As exciting as pregnancy is, it is also taxing on the mother’s body. The host of hormone changes and alterations in body weight and size coupled with the oxygen and nutritional demands of the growing fetus places significant stress on the system thereby causing a range of symptoms and discomfort. Living with these ever-increasing changes for 40 weeks can be frustrating and make pregnancy into a dreadful experience for some women who tend to suffer with pregnancy-related symptoms to a greater degree than other women. Most of these changes are considered normal for the physiological state of pregnancy but this should not detract from the fact that it is unpleasant for the mother.
Nausea is one of the first symptoms of pregnancy and is usually the worst within the first trimester of pregnancy. It is often worse in the morning, and tends to occur with vomiting. Collectively this is referred to as morning sickness. But as the pregnancy continues, vomiting happens less frequently and the nausea gradually eases. Some women may experience nausea throughout their pregnancy, but usually not as intense as within the first trimester.
While nausea is unavoidable, it can be eased through simple measures like sipping cold water and nibbling on dry salty crackers. This may not help every woman but it is worth trying before turning to antiemetics (anti-nausea drugs). Smaller meals are better tolerAvoid foods and odors that may trigger nausea. Later in pregnancy, a change in position can also be helpful as nausea is closely related to acid reflux.
Frequent episodes of vomiting is the norm in early pregnancy as part of ‘morning sickness’. Some women are fortunate and do not experience it as intensely as others. Usually the vomiting episodes subside towards the latter part of the first trimester or even in the early parts of the second trimester. But for some women, it can continue through most of the pregnancy. Women who experience severe and persistent vomiting during pregnancy need to be monitored closely. This is known as hyperemesis gravidarum and without proper management, it can put the pregnancy at risk.
Many of the same remedies that work for nausea will help to some degree with vomiting. However, if vomiting is excessive then antiemetics are necessary. It is also important to prevent dehydration with the use of specially formulated oral rehydration solutions (ORS) which has the optimal balance of water and electrolytes. Inability to rehydrate orally may then require and IV drip. More pregnancy vomiting remedies.
Changes in appetite in pregnancy varies from either extreme. Many women experience a loss of appetite in early pregnancy due to the nausea and vomiting. By mid to late pregnancy the appetite tends to increase. However, there may be short episodes of either a lack of appetite or increased appetite throughout the pregnancy. This is normal and pregnant women are encouraged to fulfill their cravings for certain foods, while eating healthy. Remember that the growing fetus needs proper nutritions so while you are not eating for two adults, you will need more food than regular.
Eat many small meals in a day rather than a few large meals. It will help minimize the nausea and can also ease the vomiting. Bland foods are generally better tolerated but cultural differences may mean that some women are more tolerant to spicier foods than others. Do not eat large meals before sleeping, especially in the later parts of pregnancy when acid reflux is common particularly during sleep.
Discomfort and even pain in the abdomen is to be expected to some extent. However, severe abdominal pain particularly in the first few weeks of pregnancy need to be investigated immediately as it may be an ectopic pregnancy. Most cases of abdominal pain are due to stretching of the abdominal wall (skin, fascia and muscles) as the abdominal cavity contends with the expanding uterus. It may intensify towards the end of the second and third trimester when the unborn baby rapidly grows in size. Severe pain at any stage of pregnancy must be investigated for the possibility of conditions like appendicitis.
Minimize activities that tend to worsen the abdominal discomfort. The action of gravity on the expanding belly tends to contribute to stretching and associated discomfort. Abdominal pain with digestive symptoms like vomiting, constipation or diarrhea must be attended to by a doctor. Wearing firm, but not tight, clothing and underwear and provide added support and ease discomfort. Gently massaging the abdomen may also help. Other measures may be helpful depending on the cause of abdominal pain in pregnancy.
Shortness of Breath
Shortness of breath is often associated with fatigue and tends to worsen during the second and third trimester of pregnancy. It is primarily due to anemia in pregnancy coupled with the added body weight. In later pregnancy, the enlarged uterus may restrict the movement of the diaphragm (main breathing muscle) and compress the aorta which can impair gas exchange and circulation respectively. Labored breathing with dizziness or change in skin color (pale to blue) are very serious clinical signs that need immediate medical attention.
Minimize physical activity in pregnancy. While you do not have to be completely sedentary, undertake any physical activity slowly and over short periods. Iron supplementation is important as well as good nutrition overall. Shortness of breath when sitting and lying down can be relieved to some extent by lying slightly to the left side and using pillows to support the belly. This can reduce the pressure on the aorta and allow for deeper breathing. There are other causes of shortness of breath that may be unrelated to pregnancy.
The increased demands on the mother’s body, coupled with hormonal changes and other pregnancy-related factors will ultimately contribute to fatigue. It is considered somewhat normal unless the fatigue is severely affecting daily functioning. However, fatigue in pregnancy needs to be differentiated from fatigue related to cardiac problems, diabetes and thyroid dysfunction which are common in pregnancy. Some women are more energetic than others during pregnancy and this largely depends on individual physical fitness.
Do not tire yourself out with intense physical activity. Rather pace yourself over longer periods of time. Moderate exercise approved by your gynecologist and healthier eating habits with low GI (glycemic index) foods may help. While small amounts of caffeine occasionally may not be harmful, avoid consuming strong caffeinated beverages like coffee to perk you up daily. Rest as often as possible. Fatigue is also a symptom of anemia which is common during pregnancy. Nutritional supplements, like iron tablets, can therefore be helpful.
Itchy skin during pregnancy (pregnancy pruritis) affects some women more than others. It is a result of hormonal changes, dryness of the skin, aggravation of allergies and stretching of the skin with weight gain. The abdomen tends to itch in late pregnancy as the abdominal wall expands drastically during this time. Women with skin diseases like eczema and psoriasis may notice an aggravation during pregnancy. Antihistamines and corticosteroids (even creams) should be avoided during pregnancy.
Use safe vegetable, nut and mineral oils to moisturize the skin. Even unused cooking oils can be applied to the skin in moderation. Avoid strongly scented soaps and body creams that may contribute to itching. Very hot baths may aggravate skin itching and tight clothing or synthetic textiles can contribute to chaffing and skin irritation respectively. Rather use loose-fitting clothing made of natural textiles.
Alterations in bowel habit affects almost all pregnant women. Usually it is constipation but sometimes recurrent episodes of diarrhea may occur. Constipation during pregnancy should not be treated with laxatives or other medication, even over-the-counter varieties, unless prescribed by a doctor who is aware of your pregnancy. Even herbal alternatives can be dangerous and may cause uterine contractions. Severe constipation should not be ignored as it can lead to complications, which are more likely to arise during pregnancy.
Increase your fiber intake and use fiber supplements if necessary. Water is another essential component in managing constipation within drugs. You should be drinking 2 liters (eight 8 ounce glasses) of water daily. Heavily processed foods may worsen constipation and should be minimized in your diet. A slow walk can stimulate your bowel movements but do not undertake vigorous physical activity.
Hemorrhoids in pregnancy is closely related to constipation, hormonal changes and pressure from the expanding abdomen. Coupled with long periods of sitting, it is not surprising that may women suffer with hemorrhoids during pregnancy. Hemorrhoids is simply an inflammation and protrusion of the veins in the rectum and anus. It tends to lead to burning and pain in the anus particularly after a bowel movement, sometimes bleeding when wiping and an urge to pass stool even after defecating.
Always consult with a doctor before using any hemorrhoid cream. Your doctor or pharmacist will advise you on options that are safe for pregnancy. Remedying your constipation and avoiding long periods of sitting can help. Do not take too long on the toilet and wait until you need to pass stool rather than sitting and waiting or straining to force out the stool. Here are some other tips to remedy hemorrhoids.
Heartburn is usually a sign of acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Here the stomach acidic contents flow backward into the esophagus causing irritation and even ulcers. It is a common gastrointestinal complaint in adults, even in men. However, pregnancy brings about certain factors that tend to worsen acid reflux. Hormonal changes ‘weaken’ the lower esophageal sphincter that normally prevents the backward flow of the stomach contents and the growing uterus increases pressure within the abdominal cavity thereby pushing out the stomach contents.
Acid reflux can be severe through most of pregnancy but it tends to worsen in the third trimester. While some antacids are safe to use, you should first consult with a doctor. Try to eat many small meals and avoid eating a few hours before sleeping. Never eat and lie down flat immediately thereafter. Some foods and beverages tend to worsen reflux and it is important to avoid these triggers. Consider an acid reflux diet to prevent episodes rather than solely treating the symptoms like heartburn.