit room.
c. Close your eyes and try to relax your back, neck, and shoulders.
d. Over-the-counter acetaminophen may help. But if your headaches don't go away, are severe, make you nauseous, or affect your vision, consult your doctor.
Pregnancy bleeding and swollen gums
You may not have expected pregnancy to affect your mouth. But your blood circulation and hormone levels can make your gums tender and swollen, and you may notice they bleed more easily. You may also develop nose bleeds.
a. Get a dental checkup early in your pregnancy to make sure your teeth and mouth are healthy. See your dentist if you notice a particular problem.
b. Brush your teeth, floss regularly and rinse daily with an antiseptic mouthwash.
Your hormones, as well as vitamins and iron supplements, may cause constipation (trouble pooping or incomplete or infrequent passage of hard stools). Pressure on your rectum from your uterus may also cause constipation.
Consult your doctor if you also have abdominal pain or rectal bleeding. If iron supplements are causing constipation, they may recommend a different one.
a. Add more fiber (such as whole-grain foods, fresh fruits, and vegetables)to your diet.
b. Drink plenty of fluids daily (at least 6-8 glasses of water and 1-2 glasses of fruit or prune juice).
c. Drink warm liquids, especially in the morning.
d. Exercise daily: Walking and swimming are activities that are gentle on your pregnant body.
e. Avoid straining when you have a bowel movement.
f. Talk with your doctor about a laxative or stool softener.
Pregnancy wrist pain (Carpal Tunnel)
You might be surprised that carrying a baby could cause pain in your wrist. But up to 35% of women get pain or weakness in their wrist during pregnancy, usually in the third trimester. Fluid retention puts more pressure on the carpal tunnel, which runs from your wrist to the bottom of your palm. Most likely, the pain will get better within a few months of your baby's birth. Consult your doctor if you have numbness, tingling, or pain in your hand or wrist or if you have pain or strange sensations traveling up your arm to your shoulder.
a. Do range-of-motion exercises that stretch your wrist.
b. Apply ice for pain.
c. Avoid repetitive wrist and hand motions, or positions or activities that make pain or numbness worse.
d. Wear a wrist splint if your job requires repetitive motions.
e. If computer work is causing pain, adjust your chair or keyboard height to change the position of your wrists.
f. Wear a wrist splint to bed if you have pain at night. It keeps your wrists from curling while you sleep, which contributes to pain.
Dizziness can occur anytime during middle to late pregnancy. Here's why it happens:
The hormone progesterone dilates blood vessels so blood tends to pool in the legs. More blood is also going to your growing uterus. This can cause a drop in blood pressure, especially when changing positions and that can make you dizzy. If your blood sugar levels get too low, you may feel faint.
a. Move around often when standing for long periods of time.
b. Lie on your left side to rest. This helps circulation throughout your body.
c. Avoid sudden movements. Move slowly when standing from a sitting position.
d. Eat regular, small meals throughout the day to prevent low blood sugar.
e. Drink plenty of water.