Pregnancy conditions you may experience
It’s a tough job growing a baby for 9 months, it’s no wonder your body may experience a variety of conditions during this time
Your hair, skin and body go through so many changes! Even the most straight-forward pregnancy can sometimes have its occasional down sides.
It’s no surprise really as you’re growing a baby from a teeny, tiny cell and your body is preparing for birth and breastfeeding. Inside and out your body adjusts; hormones go haywire, extra blood pumps around you, your ligaments relax and your breasts get bigger – which can be good or bad depending on how you feel about the size of your boobs!
Our useful guide to the most common complaints tells you what’s normal, what’s not and when to seek help.
1. Who called it “morning” sickness? I’ve got it all day!
Likely due to rising hormone levels, regular morning sickness usually settles down by 12-14 weeks and by around 16-20 weeks it should have gone away altogether.
But if you can’t keep any food or drink down, and are worried at all about the severity of your pregnancy sickness, see your midwife or doctor. You may have a condition called hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). Other than severe sickness and nausea symptoms include:
Darker than usual urine
Weeing less often
Feeling dizzy or faint
Higher than normal temperature
Doctors can prescribe anti-sickness drugs (anti-emetics) and steroids. They may also prescribe a Vitamin B supplement (although there is inconsistent evidence on its use to treat nausea and vomiting in pregnancy).
2. A pain in the bum
The butt (sorry!) of many a joke, piles aren’t funny when you have them. They can itch, bleed, and be painful when you poo. They are also very common, so do not be embarrassed to speak to your midwife – they see more piles than they have hot dinners and will not turn a hair at yours.
Basically, piles (or haemorrhoids if you want to use the grown-up term) occur when the veins around the anus enlarge and swell.
Pregnant women can be prone to them because all the hormones surging around the body can make the veins more relaxed than usual. Keep hydrated and eat plenty of foods containing fibre. You can get over the counter creams for piles, and you might find ice packs help if they are painful. Do mention them to your midwife though – don’t suffer in silence!
3. My aching back!!!
That relaxing hormone has a habit of making your ligaments softer and joints looser. To protect yourself from back pain:
- Sleep on a firm mattress and use pillows to support you. A pillow behind your back and one under your top knee can help
- Sit up straight and avoid crossing your legs, as this can strain your lower back
- Do not do heavy lifting and if you are lifting, always keep your back straight and bend your knees.
- Take regular exercise such as walking, swimming or yoga.
4. Spitting blood
Sensitive and bleeding gums (gingivitis) are common too. Don’t ignore it if it persists as it could cause teeth to loosen or even tooth loss. Have regular dental check-ups - they are free in pregnancy and up to 12 months after you’ve had you baby.
5. Strrrrreeetchhh marks
Hormonal changes and weight gain can cause the elastic middle layer of your skin (the dermis) to break in places, allowing the deeper layers to show through.
This causes the thin red or purple narrow streaks or lines that define stretch marks. Once you’ve had your baby and everything begins to settle down you’ll find that these marks fade to a silvery white colour and are less noticeable.
Whilst itchy skin is common in pregnancy, intense itchiness can be a symptom of a rare liver condition called intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP), also known as obstetric cholestasis (OC).
ICP affects 1 in 140 pregnancies. The main symptom is itching, usually without a rash. Itching may be more noticeable on the palms of your hands or soles of your feet and also at night. Tell your midwife or doctor if you have itching, even if it seems mild. They can check to make sure it’s nothing serious.
6. Pain in the pelvis
As pregnancy hormones loosen your joints ready for birth, some women experience pain in their pelvis and hips. This is called Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP) or Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction. It can begin as early as the first trimester or as late as the last few weeks. It can become uncomfortable and even painful to walk, climb stairs or turn over in bed. Your midwife can refer you to a specialist physiotherapist who can help you manage the condition.
You can also help yourself by remaining as active as you can within your pain limits. Do not go up and down stairs more often than you have to, wear flat shoes, sit down to get dressed and keep your knees together when getting in and out of the car. Other tips include; going upstairs backwards (or on your bottom!) sleeping on your side with a pillow between your knees and turning over in bed with your knees together squeezing your buttocks.
7. Fire in your belly
Heartburn and indigestion affects 8 out of 10 women and is more common after 27 weeks of pregnancy. Indigestion can leave you feeling full, sick, nauseous, give you regurgitation, or burping after you eat. Try eating little and often. Avoid eating late in the evening and ask your midwife and pharmacist about remedies that are safe to take in pregnancy.
8. Ahhhh leg cramp!
You might be free of period cramps for 9 months but leg cramps are common in the second and third trimesters – especially at night. Try some calf muscle stretching exercises before bed and keep hydrated. When cramp strikes, stretch the calf muscle and try walking a little and elevating your legs to help keep the cramp from returning. A hot shower, warm bath, ice massage or muscle massage may also help.
9. Vain about veins?
Yep we get it. Purple or blue in colour, they can look twisted, lumpy or swollen. You can help treat varicose veins by wearing compression stockings, which squeeze the blood vessels to help to improve your circulation.
Elevating your legs to improve circulation, not having hot baths and reducing salt intake can also help.
10. Swollen hands, feet and ankles*
All that swelling is a normal part of pregnancy and is caused by this additional blood and retention of fluid needed by the body, which enables it to expand as the baby develops.
*Important: If your face gets swollen and you begin to get headaches, this could be a sign of pre-eclampsia so speak to your midwife or maternity unit straight away.