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Discomforts During Pregnancy: How to Get Relief

The following information contains tips to help you deal with the most common discomforts of pregnancy. If you have questions about any of these symptoms, please talk to your doctor or midwife.

Nausea

Many women suffer from nausea or vomiting during the early months of pregnancy. This problem often is called “morning sickness,” but it can occur at any time of the day. Nausea and vomiting usually stop by the end of the third month of pregnancy. Until then, try these suggestions:

  • Keep crackers, dry cereal, or dry bread beside your bed. Eat a small amount slowly in the morning before you get out of bed.
  • Avoid sudden movements. Get up slowly in the morning.
  • Eat 5 or 6 small meals each day. Never go for long periods without food. Try not to overload your stomach when you eat.
  • Drink fluids (juice, milk, homemade soup) between meals rather than with meals.
  • Go easy on salt and spices.
  • Eat more high-carbohydrate foods (pasta, cereal, toast, potatoes) as long as the nausea lasts. Later in your pregnancy, when you feel better, you can eat a more balanced diet.
  • Avoid greasy and fried foods.
  • When you feel nauseated between meals, sip on fruit juice or water, or eat a small snack.
  • Get plenty of rest, and be sure there is fresh air in the room when you sleep.
  • Do not take any over-the-counter medicines. Talk to your doctor or midwife first.

Heartburn

Heartburn is a burning feeling in your chest. The pressure of the growing baby on your stomach can send stomach acid into your “food pipe” (esophagus). The acid causes the burning feeling. Heartburn usually occurs later on during pregnancy. Here are some tips to prevent or help relieve heartburn:

  • Eat 5 or 6 small meals each day.
  • Chew your food slowly.
  • Avoid eating foods that form gas (broccoli, cabbage, beans, nuts, and onions).
  • Wear clothes that are loose at the waist.
  • Limit greasy and fried foods.
  • Eat lightly seasoned foods. Avoid using too much pepper, chili, and garlic.
  • Do not take medicine without first asking your doctor or midwife. Over-the-counter medicine may be harmful to your baby.

Constipation

Constipation is common during pregnancy for many reasons. The hormones produced during pregnancy can affect the digestive system. The pressure of the growing baby can slow the action of your intestines. Prenatal vitamin supplements that contain iron also can cause constipation. Try the following tips to prevent or help relieve constipation:

  • Drink 6 to 8 glasses of liquid every day. Water, milk, fruit juices, and homemade soup are good choices. Having a warm drink as soon as you wake may help.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables. Try dried fruits, prune juice, or cooked or dried peas or beans.
  • Fiber can help ease constipation. To add fiber to your diet, eat whole-grain products, like whole-wheat bread, brown rice, oatmeal, oat bran, and other bran cereals.
  • Exercise regularly. Take a daily walk.
  • Do not give yourself an enema.
  • Do not take over-the-counter laxatives unless you check first with your doctor or midwife.

Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids may occur if you have constipation. They are swollen veins of the rectum that may itch, burn, or sometimes bleed. To avoid making hemorrhoids worse or to help relieve them, follow these tips:

  • Take steps to prevent constipation.
  • Do not strain to have a bowel movement.
  • Sit in a warm tub 3 to 4 times daily.
  • Use Tucks or witch hazel compresses.
  • If necessary, use local anesthetic cream.

Leg cramps

Leg cramps are common during pregnancy. They may be caused by a mineral imbalance or from the pressure of the enlarged uterus. Try these suggestions:

  • Limit processed foods, like cured meats and fish.
  • Avoid soda pop.
  • Include 3 cups of milk or milk products each day.
  • Gently stretch the calf muscle by flexing your foot and pointing your toes.
  • Use a heating pad.
  • Never use any medicines without first checking with your doctor or midwife.

Backache

Backache is the most common problem in pregnancy. It tends to get worse as the pregnancy progresses. To keep your body balanced, your back curves inward as your uterus grows. This change in posture causes varying degrees of backache. Try these tips:

  • Keep good posture. Sit, stand, and walk with your back straight.
  • Use good body mechanics. When lifting something from the floor, bend your knees instead of bending at your waist.
  • Wear low-heeled shoes with rubber soles.
  • Take breaks throughout the day and rest your back.
  • Do prenatal exercises as instructed by your doctor or midwife.
  • Apply heat to your lower back.
  • Place a pillow or rolled towel behind your lower back when sitting.
  • Do not take any medicine without first checking with your doctor or midwife.

Shortness of breath

As your uterus gets bigger, your lungs do not have as much room to expand. Try the following tips:

  • Slow down when climbing steps.
  • Prop yourself up at night or sleep in a recliner.
  • Avoid sleeping flat on your back. Lying on your side is usually more comfortable.

Toward the very end of pregnancy, especially if this is your first pregnancy, the baby may “drop.” This means the baby will be lower in your body. This is sometimes called “lightening.” When and if this happens, you will be more comfortable and will be able to breathe better.

Swelling

Swelling of the feet and legs is common toward the end of pregnancy. With the added weight of pregnancy, circulation is slower to return the fluid to the heart, especially from your feet.

Let your doctor or midwife know if you have swelling in your legs, face, or hands. This could be a sign of pregnancy-induced hypertension (PIH) or toxemia (tok-SEE-me-uh). To relieve some of the swelling:

  • Avoid standing or sitting for a long time.
  • Keep your legs raised whenever possible.
  • Place pillows under your legs when lying down.
  • Do not cross your legs when sitting.
  • Do not wear knee-high socks, knee-high nylons, or thigh-high nylons with tight elastic bands.
  • Lie on your side when resting.

Difficulty sleeping and fatigue

Most pregnant women have difficulty sleeping, especially during the last trimester of pregnancy. It’s hard to get comfortable in bed, and there are so many things to think about — the baby, labor, delivery, just to name a few. If you are tired during the day, listen to your body, and rest when you can. Try these tips to help you sleep:

  • Take a warm bath or shower at bedtime.
  • Read a good book before bed.
  • Make yourself as comfortable as possible with pillows.
  • Avoid eating a large meal within 2 to 3 hours of bedtime.
  • Avoid caffeine.
  • Do relaxation exercises.
  • Do not take any over-the-counter medicines. Talk to your doctor or midwife first.

Nasal stuffiness

A stuffy nose is common for a lot of pregnant women. Since your blood volume increases during pregnancy, it affects the membranes inside your nose, causing them to swell. Your nasal passages may feel very dry. If you frequently blow your nose, a nosebleed may occur. Try the following:

  • Drink more fluids.
  • Avoid things you know you’re allergic to.
  • Do not smoke, and avoid smoke-filled rooms.
  • Breathe in steam from a hot shower, humidifier, or vaporizer.
  • Use saline (saltwater) nose spray.
  • Use warm, moist towels on sinuses, and massage your sinuses.
  • Do not take any over-the counter medicines. Talk to your doctor or midwife first.

Varicose veins

During pregnancy, pressure from the enlarged uterus interferes with the return of blood from the feet and legs. This can cause varicose veins to appear. Try these tips:

  • Exercise regularly.
  • Avoid tight clothing.
  • Wear full-length support hose when standing or walking for a long time.
  • Do not wear knee-high socks, knee-high nylons, or thigh-high nylons with tight elastic bands.
  • Avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time.
  • Wear shoes with rubber soles and good support.
  • Raise your legs whenever possible.

Frequent urination

Frequent urination occurs in the first trimester and in the last trimester. The enlarged uterus puts a lot of pressure on the bladder, especially when the baby drops at the end of pregnancy. This problem almost always improves after delivery. These suggestions may help:

  • Do Kegel exercises to help strengthen the muscles around the urethra (the opening to your bladder), vagina, and rectum. If you don’t know about Kegel exercises, ask your doctor or midwife to explain them.
  • It is possible to pass urine if you cough, sneeze, or laugh too hard. You may want to wear a pad.

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