Every woman experiences pregnancy differently. While a few lucky ones will have an easy time, most will face an array of common pregnancy problems. To make the pregnancy much more tolerable, learn to understand the problems, their symptoms and ways to alleviate them.
One of the earliest distressing symptoms experienced, morning sickness is caused by the rise of the hormone HCG during the first few weeks of pregnancy. It refers to nausea, vomiting or dry-retching. Remedies for morning sickness include eating dry toast or plain crackers, eating frequent small meals, avoiding spicy and fatty foods, drinking ginger tea and taking Vitamin B6.
Fatigue and Sleeplessness
Being pregnant puts a lot of strain on the body, causing a sharp drop in energy levels during the early stages of pregnancy. The changing levels of the hormone progesterone can cause energy levels to plummet too. Don’t overexert yourself. If the body is tired, rest. Try to get a full night’s sleep and rest with the feet up for about 15 minutes a few times daily. If sleeping is a problem, use several pillows to get comfortable. Try sleeping on the side with a pillow between the legs and under the tummy too. A warm bath before bed may be helpful as well.
To prepare the body for birth, progesterone relaxes the ligaments and joints in the lower back and pelvis. This can cause backache and pain in the pubic bone and pelvis. Treatment includes weight control, not standing for long periods of time, avoiding lifting heavy objects and wearing comfortable shoes. If the pain is intense, use a heating pad instead of painkillers to relieve it.
Progesterone can affect the bowel as well, causing constipation in pregnancy. Drinking plenty of water and eating fiber-rich foods such as wholegrains, fruits, vegetables and psylium – a herbal bulk-forming agent – can ease the problem. Regular exercise is helpful too. Avoid using over-the-counter laxatives.
Leg cramps often strike during the night. When that happens, keep the leg straight and flex the ankle and toes while massaging the calf. Some women find relief in soaking their legs in hot water. Regular exercise also improves circulation and reduces cramping. Calcium and magnesium supplements have also been found to be helpful in dealing with leg cramps.
The breasts enlarge and may cause discomfort. Some women leak milk from their breasts from 16 weeks of pregnancy onwards. Wearing a comfortable maternity bra with a nursing pad can help provide proper support for the enlarged breasts.
Headaches and Dizziness
Having enough rest, eating small meals regularly and drinking eight glasses of water daily can help prevent headaches. If there is headache, try taking a hot bath with a cold pack on the forehead. Avoid painkillers except for acetaminophen. Dizziness can be prevented by standing up or getting out of bed slowly. An expectant mum who suddenly feels dizzy in a crowd should quickly step away and get some fresh air. If possible, lie down with the feet raised or sit with the head between the knees.
A condition called chloasma or “pregnancy mask”, which darkens or causes brown patches on the face, may occur. Wear a wide-brimmed hat and apply sunblock with an SPF30+. Another major skin-related concern are itchy skin and stretch marks. Itchy skin is caused by heat rash. So stay cool by wearing cotton clothes and use cornstarch powder under the breast, on the thighs and wherever the skin chafes. As for stretchmarks, they often disappear after pregnancy.
A thin or white mild-smelling vaginal discharge during pregnancy is normal. Sanitary pads can often solve the problem. However, if there are any red, brown and foul-smelling discharges, see the doctor immediately.
As uncomfortable as these pregnancy symptoms are, they are not there permanently. Once the baby is born, they often fade, some almost immediately. So bear with it and learn to manage the problems as best as possible.