How to ease common pregnancy discomfort
The pregnancy journey is incredible in so many ways, but it’s not always the easiest or most comfortable ride, and just when you’re over one symptom, another one takes its place. Every woman’s pregnancy is different – you might experience one or two symptoms mildly, or you could have every discomfort in the book. We’ve rounded up some of the most common pregnancy ailments, and how to treat them.
Pregnancy hormones cause lots of changes, and perhaps one of the most unpleasant one is nausea and vomiting, otherwise known as morning sickness. Despite its name, morning sickness can happen at noon and night, with up to 85% of moms experiencing this in early pregnancy1. The good news is that there are tips to help ease your symptoms, and the better news is that morning sickness usually disappears by the second trimester, along with the fatigue you’re likely experiencing.
When trying to manage your morning sickness, you might need to experiment to see what gives you relief. Once you find it, stick to it, even if it means eating dry crackers regularly, or drinking lots of warm ginger water each day.
- If you feel sick, rest. While this won’t always be possible, try to lie or sit down when feeling sick until your nausea has passed.
- Eat little and often. Nausea can get worse on an empty stomach, so try to include some nutritious snacks such as fresh fruit (oranges, grapefruit and tangerines) or whole grain crackers throughout the day. Plan to eat more frequent but smaller meals as they are easier to tolerate and also prevent your stomach from being completely empty2.
- Stick to bland foods. Spicy, oily and sugary foods can induce nausea, so try stick to plain-flavoured foods if that helps.
- Drink ginger. Ginger is a loved remedy for nausea –you can drink it as ginger tea, or even chopped up in some boiling water. Peppermint and chamomile tea are also recommended for relief3.
- Take your vitamins at night. Your pregnancy vitamins might make you feel worse when you take them in the morning, so rather take them with dinner.
Heartburn is a burning sensation behind the breastbone and happens when increased progesterone levels relax your muscles in preparation for birth. This results in small amounts of stomach acid leaking into your oesophagus, usually in the third trimester. This, along with your growing uterus putting pressure on your stomach, can lead to heartburn. It isn’t harmful to your baby and will disappear after the birth.
- Avoid large meals. Eat smaller meals during the day to put less pressure on your stomach.
- Avoid trigger foods. Pay attention to the foods that trigger your heartburn – for some women it’s spicy and fatty foods. Once you’ve identified your problem foods, try eating them in moderation.
- Sit upright after eating. If you sit upright after meals, it gives your body time to start digesting your food.
- Speak to your healthcare professional about a remedy. There are some remedies that can ease your heartburn, and which are safe during pregnancy.
Sleep is so important during pregnancy, but it’s often difficult to attain, especially in the last few weeks before your baby is born. The causes of pregnancy include physical discomfort or cramps, or when it feels like your baby is having an all-night party in your womb, and some anxiety too.
- Avoid caffeine after 4pm
- Try sleeping on your side, supporting your stomach with a nursing pillow, and/or place a pillow between your knees for extra comfort.
- An evening walk or warm bath might help you go to sleep more easily.
- Switch off all your devices at least half an hour before going to bed.
- Drinking a glass of warm milk can help you to fall asleep easier.
- Avoid eating a big meal before bed that could make you feel uncomfortable and give you heartburn.
- Try meditation or other relaxation exercises such as listening to classical music.
Swollen feet and legs
Your body retains more fluids during pregnancy, which can lead to swelling in the legs, ankles and feet.
- Avoid standing for too long – sit with your feet up whenever possible; and lie down when you can with your legs slightly elevated too.
- Exercise. Go for walks or swim in a pool, if you can. Swimming and even standing in water can offer relief because of the water’s natural support. However, before you begin any new exercises, make sure you check with your healthcare professional first.
- Stretch your legs frequently while sitting. Stretch your legs out, heel first, and gently flex your foot to stretch your calf muscles. Rotate your ankles and wiggle your toes.
- Stay cool. It might help to put cold water on swollen areas for extra relief.
- Wear stockings. Ask your healthcare professional about supportive tights or stockings which can help with your blood flow, and therefore could reduce swelling.
If your swelling has come on suddenly and your legs or feet expand a lot, and you have abdominal pain and headaches, it is advisable to contact your healthcare professional.
Shortness of breath
The hormonal changes and the increased blood volume make many pregnant women “run out of breath” in the first few weeks. Later on, as your baby gets bigger, they push your diaphragm upwards, which might leave you short of breath. A few weeks before your due date, as your baby “drops”, there’s more room to breathe.
- Rest as much as possible.
- Take frequent breaks
- Avoid heavy carrying
Do speak to your healthcare professional if you have any other symptoms such as severe anxiety.
Many pregnant women experience leg cramps during pregnancy.
- The easiest way to resolve a cramp is to walk, stretch, or gently stomp on the floor.
- Eat foods rich in magnesium such as green vegetables nuts, seeds, dry beans, whole grains, wheat, wheatgerm and oat bran.
- Speak to your healthcare professional if supplement is required.
Frequent need to pee
The hormone progesterone, which is now being increasingly produced, has a relaxing effect on the bladder muscles and the overall increased blood flow stimulates the kidneys so that more urine is produced. Your uterus is also pressing on your bladder, which might make you need to dash to the bathroom every 10 minutes!
- While it might be tempting to reduce the amount of water your drink, try not to, as it’s so good for your health (around 2 litres of liquids is recommended each day, which includes tea, milk, soup etc). For a good night's sleep, try to manage the recommended amount of fluids as early as the afternoon.
- Pelvic floor exercises from birth preparation train the inner muscles for the birth and the time afterwards. These targeted exercises can prevent bladder weakness or urinary incontinence before and after the birth.
An irregular digestive system is largely owing to high levels of progesterone, which cause the muscles in the wall of the bowel to relax, so that food and waste move slower through your body. As your uterus grows, it puts pressure on your intestines, which can also lead to constipation.
- Eat high-fibre foods such as wholegrain products, fruit and vegetables
- Drink enough water (around 1.5 litres a day)
- Regular exercise that has been deemed safe during your pregnancy can get your bowels moving.
1 Jewell, David, and Gavin Young. "Interventions for nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy." Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 4 (2003).
2 Niebyl, Jennifer R. "Nausea and vomiting in pregnancy." New England Journal of Medicine 363.16 (2010): 1544-1550.
3 Viljoen, Estelle, et al. "A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effect and safety of ginger in the treatment of pregnancy-associated nausea and vomiting." Nutrition Journal 13.1 (2014): 1-14.
Do you have any questions about your pregnancy symptoms and how to ease them? Please let us know by contacting our expert 24/7 Careline team 1800 266 9988, who can help and advice.
It’s important that you contact your healthcare professional immediately if you’re experiencing bleeding, severe abdominal pains, heart palpitations, persistent headaches, vision disturbances or any other severe pain.
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