Even normal pregnancy has some symptoms and discomforts. If this is not your first baby, you may notice these changes earlier than you did when you were last pregnant. Ways to deal with each problem are listed. If a problem persists or gets worse in spite of treatment, call your doctor or nurse midwife.
Hormone changes slow your bowels. This problem may go on as long as you are pregnant. Try these:
- Boost fiber intake
- Add apples, dried fruits, salads, 100 percent bran, whole grain breads and cereals to your diet
- Eat less cheese and meat
- Drink 3-4 more glasses of water than you have in the past
- If these do not work, over-the-counter stool softeners and bulking agents such as Metamucil or Citrucel can help
- Do not take a laxative unless you are very concerned
Dizziness, feeling lightheaded & fainting
- When you are dizzy, it feels like the room is spinning. There can be many causes. Being dizzy is not normal when you are pregnant.
- When you are lightheaded, you may feel faint. Your vision begins to dim and darken. Then, you feel better. This does not happen often to most pregnant women.
- When you faint, you start by being lightheaded but then pass out. You lose consciousness.
Feeling lightheaded is often due to decreased blood flow to your head. This can happen when you are hot, stand up all of a sudden or have not been drinking enough water. Lie down right away for a few minutes. You should improve. If you do not lie down, you may faint. If this happens often, you may have a more serious problem. If your heartbeat is rapid at the same time, tell your healthcare provider as soon as you can.
Nearly all pregnant women feel fatigue at some time. You should expect this normal sign because of all the changes your body is going through, especially in the first 4 months or so. Pressures of work, child care and reduced caffeine intake can make fatigue seem even more profound. Things you can do for this problem include:
- Rest more and avoid social and work activities that are not “musts.”
- Pamper yourself until you feel better.
- Eat a balanced diet.
- Exercise, but not enough to exhaust yourself.
- If you have reduced daily caffeine intake, you may feel better if you drink 2-3 cans of caffeine pop or a cup of coffee. Problems with excess caffeine are linked with much greater amounts (5 cups of coffee).
Gas & bloating
Hormones and your enlarged uterus combine to put pressure on your stomach and intestines. To ease distress, try these:
- Avoid constipation.
- Avoid foods which can cause increase gas, such as onions, beans, cauliflower, broccoli, sauerkraut, etc.
- You may take over-the-counter anti-gas medicine after meals or at bedtime. Follow the dosing guide on the label. Each tablet or pill should contain at least 120 mg of simethicone.
- Drink a cup of chamomile tea at bedtime.
Headaches are often caused by:
- Blood volume increases
- Hormone changes
- Cutting back caffeine, smoking and other habit changes
- Plugged up sinuses
Here are safe ways to get relief:
- Get more rest.
- Practice relaxation techniques.
- If you stopped drinking all caffeine, you may drink 2-3 cans of regular pop or coffee per day.
- Acetaminophen can be taken as needed while you are pregnant. Follow the dosing guide on the label.
- Take ibuprofen now and then as needed until week 32. Stop taking it 2 months before your due date. Follow the dosing guide on the label.
If headaches persist or are severe, call your doctor or nurse midwife. If you are being followed closely for high blood pressure and have a severe headache, call or come in right away.
When stomach acid backs up into your esophagus (swallowing tube), you get heartburn. This is most likely when your enlarged uterus pushes up on your stomach in your third trimester. Try these helpful home remedies:
- Avoid large meals. Eat frequent small meals instead.
- Treat constipation and gas problems.
- Sleep reclined instead of flat on a bed.
- Take antacids such as Tums, Rolaids, Maalox, etc. These are helpful and safe when taken less than 5 times per day.
- Zantac (75 mg twice daily) can also relieve heartburn. You should try antacids first.
Varicose veins may cause irritation, bleeding or pain in your rectum. They are more common in late pregnancy. Higher pelvic blood volume and your growing uterus increase pressure on blood vessels. To prevent and treat these:
- Avoid constipation.
- Avoid long hours of standing or sitting.
- Keep your anal area clean.
- Over the counter hemorrhoid treatment creams are very useful and soothing.
- For comfort, take a long, warm, soaking bath.
If hemorrhoids are very painful, see your provider. Most of the time, this nuisance will heal on its own after birth.
Stretched abdominal skin often becomes dry and itchy. Use plenty of moisturizing lotion or cream. If itching is so intense it disturbs your sleep, tell your provider. This may be a sign of a serious problem.
Sudden, painful cramps in your calf may wake you in the middle of the night. This problem is more common among women who are on their feet many hours a day. Helpful treatments include:
- Keep your foot flat as you straighten your leg. Slowly and gently raise your toes to stretch the muscle up the back of your lower leg.
- Avoid long periods of standing or sitting at work.
- Wear good support stockings as often as you can.
- Try not to wear elastic knee highs, even if they have a wide band.
- Stretch both calf muscles 2-3 times each day for at least 30 seconds. It helps to do this at bedtime.
- Loosen your muscles with a warm bath before you go to bed.
- Have your partner or a friend massage your calves before you go to bed. A heating pad on low may also help.
- Some women claim they get relief by taking a calcium pill each day.
Low back or hip pain
Your center of gravity moves forward as your baby grows. Lower back muscles must adjust. Hormones also make your pelvic joints loosen. These factors combine to cause low back or hip pain. Standing too long, poor posture and lifting the wrong way can make pain worse. To get some relief, try these:
- Avoid prolonged standing.
- Stand up tall.
- To lift an object or small child, bend your knees. Lift using your leg muscles instead of your back muscles.
- When lying down, bend your knees and place a pillow between them.
- Use heat and massage to soothe your lower back.
- Take a warm bath after work.
- Use stretching and pelvic tilt exercises as often as you can.
- You may take ibuprofen now and then until 2 months before your due date.
Lower abdominal pain
As your belly grows and stretches, you should expect some twinges. Between 18 and 22 weeks, especially in a first pregnancy, you may have rather annoying pain low in the abdomen on the right or left side. These are called "round ligament pains." In most cases, taking ibuprofen for a few days should bring relief. See your provider if pain persists or is so severe you cannot control it with normal doses of ibuprofen. Do not take ibuprofen after you are 32 weeks.
Mild shortness of breath
Your baby pushes up on your diaphragm in late pregnancy. You feel as though you cannot take a deep breath. Lying flat makes this feeling more intense. Sleeping in a recliner or propped up on pillows may help. If you have chest pain, cough, fever or heart flutters (palpitations) while you feel short of breath, see a doctor right away.
It is normal to be more emotional as your body and hormone levels change. You may cry for no reason. You may think about how a baby will change your lifestyle. You may worry about how you will manage. Talk over your feelings with others, especially family members. Your moods affect them more often. Pamper yourself. Eat a healthy diet. Exercise regularly if you can. Get plenty of rest. Tell your provider if you are concerned about your feelings.
Nausea & vomiting
Hormones of pregnancy slow down your stomach and bowels. These are common symptoms during the first 3 months. They often peak at about week 9. If you vomit often and cannot keep fluids down, call or come in right away.
Try these things to relieve symptoms:
- Avoid large meals.
- Eat frequent small amounts day and night. The total should equal 3 meals per day.
- Keep crackers by your bed. Eat them during the night or before you get out of bed in the morning.
- Avoid smoke, food and other odors that annoy you. Cook as little as you have to.
- Put off taking prenatal or multivitamins or iron tablets. They make nausea worse and offer fewer benefits in early months.
- Milk, milk products and other foods may make nausea worse. Avoid them for now.
- Vitamin B6 may help. Take a 50 mg tablet 3 times a day. It may take 2 weeks for symptoms to improve.
Some over-the-counter medicines may ease nausea. Take no more than directed.
- Diphenhydramine (Unisom®, Benadryl®) - One tablet at bedtime. You may also take a half-tablet in the morning unless it makes you too drowsy.
- Meclizine (Bonine®) - Take a 12.5 mg tablet 3 times a day.
- Ranitidine (Zantac®) - If you have a history of gastritis or ulcers, take one 75 mg tablet 2 times a day.
- Doxylamine (Unisom Night-Time Sleep Aid® - Read the label to make sure doxylamine is an active ingredient. Take one tablet at bedtime. You may also take a half-tablet in the morning unless it makes you too drowsy.
- QueaseEASE - The aromatic blend of essential oils is inhaled and has been used successfully by many moms-to-be to help soothe queasiness. Keep it with you all day and use it as soon as those uncomfortable feelings occur. QueaseEASE is available at our La Crosse and Onalaska pharmacies.
Tissues that line your nose and mouth swell. You may have nose bleeds and bleeding gums more often. Dry air during winter months can make the problem worse. To cope with this problem:
- Increase the humidity in your home, especially in your bedroom.
- Use saline nasal sprays often in the winter.
- Put a little petroleum jelly just inside your nostrils at bedtime.
- Try not to use nasal spray decongestants.
You may notice this more when you are pregnant a second time. This is normal. Most women say the baby feels lower, but this is not the case. Certain muscles are stiffer and simply give less support than before.
Stretch marks are reddish streaks you can see on your abdomen, thighs and/or breasts. Within a year after birth, they often fade to white. Rapid gaining of excess weight makes them worse. There are no proven treatments.
Swelling of feet and hands
Fluid tends to collect in your hands and feet. If swelling annoys you, there are a few things you can do:
- Avoid long periods of standing or sitting.
- Take two long, soaking tub baths daily.
- Lie down at least 2 more hours each day. Lying on your left side is better
- Avoid salty foods and foods and drinks that contain sodium, such as:
- Most pop
- Canned soups
- French fries
- Ham and pork
- Most cracker snacks
- Fast food
Numb or painful hands may mean you have carpal tunnel syndrome. This can be treated with wrist braces while you are pregnant. Swollen feet and hands are not signs of severe problems unless you also have high blood pressure. Talk with your provider.
This is an early symptom. A good support bra and patience will help with this problem.
Your growing uterus presses on your bladder in the early weeks. It is normal to empty your bladder more often. Burning or pain when you pass urine is not normal. See your provider. You may have a bladder infection.
Expect more mucous vaginal discharge. If you also notice an odor or itching, see your provider. You may have a vaginal infection.
Vaginal spotting or light bleeding
This is a frequent problem even in otherwise normal pregnancies. It may be the first sign of a miscarriage or other serious problem. Light spotting after sex may upset you but it is normal. Bleeding with cramps is a more serious sign. See your provider. You may need an ultrasound. Any time you bleed and are not sure why, call and talk to a nurse or doctor.
If veins swell, your legs may ache or feel tender. To ease this problem, avoid sitting or standing for long periods. Do not wear tight clothing. It helps to wear support stockings and rest with your legs and hips raised.