Most women have a healthy and straightforward pregnancy with no major issues.
However, even if you’re having a healthy pregnancy you may still experience some discomfort or health issues. For some women, these are an inconvenience while for others they can be more severe.
You’ll probably be able to manage many of these yourself. They should get better on their own or with help from your midwife, GP or pharmacist. Every woman’s experience is different.
These could be a sign of serious health issues for you or your baby.
As your baby grows there’s more strain on your pelvis and spine. This can give you backache, which can get worse as your pregnancy progresses.
If you have backache:
Around 4 in 5 women feel sick or are sick (vomit) at some point in their pregnancy.
Morning sickness usually:
Sickness can normally be managed by taking care about what and when you eat, and making sure you have plenty of fluids.
You can get antacids from your pharmacist or your GP can prescribe anti-sickness tablets if you need them. Severe symptoms may need to be managed by an obstetrician.
About 3 in 100 women get severe morning sickness.
It can happen for different reasons, including:
Sometimes morning sickness can be so bad that you may not be able to keep any food or fluids down.
If this happens you may need to have fluids given via a drip in your arm, which may mean a stay in hospital.
Constipation is when your bowels don’t move as often as usual.
Your stools might be hard, lumpy and unusually large or small. It can sometimes be uncomfortable or painful too.
Changes to your hormones can cause constipation.
You can prevent it or ease the symptoms by:
Constipation medicine is available and safe to use during pregnancy which may help.
Cystitis is an inflammation in your bladder. It’s usually caused by an infection.
As your womb gets bigger it causes pressure on your bladder and kidney, making it harder to empty your bladder completely. This can lead to urine infections, which can be more common when you’re pregnant.
If you’re feeling uncomfortable, don’t wait to see if it becomes an infection, go to your GP. You may be given antibiotics to take.
Heartburn or indigestion is a burning feeling around the middle part of the top of your chest (behind your breastbone).
It’s caused by stomach acid rising into the tube joining your mouth.
You’re more likely to get heartburn later in your pregnancy as your baby presses on your stomach.
To ease the symptoms of heartburn, try to:
Heartburn can be made worse by:
Piles or haemorrhoids are swelling inside or around your anus (back passage).
If the blood vessels inside the swellings are large they can cause:
They’re common in later pregnancy and can get worse if you’re constipated.
Laxatives, ointments and medicines can ease discomfort, pain and bleeding.
Your midwife, pharmacist or GP can advise how to prevent and treat piles.
Pelvic girdle pain develops when the muscles, ligaments and the small joint at the front of your pelvis stretch. This can cause a lot of pain in your pelvis and back.
Around 1 in 5 pregnant women have pelvic girdle pain.
Contact your local obstetric physiotherapist for advice.
Swelling happens when your body holds on to more fluid than usual. This is called oedema.
Swelling can also be a sign that something more serious is wrong:
It’s normal to have some swelling, especially later in your pregnancy. This is usually temporary and settles after your baby’s born. It’s common for women to feel puffiness in their ankles and fingers, but if your face is swelling too, tell your midwife, GP or the hospital.
You may need a larger shoe size if your feet swell up. Choose supportive footwear with:
Swelling in your ankles tends to get worse as the day goes on.
Your midwife will probably advise you to rest with your feet up on a chair, sofa or bed.
Swelling in your wrists can cause a painful or tingling sensation in your fingers called carpal tunnel syndrome.
Your midwife may recommend hand exercises or a splint, or you may need a steroid injection.
Varicose veins are unusually large blood vessels under the skin that stick out more than usual.
Always tell your midwife or GP if you notice any hot, red or painful areas in your legs or vulva.
To ease discomfort:
Special exercises can help too. Ask your midwife, antenatal teacher or an obstetric physiotherapist to show you what to do.
Anaemia is when there’s not enough red blood cells in your body, and less haemoglobin than normal in each red blood cell. This means you’ll have a reduced amount of oxygen in your blood.
You can become anaemic if:
A blood test can show if you have anaemia.
The most common treatment for anaemia is to increase the amount of iron in your body.
Some women may be at higher risk of bleeding problems. In this case you may be asked to take iron tablets even if your blood test’s normal.
If you’re overweight or obese when you become pregnant, you and your baby are more at risk of complications during pregnancy and birth.
Risks to you may include:
Risks to your baby of maternal obesity include:
Obese women are more likely to have an induced labour and assisted birth.
Your calorie requirement in pregnancy only increases in the third trimester, when you need an extra 200 calories per day.
There are risks to you and your baby from too much weight gain or loss during pregnancy. You are advised to maintain your body weight and follow a normal balanced diet.
You shouldn’t go on a weight-loss diet during pregnancy. Speak to your midwife for advice.
Some medicines are safe to take when you’re pregnant, others can be harmful for your developing baby.
Before you take anything – or stop taking anything – it’s important to get the right advice.
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16 January 2023