Common Discomforts and Body Changes During Pregnancy
During pregnancy you will be affected both by the physical growth of the baby and changes in your hormone levels. You may notice changes in your body in the early weeks, closer to the end of pregnancy, or the changes may come and go throughout. Even with the discomforts of pregnancy, many women report feeling healthier than they have ever felt before.
Nausea and vomiting are common during the first 3 months of pregnancy. Eating smaller meals often helps to reduce the nausea. Bland foods such as saltine crackers or dry toast sometimes help to eliminate the nausea. Women also report being sensitive to some smells, so avoiding any unpleasant smells may help.
Your breasts may provide the first signs to you that you are pregnant. Women's breasts often get extremely tender and begin increasing in size very early in pregnancy, in preparation for breast-feeding. The size may increase throughout the first 3 months of pregnancy. It is important to wear a bra that fits and supports your breasts throughout your pregnancy. Your nipples and areolas (the darker skin around the nipples) will darken early in pregnancy. By weeks 12-14, you may start leaking colostrum from your breasts. (Colostrum is a fluid made up of water, proteins, minerals, and antibodies that you will feed your baby for the first few days before your milk flows.)
Being tired is common during pregnancy and often occurs at the beginning and end. Exercise, rest, and eating right all may impact the degree of tiredness that you feel. It may help to take naps for an hour or so a day.
You may feel like you need to urinate more often during your pregnancy. This is generally caused from the pressure of the growing uterus on your bladder. As your uterus grows and rises higher in your abdomen, the feeling may go away. As you get closer to delivery and your baby drops lower into your pelvis, those feelings may come back. If you have pain or a change in odor or color, be sure to contact your doctor or healthcare provider right away.
It is common for your normal vaginal discharge to increase during pregnancy. This is from the increased blood supply to the skin and muscles around the vagina. If you have pain, soreness, or itching from the discharge, contact your doctor or health care provider.
Constipation is very common during pregnancy because of hormonal changes that slow down the digestion of food. In the later part of your pregnancy, the pressure from your uterus on the rectum may also contribute to the problem. Eating foods high in fiber, such as raw fruits and vegetables, prunes, and whole grain or bran cereals may help.
Indigestion or heartburn may occur more frequently when you are pregnant due to the slowing of your digestion and the relaxation of the muscle that normally keeps digested food and acids in your stomach. With this relaxation, undigested food containing acid may come back up into your esophagus, giving you a painful burning sensation in your chest (especially under the breastbone). You can help reduce this by eating small meals, avoiding spicy and greasy foods, not drinking liquids before bedtime, and not exercising for at least 2 hours after you eat.
Headaches are common during pregnancy. It is important to ask your doctor or healthcare provider if there is a medication appropriate for you. If no medication is recommended, sometimes relaxation techniques may help.
Lower Abdominal or Groin Pain
You may feel a stretching sensation or pain in your lower abdomen. It is usually on one side or the other, and is caused by the stretching of the ligaments and muscles that support the uterus. Usually this occurs between 18 and 24 weeks. It may help if you change positions when you feel the discomfort.
Many women complain that they have trouble sleeping when they are pregnant. Try not to eat just before bedtime. Consider taking a warm bath at bedtime to help you relax. You may not need as much sleep as you thought. Consider staying up later, so that when you do lie down you are ready to go to sleep. As your abdomen gets bigger, you may want to lie on your side with a pillow under your abdomen and a pillow between your legs for comfort.
Skin and Hair Changes
Your changing hormones during pregnancy usually cause skin and hair changes. Some women get brownish or yellowish patches around their eyes and over the cheeks and nose, sometimes called the "mask of pregnancy". The medical term for this is "chloasma." Some women also get a dark line on the midline of the lower abdomen called the "linea nigra."
You may notice changes in the texture and growth of both your hair and nails during pregnancy. Some women report that both grow faster and are stronger, others report hair falling out and nails splitting. Most women will lose some hair after delivery. In time, your hair and nails will resume the way they were before the pregnancy.
Numbness and Tingling
As your uterus grows, it may press on the nerves in your legs. This may cause some tingling in your legs and toes and even in your arms. The sensation will go away after delivery.
Nosebleeds, Bleeding Gums, Increased Secretions
Some women experience nose and gum bleeding during pregnancy. Keeping well hydrated, especially with orange juice or foods high in Vitamin C, may help to strengthen your capillaries (tiny blood vessels) and reduce this bleeding. You may also consider using a humidifier to help reduce nasal congestion. Gently brushing with a soft toothbrush may decrease bleeding gums.
Swelling, Varicose Veins, Hemorrhoids, and Leg Cramps
Swelling in your legs, especially as you get closer to your due date, is very common. In addition to general swelling, the veins in your legs may swell. (These are called "varicose veins.") You may also have varicose veins close to your vulva and vagina, and hemorrhoids on your rectum, from the weight of your uterus pressing on the veins. If you experience swelling, elevating your legs as much as possible will often help. Also try lying in bed on your side, wearing support pantyhose or stockings, and limiting salty foods. Try not to strain during bowel movements, as that can worsen hemorrhoids.
Leg cramps are common in the last months of pregnancy. Sometimes stretching your legs and doing calf stretches before bed will reduce the cramps.
Pregnancy changes your posture and places strain on your back, often causing backaches. Some things that may help reduce backaches include:
- Wearing low-heeled shoes
- Sleeping on your side with a pillow between your legs
- Sitting in chairs with good back support
- Trying not to stand for long periods of time
- Squatting down and bend your knees when picking things up, instead of bending at the waist
- Applying heat or cold on the particular area or massage area
- Avoiding lifting heavy objects
- Performing special exercises as recommended by your doctor
- Wearing soft abdominal support girdles
Some women feel short of breath at times, usually in the later weeks of pregnancy. This is because the uterus takes up so much room that it presses against the digestive organs and the diaphragm. The lungs do not have as much room to expand as before. A week or two before delivery, the baby usually drops lower, positioning itself for moving through the birth canal. At that point, shortness of breath may go away. Some things that may help include sitting up straight, sleeping propped up on a pillow, and moving at a slower pace.
Striations of Sorts
It is during this part of your pregnancy that there will be no question from physical appearance that you are carrying a baby with you! You are growing and with this growth may come stretch marks. The majority of women that go through a pregnancy will tell you that they got stretch marks on their abdomen. Some women also get stretch marks on their breasts, hips and buttocks. The skin is being stretched by the growth of the baby and enlargement of your breasts in preparation for breastfeeding. Short of putting lotions and oils on the stretch marks during the pregnancy, there is not really anything you can do to prevent them. During your pregnancy they may appear red, brown, or even purple but once the you deliver they will fade and turn a more silvery shade and won't be as noticeable.
Review Date: June 29, 2001
Reviewed By: Peter Chen, M.D., Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of
Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare
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