Common pregnancy symptoms
Welcome to the most magical time in your life, they say, it will be fun, they say. What they don’t say is how hard it can be on you and your body.
Your body goes through a number of changes once that little bundle of joy starts to grow, some of them are pleasant, some of them are not so pleasant. The truth is, most of the common symptoms you’ll experience during pregnancy are completely normal. However, you know your body better than anyone else so if you are concerned please speak to your obstetrician.
Request an appointment
Here are some of the completely normal but not so pleasant things that you may experience over the next nine months:
Tiredness is often one of the first symptoms of pregnancy; your body is creating a human after all.
The good news is, once you get through that first trimester you should start to see this ease until the third trimester.
It’s important to look after yourself during this time and make sure you try and get as much rest as possible. The healthier you are, the easier your pregnancy will be for both you and the baby.
There are also a number of coping strategies you can use to help manage the tiredness. They include exercise in the late afternoon (you may not feel up to it at the time but it will help you to relax), watching your favourite movie to relieve stress (but avoid any snacking late at night) and warm baths may help you to get the sleep you require during this important growth period.
There are two reasons for this pain, the first is that your ligaments are loosening to help prepare your body for the birth of your baby, and the second is because the weight distribution in your body alters your posture. This in turn puts pressure on your back. You will find that your back will always ache more at the end of the day. Although this pain is often unavoidable, the best way to minimise it is to try and rest as often as possible, make sure you sit in comfortable chairs with good back support, avoid standing for long periods of time and avoid lifting heavy objects.
Shooting sciatic nerve pain
Sciatic nerve pain is characterised by pain in the buttocks that often shoots down into your legs. The nerve starts in your lower back and runs behind the uterus and down into your legs. It is the longest and widest single nerve in the human body.
The pain that it causes often gets worse as the pregnancy progresses as your ever-growing uterus is putting more pressure on it. You will find that lying on the opposite side to the pain will often relieve it. This takes the pressure off the problem nerve.
Cramps are often just another delightful side effect of your growing baby. It is unknown why pregnant women experience cramping in their feet and legs during pregnancy, but there are a couple of plausible theories.
- The pressure of the baby is putting pressure on your nerves and blood vessels.
- Your diet. Some nutritionists believe that insufficiencies in calcium, phosphorous and potassium can cause these cramps. Supplements may be an option but a healthy diet is often the best medicine. You can’t go wrong by eating lots of green leafy vegetables, fresh fruit and lots of dairy.
However, you will find that the best way to deal with these types of cramps is to stretch them out. You can do this by straightening your legs and pointing your toes towards your body or moving from a seated position to a standing position. Lots of women report that massage can often help ease cramps, so don’t be afraid to ask your partner for a massage or book yourself in with a professional pregnancy massage therapist for an antenatal massage – ask at the Greenslopes Obstetrics and Gynaecology reception desk for more information.
Changes to your skin
Pregnancy can alter how your skin behaves. In some cases, women report that their skin clears up and others complain of the onset of acne.
The most probable reason for this is that your skin is having trouble adjusting to the new levels of hormones pumping around your body; the main culprit is progesterone as the levels of this particular hormone grow rapidly in the first trimester. This can cause many pimples, whiteheads and blackheads on your face, neck, shoulders and back.
The good news is, once your body gets used to the pregnancy and your hormone levels balance out your skin may follow suit.
In the meantime, the best way to deal with acne is with a mild cleanser and a water-based moisturizer, and drink lots of fresh water.
Now is not the time to use harsh products such as salicylic acid and accutane (isotretinoin). It is thought that salicylic acid can be dangerous in pregnancy and it is known that accutane can cause miscarriages and malformation of the foetus.
If it is really getting you down, speak with your Greenslopes Obstetrics and Gynaecology obstetrician, they may be able to recommend an over-the-counter remedy or offer a prescription that is suitable for use during pregnancy.
Constipation is a very common complaint for pregnant women. It is caused by an increase in blood volume and the rise of the hormone progesterone. Among many other functions, progesterone works to relax the smooth muscles in the intestinal wall and stomach, which in turn slows digestion. The increase in blood volume means you need to drink more fluids, if you don’t it can cause dehydration and this often leads to constipation.
So, make sure you drink plenty of fluids, exercise and snack on foods that are high in fibre, such as prunes.
It is not the time to use laxatives. However, if constipation is a continuous problem speak to your Greenslopes Obstetrics and Gynaecology obstetrician about the possible treatment options. It is also important to remember not to strain when you have a bowel movement as this can cause haemorrhoids.
Increase in urination
Frequent urination is most common in the first and third trimester. It’s common in the first trimester because of all the hormonal changes and in the third because the ever growing baby is putting more pressure on your bladder.
Many women complain of frequent headaches whilst pregnant. There are also a number of types of headaches from tension headaches to cluster headaches and of course the dreaded migraine.
Tension headaches and cluster headaches
Tension headaches are mainly caused by stress, fatigue, noise and heat. Cluster headaches come on in clusters, this headache usually lasts for an hour or so and can come daily for weeks and sometimes even months, the cause, however, is mostly unknown.
A good neck rub or a quiet lay down can often ease both of these types of headaches, but in the event you need some help, Paracetamol is your safest bet.
Unfortunately the statistics show that nearly 20% of pregnant women will suffer a migraine at some point during their pregnancy. Migraines can last from a couple hours to a few days. It is thought that the changes in hormone levels may be the reason pregnant women are more prone to these headaches. It is also often an inherited disorder.
Again, natural pain relief is your best option when it comes to dealing with a migraine. The use of ginger is one of the most commonly and effectively used treatments. Studies have shown that it works by blocking the production of prostaglandins, which cause pain. Once you know a migraine is on the way, mix 1/3 of a teaspoon of powdered ginger in 250ml of water. Drink this mixture three to four times a day for the lifespan of the migraine.
Heartburn and reflux
As your pregnancy progresses the chances of suffering from heartburn and reflux increase, with a reported 25% of all pregnant women having heartburn in the first trimester and increasing in severity in the third. Heartburn and reflux often cause a burning sensation in your chest and cause a bitter acidic taste in your mouth. Bending over and eating large meals are often the cause.
You will also find, that as your baby grows and your digestive tract compresses, the onset of heartburn and reflux may get worse and more regular.
You can, however, ease the symptoms by ensuring you are in an upright position even when you are in bed. You can do this by simply adding a couple of pillows. You should also avoid spicy or acidic food and eating late at night. Smoking and alcohol are also known to increase heartburn and reflux and should be avoided whilst pregnant, not to mention the effects it has on you and your unborn baby.
Swollen ankles, feet and fingers are very common in pregnancy due to all of the extra fluid pumping around your body. It is often worse in women that stand for long periods of time and in heat of summer. It was once thought that calcium supplements may help, however, this has been proven otherwise. The best way to deal with this problem is to put your feet up as much as possible.
It is important to note though, this can be a symptom of high blood pressure and the onset of pre-eclampsia so if you are showing these symptoms make sure you talk to your Greenslopes Obstetrics and Gynaecology obstetrician so that they can keep an eye on the situation.
Morning sickness is the most common symptom of the first trimester of pregnancy with up to 80% of woman suffering from nausea or vomiting at some point during their pregnancy. Unfortunately ‘morning sickness’ is more like ‘all day sickness’ with symptoms likely to be at any time of the day. It can commonly be felt in the morning due to an empty stomach.
Morning sickness will start at around 6 weeks and usually stops at around 12-14 weeks. The most severe form of morning sickness is a condition called Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG), where a woman experiences excessive vomiting in pregnancy and it is important to be treated by your doctor or midwife.
Feeling sick is normally a good sign that your hormone levels are high. The cause of morning sickness is not known but it is connected to your levels of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) and oestrogen. The good news is it will not affect your baby’s wellbeing unless you are struggling to keep food and fluids down.