20 Common Pregnancy Discomforts And How To Manage Them

11. Headaches Headaches are experienced during pregnancy for a number of reasons. In your first trimester, blood volume increases and you have a surge of hormones,… Simi - March 11, 2018

11. Headaches

Headaches are experienced during pregnancy for a number of reasons. In your first trimester, blood volume increases and you have a surge of hormones, both of which can cause headaches. They may be aggravated by other factors such as stress, lack of sleep, caffeine withdrawal and dehydration. Poor posture and carrying extra weight are often to blame for headaches experienced in the third trimester.

You may be able to prevent headaches by eating healthily, exercising regularly, drinking enough water and getting enough sleep. Eat frequent, small meals to make sure your blood sugar levels remain constant. Make sure you deal with stress in the right way and get enough rest and relaxation.  Practice good posture, especially in the third trimester.  If you find yourself slumping, straighten up your spine to allow for proper blood circulation..

If you can’t avoid headaches, you will want to treat them in as natural a way as possible. One of the best ways to relieve headaches is to apply heat or cold to the back of the neck, sides of the head or the forehead. If you have a tension headache, for instance, it may help to apply an ice pack to the base of your neck. For a sinus headache, apply a warm compress to the nose area. A warm shower or bath and massaging the neck or shoulders can also help to relieve pain.

You may need to contact your doctor if none of the above remedies help and your headaches grow worse in intensity and more frequent. You must see him or her if your headaches are accompanied by upper right abdominal pain, swelling of the hands and face, blurry vision or sudden weight gain.

12. Itching belly

Your belly often becomes itchy during your second trimester of pregnancy.  In most cases, an itchy belly is caused by the growing uterus. The skin expands, stretches and dries out. When skin is dry it feels itchy. Itchiness is usually worse if you’re expecting twins because the skin has to stretch more. Hormonal changes, such as the increase in estrogen, also cause itchiness.

Avoid drying out your skin by taking hot showers or baths. Adding a cup of oatmeal to your warm bath helps to soothe irritated skin. Half a cup of baking soda in the warm water has the same effect. Don’t use strongly scented soaps as they tend to dry out the skin. Moisturize your skin after bathing with a liberally applied moisturizer. A heavy moisturizer like cocoa butter can help reduce stretch marks. Applying coconut oil or an aloe vera gel also mitigates dryness and itchiness.

You can use calamine lotion on spots that are really itchy. It contains zinc carbonate, iron oxides, and zinc to relieve itchiness.  Store your calamine lotion in the fridge so it has a cooling sensation when applied. Wear loose-fitting clothes made of natural fibers to avoid further irritation to the skin. Try not to scratch the itch because pregnancy hormones make the skin more susceptible to tearing.

Sometimes an itchy belly is a sign of a more serious medical condition. When you have severe itching that is unrelated to dryness and it spreads all over the body, you need to consult your doctor. For instance, a few pregnant women develop a condition called PUPPS which is characterized by itchy red bumps on the belly and patches of hive-like rashes. If you notice skin issues, check with your doctor who will recognize the exact nature of the problem and treat you accordingly.

13. Pelvic pain

A fair number of women experience pelvic pain during pregnancy because hormone levels are changing, ligaments are stretching and organs are shifting to make room for your growing baby.  You may experience this pain on both sides of your lower back, near the pubic bone and in the area between your anus and vagina. You usually feel the pain most when climbing stairs, walking or turning in bed.

Another feeling you may experience in your pelvis in pregnancy is a tightening that comes and goes. These Braxton-Hicks or ‘practice’ contractions may be experienced in the second trimester but are usually felt in the third trimester. In your second trimester, the ligament going from the top of your uterus down to your groin stretches. You may feel the pain on your side and if you lie down on this side, the pain should disappear and it should go altogether by 24 weeks.

In your third trimester, your baby is growing rapidly and pressing down on nerves running from the vagina into the legs. Towards the end of pregnancy, more of the hormone relaxin is produced to make your ligaments ready for childbirth. It can also relax your pelvic joint, creating pain near the pubic bone and your legs may even feel a little unsteady. For normal pelvic discomfort, you can try avoiding any activities that worsen the pain, including quick movements and sharp turns of your waist.

Exercises designed to strengthen your spine, pelvic girdle and hips can improve your stability and reduce pain. A pelvic support belt can be worn, especially while exercising. Try not to do any heavy lifting or pulling and don’t part your legs far enough to cause pain when getting out of bed, into or out of a car or the bath. Try to sit down for activities you would normally do standing, like ironing.   

14. Hemorrhoids or piles

Hemorrhoids, also known as ‘piles’, are swollen veins in and around the rectum. These may be caused by increased volumes of blood and high levels of progesterone circulating through your body and relaxing the walls of the blood vessels. Other causes are constipation and pressure from the baby’s head. You may feel some lumpiness around your anus and piles will often itch, ache and feel sore. You may feel pain when passing a stool and sometimes you may see bright, red blood.

Making changes to your diet can help to prevent hemorrhoids or ease them if you already have them. As constipation can make them worse, introducing food high in fiber such as wholemeal bread, brown rice, vegetables, and fruit to your diet and drinking plenty of water can help to keep stools soft and regular. Straining to pass a stool makes piles worse.  Don’t rub too much with dry toilet paper after passing a stool. Rather use moist toilet paper and dab.

Standing for too long can worsen piles. It will help if you move regularly because this improves your circulation. A cloth wrung out in iced water held gently against the piles may help to ease the pain. Push piles gently back into the rectum if they are hanging out by using a clean finger and some lubricating jelly.  If you are very uncomfortable when sitting, it may help to use a special inflatable cushion.

Make your own ice packs by soaking pads in witch-hazel and freezing them by applying to the area. Some medicines are available to help soothe an inflamed anus. Don’t use any anal creams or rectal suppositories without checking first whether they are suitable for use in pregnancy. The same applies if you want to use a stool softener.

15. Fatigue and tiredness

Many factors during pregnancy contribute to fatigue and tiredness. All the changes taking place in your body use up plenty of energy. Hormonal changes may make you feel tired, even if you are resting and getting enough sleep. Your fatigue is a sign from your body that you need to rest and take it easy. Tiredness is often worse during the first and the third trimesters.

Listen to your body and rest whenever you feel the need. Sit in a comfortable chair with your feet up when you can. Try to forget about everything else that needs doing, like dirty laundry and washing dishes. If you have other children you need to take care of, get friends and family to look after them when necessary. The right type of exercise like a walk or water aerobics can be just as refreshing as a nap.

Your body needs fuel when it’s burning up energy. Make sure you’re getting enough calories and focus on foods that will boost your energy, like complex carbohydrates and proteins.  Scale back on the sugar and caffeine that you normally use to get a boost. Like many of the other pregnancy symptoms, fatigue can be helped by eating small meals regularly. This prevents your blood sugar from crashing and helps you to maintain your energy levels.

If you feel unrelentingly exhausted and experience other symptoms that cause you to feel concerned about your health, visit your doctor. He or she can rule out any underlying conditions. A sample of your blood may be taken to check for iron deficiency (anemia).  This can be dangerous for your baby if left untreated but it is also easy to rectify by taking an iron supplement. Remember that it’s quite normal to feel fatigue when you body is in the process of making another human being.

16. Cold feet

You may experience cold feet toward the end of your pregnancy and during labor. This is not the cold feet of wondering if you’ve made the right decision and wanting to get out! It refers to a sensation where your feet are cold all the time, and nothing you do can warm them up. Even during the hottest of summers, some pregnant women find that they need to wear socks to keep their feet warm. While the rest of their body is boiling hot, their feet remain stubbornly cold.

Cold feet are not an abnormal discomfort a woman may experience during her pregnancy. It’s believed that they can be attributed to several causes, some or all of which may affect a pregnant woman. The first is the change in hormone levels in the body.

Pregnancy is a time of great hormone fluctuations. These hormones can affect the autonomic nervous system. This is a part of the nervous system that is responsible for your body’s ability to control breathing, heartbeat, and digestion. Breathing and the heartbeat are the driving factors of circulation. If these are at all affected, blood flow may be disrupted. This is something that affects the circulation of blood in the lower extremities. Blood is warm and keeps your body warm. When it is not circulating correctly to a part of the body such as the feet, a sensation of coldness will follow.

In another hormonal effect, the thyroid gland can be affected by pregnancy. The levels of thyroid hormones fluctuate. This results in an underactive thyroid gland which can leave you feeling cold.

The differences in the metabolic rate during pregnancy can make your feet feel cold too. It slightly elevates the body temperature, which makes the air around you feel cooler.

17. Varicose veins

It’s possible that a pregnant woman may develop varicose veins during her pregnancy. These form in the legs. They are a result of decreased blood circulation to the lower extremities during pregnancy. The volume of blood in the body increases during pregnancy because the fetus needs it for sustenance. Even though there is more blood in the body, less of it is being circulated to the lower half of the body. The body prioritizes the fetus for blood supply. Blood that reaches the pelvis would normally circulate into the legs. But, during pregnancy, that blood is diverted to the uterus.

This affects the blood vessels. The veins are put under more pressure which results in varicose veins. Varicose veins are veins that have enlarged. In a pregnant woman, they will form in the legs, but may also appear in the buttocks or vaginal area.

Another cause of varicose veins during pregnancy is the hormonal fluctuations the body experiences. The progestin levels increase in the body for the duration of the pregnancy. This hormone can dilate the veins. This means the veins are opened wider, making them susceptible to the enlargement that will cause varicose veins.

The pressure of the fetus in the uterus may put pressure on the inferior vena cava. This is one of the largest veins in the body. It carries deoxygenated blood to the heart to be re-oxygenated. The inferior vena cava transports the blood from the lower body up to the heart. The weight of the uterus pressing against the inferior vena cava affects its ability to function properly. The result may be varicose veins.

Varicose veins that are formed during pregnancy get smaller after a woman gives birth. Within three months to a year after birth, they should all but disappear.

18. Bleeding gums

Up to 50% of pregnant women report that their gums are swollen and sensitive. They also state that their gums are prone to bleeding after they have brushed or flossed their teeth. In most cases, it’s caused by pregnancy gingivitis. This condition causes inflammation in the gums and is mild gum disease. The hormonal changes a woman’s body undergoes during pregnancy are what causes pregnancy gingivitis. Changes in hormone levels make a woman’s gums more sensitive to the bacteria in plaque that attacks the teeth.

Pregnancy gingivitis will not affect the baby. The mother needs to practice good dental hygiene. It is advisable to see a dentist if it persists or worsens. Some studies have linked bleeding comes to preeclampsia, premature labor, and low birth weight. However, similar studies have found no causal link exists.

It’s also possible that a pregnant woman may develop a pregnancy tumor or pyogenic granuloma. This is a lump or nodule on the gums. It bleeds when you brush over it with a toothbrush. They can occur anywhere in the body, but most often manifest in the mouth. As intimidating as the name may sound, they are not dangerous and do not cause any pain. The pregnancy tumor accompanies gingivitis. It appears in an area where there is gingivitis. It can cause swelling in the gum that makes it up to 75% larger than usual.

A pyogenic granuloma will in all likelihood disappear as soon as the baby is delivered. However, if it causes extreme discomfort during pregnancy and interferes with eating and hygiene, its removal is essential. If a pregnancy tumor does not disappear after the baby is born, it must be removed.

19. Pica

Pica doesn’t often occur in pregnancy. But it happens with enough frequency that it deserves mention. Pica is a powerful urge to eat things that offer the body no nutritional value. It involves cravings for non-food substances. These include sand, pebbles, and chalk.

Cravings during pregnancy are normal. One of the most common questions pregnant women face related to cravings they experience. They differ from woman to woman. Some women report different cravings when they’ve had multiple pregnancies. Pregnancy cravings are on the whole confined to food. A lot of women report craving pickles or ice-cream during pregnancy. Some report wanting to eat pickles with ice-cream! Cravings are interpreted as the body’s way of telling a woman something is lacking in her diet that her baby needs.

Pica is a different matter altogether. It’s not clear why some pregnant women develop pica. The Journal of the American Dietetic Association speculates that a lack of iron may trigger it. It may not only be iron that the body needs. Pica may be a symptom of a shortage of other vitamins or minerals in the body. This means the pregnant woman is not consuming them at all or is not getting enough in her diet. It’s possible, therefore, that pica in pregnant women can be managed with vitamin supplements and dietary changes.

It is advisable for women to report pica to their doctor so that treatment can be prescribed. That’s because eating non-food substances is not suitable for the expectant mother or her unborn child. Some of the substances ingested may contain toxic elements that are harmful. Chewing sugar-free gum may help to bring the cravings under control. An active support system of caring friends and families can help a pregnant woman with pica when the cravings set in.

20. Pimples or acne

Another frequent side effect of pregnancy that is hard to manage is acne. Outbreaks of pimples or severe acne are common during pregnancy. Up to 50% of women report pimples, acne, or skin blemishes on their faces. It’s usually at its worst during the first trimester. The higher hormone levels in the body are responsible. When girls reach puberty, they have a sudden upswing in hormonal activity.

That’s what causes many of them to have a pimple or acne outbreak on their faces. Well beyond puberty, many women report getting pimples or acne outbreaks when they menstruate. This is also what happens when a woman falls pregnant. Acne and pimples are the body’s response to these increased levels of female hormones.

The surge of hormones in the beginning stages of pregnancy cause the skin to produce more oils that it did before. This is what prompts the outbreaks. Women with a history of pimples or acne during adolescence or around the time of menstruation are far more likely to have flare-ups during pregnancy. If a woman doesn’t experience an episode of pimples or acne during her first trimester, it’s not likely she’ll have any problems during her second and third trimesters.

Acne is difficult to manage without the complication of pregnancy. Many of the treatments that can be obtained on prescription or over-the-counter are not regarded as safe for pregnant women. They bear the risk of causing birth defects. A pregnant woman should avoid any medicine that has the potential to harm her baby unless her doctor recommends it. This will only happen when medication is required to keep the expectant mother to stay alive. Acne and pimples do not fall within this category.

Expectant mothers should use natural remedies for a pimple and acne breakout. It’s uncomfortable and makes them feel self-conscious. But they should bear in mind that it will clear up in time.