Pregnancy is one of life’s most natural and beautiful events – but not always the most comfortable. DUring your pregnancy you health is even more important than before as your health influences the health of your unborn baby. A lot of changes will occur in you body, in nine months your uterus increases in volume about 1,000 times. That’s bound to touch off a nerve or two in your body. Most symptoms, however, are good news. Here, a head-to-toe guide to managing common pregnancy pains & complaints.
Are you worried about your health? Do not keep up with it and discuss it with us at your next consultation. If it can’t wait, don’t hesitate to email us or cal the midwife on call 020 – 333 04 20.
Back pain and sciatica
By the second or third trimester, your baby’s weight on your pelvic bone may compress your sciatic nerve. The result: sharp pain along your back and legs and in your buttocks.
What helps: Practice good posture (pelvis tucked in, belly button in and shoulders back). When lifting heavy objects, bend at your knees, not your waist and suck in your belly button. Place a pillow or rolled towel behind your lower back when you’re seated, but don’t sit or stand for too long at a time. Sleep on your side, pillows propped between your bent knees and under your belly. Avoid standing on one leg so get (und)dressed while sitting instead of standing. Try to avoid stairs (which can be hard in Amsterdam). Sometimes wearing a “belly bra” — a panel of elastic fabric that stretches across your abdomen — to help take pressure off your back or a pelvic band can help. Think about your balans of activities and resting. Try to rest every few hours for just 15mins (on the couch, in bed) but also stay fit by exercising (cycling for 30mins a day for example).
Do you need a therapist for pelvic pains? Call Djoeke Numan 020 – 560 89 23. She can give you personalised exercises to help you ease the pain.
Have you noticed your gums bleeding when you brush your teeth? It could be pregnancy gingivitis. Hormones can make your teeth more vulnerable to plaque, leaving you with swollen, bleeding gums. You need to take extra care of your smile when you’re pregnant:
- Book yourself a dentist appointment (it’s free through the NHS during pregnancy and for 12 months afterwards)
- Brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes
- Ask your dentist about getting a professional clean
- Avoid sugary and acidic drinks and foods (particularly in between meal times)
- If you have morning sickness, rinse your mouth with water after being sick. Try and wait an hour before you brush your teeth (they’ll be softened by the acid in your tummy).
Spotting occurs in nearly one-third of all pregnancies, it often poses no threat to mum or baby. It’s common for a small percentage of pregnant women to have spotting after intercourse, for example, and others may have bleeding for reasons that have nothing to do with pregnancy, such as infections or tears to the vaginal wall. The vast majority of spotting is harmless. But bleeding, no matter how scant, can be indicative of a variety of complications, including miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, and placenta previa, and thus should never be ignored. Any vaginal bright red blood loss during pregnancy can be a symptom of a larger problem, so it’s important that you call the midwife on call.
Braxton Hicks contractions
Braxton Hicks contractions are intermittent uterine contractions that start in early pregnancy, although you probably won’t notice them until sometime after mid pregnancy (some women never notice them). However, sometimes Braxton Hicks contractions are hard to distinguish from early signs of preterm labor, so play it safe and don’t try to make the diagnosis yourself. If you haven’t hit 37 weeks yet and you’re having regular contractions, call the midwife 020 – 333 04 20
Constipation & hemorroids
Increased levels of progesterone slow the digestive system can harden the stool. The combination can lead to hemorrhoids, swollen rectal veins that itch, burn, and sometimes bleed. They are most prevalent in late pregnancy, when the uterus constricts blood flow, causing veins to become distended.
What helps: Eat a high-fiber diet of fruit, vegetables, and grains. Exercise regularly, and drink eight glasses of water a day, including a warm beverage in the morning to stimulate digestion. Also, most over the counter stool softeners are safe during pregnancy.
Frequent trips to the toilet are a hallmark of pregnancy. Having to wee a lot is especially common during the first trimester and last trimester. In fact, it’s a typical early sign of pregnancy, and part of the normal physical and hormonal changes your body goes through. In early pregnancy, your womb is low down in your pelvis. As your baby grows, it puts pressure on your bladder, even in the early weeks. When your baby grows too big to fit in your pelvis, and your womb moves up into your abdomen, you’ll probably find you make fewer trips to the loo.
Call the midwife if:
- You feel pain or burning when you pass urine.
- You feel a sense of urgency to pass urine, even after a wee.
- You leak wee when you feel the urge to pass urine.
- Your urine smells particularly unpleasant, is cloudy or contains blood.
- You have constant lower abdominal pain.
- You feel generally unwell.
You may have a urinary tract infection (UTI). Drink plenty of water to dilute your urine and see your GP within 24 hours. You’ll need antibiotics to treat a UTI and to prevent it from leading to a kidney infection. An untreated kidney infection can increase your risk of going into (premature) labour.
Your round ligaments — cordlike structures in your lower abdomen that hold your uterus in place — can stretch like rubber bands when you stand up, reach, or make a sudden movement. It’s a sharp pain and very common in the second trimester and lessens as your uterus grows larger and more stationary.
What helps: Sit or lie down until the ache passes. This sharp pain usually doesn’t last for more than a few minutes. Take long, deep breaths to ease the spasms, and avoid quick movements.
Triggered by hormonal shifts that cause pressure in your blood vessels to fluctuate, these occur most often during the first trimester. But because moms-to-be are also prone to fatigue, sinus congestion, stress, hunger, and caffeine withdrawal, the pounding aches can happen anytime.
What helps: For sinus pressure, place a warm compress over your eyes and nose; for tension aches, apply a cold compress to the base of your neck. Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.
In the second half of your pregnancy, headache can indicate a high bloodpressure. If the headache is mostly felt behind your eyes or if you are you worried? Call the midwife on call 020 – 333 04 20.
Heartburn & reflux
Heartburn discomfort is one of the most common complaints of pregnancy. Heartburn is defined as a burning sensation in the middle of your chest; it often occurs after eating. You may also experience an acid or bitter taste in your mouth and increased pain when you bend over or lie down. During the first trimester, nearly 25% of all pregnant women have heartburn, increasing in the third trimester. Later, it may become more severe when your growing baby compresses your digestive tract. Eat small, frequent meals. One sure way to get heartburn is to eat a large meal, then lie down!
- Try raising the head of your bed by about 15cm by propping yourself up on pillows
- Avoid late nights meals/snacks
- Avoid spicy and acidic foods
It’s normal to feel more itchy while you’re pregnant. It’s very common, affecting almost a quarter of pregnant women. Your stretching skin or changing hormones may be at least partly to blame. You may notice the itching most over your bump and breasts. This could be caused by a condition called polymorphic eruption of pregnancy (PEP). It’s a common cause of itching with a rash, which usually appears in the final trimester. PEP is not dangerous for your or your baby, and it should go away soon after your baby is born. In most cases, itchy skin will not affect your baby. Rarely, severe itchiness in your third trimester can be a sign of a liver problem called obstetric cholestasis (OC). There is another name for this condition, intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP), which you may also hear.
Symptoms of OC:
- The itching often affects the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet.
- The itching is often worse at night.
- There is no rash.
- You may also notice that your wee is dark and that you pass pale-coloured stools.
If you experience one of the above symptoms, call the midwife 020 – 333 04 20
As with back pain, the weight of your uterus may restrict blood flow and compress nerves in your legs. These intense spasms frequently occur while you’re sleeping, often in the second and third trimesters.
What helps: When you feel a cramp, flex your foot (pull your toes toward your knee) to stretch the calf muscle. Massage the muscle with long, firm strokes toward your foot. To prevent spasms, slowly flex and release your foot ten times before going to bed.
Lightheaded & dizziness
You might occasionally feel lightheaded or dizzy when you’re pregnant because your cardiovascular system undergoes dramatic changes: Your heart rate goes up, your heart pumps more blood per minute, and the amount of blood in your body increases by 30 to 50 percent. Your cardiovascular and nervous systems can usually adjust to these changes and maintain adequate blood flow to your brain. But sometimes they don’t adapt quickly enough, which can leave you feeling lightheaded or dizzy, or even make you faint.
- don’t stand up too quickly
- don’t lie on your back
- eat and drink regularly
- avoid overheating
- don’t overdo it when you exercise
Brought on by hormonal fluctuations, morning sickness can strike at any hour of the day. It usually subsides by the 12th week of pregnancy. Not eating makes it worse, that’s why we advise to eat small portions throughout the day.
What helps: Nibble on crackers or dry toast before getting out of bed, and eat small, frequent meals throughout the day: An empty stomach often triggers nausea. Increase your intake of vitamin B6 and ginger (both reduce morning sickness).
Are you worried you might dehydrate due to your morning sickness, call the midwife on call 020 – 333 04 20.
Pregnancy can make the blood vessels in your nose expand, and your increased blood supply puts more pressure on those delicate vessels, causing them to rupture more easily. That’s why nosebleeds are common during pregnancy – 20 percent of pregnant women have them, compared with 6 percent of nonpregnant women. Fortunately, the occasional minor nosebleed is usually harmless. Some doctors say even a few nosebleeds over the course of pregnancy aren’t cause for alarm.
it’s common to develop blotchy spots of darker skin when you’re pregnant, a condition called melasma or chloasma. Melasma is also sometimes referred to as the mask of pregnancy because the splotches typically show up around your upper lip, nose, cheekbones, and forehead in the shape of a mask. You may also develop dark patches on your cheeks, along your jawline, or on your forearms and other parts of your body that are exposed to the sun. What’s more, skin that’s already more pigmented – such as your nipples, freckles, scars, and the skin of your genitals – may become even darker during pregnancy. This also tends to happen in areas where friction is common, such as your underarms and inner thighs. Sun exposure plays a role too. Women with darker complexions are more likely to have melasma than women with lighter skin.
Increased fluid retention, slowed circulation, and gravity can cause your feet to swell, especially in hot weather. In the morning, after eight hours of lying down, your feet may deflate, but your face and hands plump up.
What helps: Cut back on salty foods. Avoid crossing your legs or wearing hosiery with tight elastic bands, which restrict circulation. Elevate your feet often. And try swimming.
Are you worried because of sudden swelling in your face, hands and feet? Call the midwife 020 – 333 04 20.
Your first trimester will, no doubt, leave you feeling tired but rest assured this is normal and it will get better as your pregnancy progresses. Aim for at least eight hours sleep each night and, if possible, take a rest during the day. The healthier you are, in both mind and body, the more you will enjoy your pregnancy. Developing coping strategies to help manage your tiredness can help. They may seem basic but reminding yourself that it’s important can help.
lmost all women have more vaginal discharge in pregnancy. This is quite normal and happens for a few reasons. During pregnancy the cervix (neck of the womb) and vaginal walls get softer, and discharge increases to help prevent any infections travelling up from the vagina to the womb. Towards the end of pregnancy, the amount of discharge increases and can be confused with urine.
Call the midwife if:
- the discharge is coloured
- it smells strange
- you feel itchy or sore
Healthy vaginal discharge should be clear and white, and should not smell unpleasant. If the discharge is coloured or smells strange, or if you feel itchy or sore, you may have a vaginal infection. The most common infection is thrush, which is easily treatable with Canesten gyno.
Varicose veins are bulging, purple or blue veins that appear just under the surface of your skin. They most commonly happen in the legs, though they can also appear in other areas. Varicose veins affect about one in three women, and more women than men have them. You’re also more likely to get them if they run in your family. You’re more prone to getting varicose veins in your legs, but you can get them in other parts of your body. Piles are varicose veins of the rectal area, and are common during pregnancy. About four per cent of pregnant women develop varicose veins in and around their vagina. These also tend to get better on their own, after your baby is born.