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  • Jaz Wilson

12 Common Pregnancy Discomforts, Reason and Relief


Pregnancy can be beautiful, trans-formative, exciting, intense, challenging, and uncomfortable all at once. So many changes occurring in the body can cause many different areas to be under stress and call for your attention, whether it is having to get up to go to the bathroom repeatedly or something painful such as backache or hemorrhoids.

We always hear that hydration, eating well and exercise are extremely important during pregnancy, and its not just to help your baby grow strong and healthy, its also a way of managing many of the following discomforts!

1) Nausea & Vomiting

Nausea usually begins around the 6th week of pregnancy, but can start as early as 4 weeks. Half of pregnant people who experience nausea feel relief at 14 weeks, but some people experience it throughout pregnancy. The cause of nausea and morning sickness is not known for sure, but some possible causes are; the rise of the human chorionic gonadotropin (a hormone that rises rapidly in early pregnancy and peaks at the same time of nausea), the rise of estrogen, enhanced sense of smell and sensitivity to odors that may trigger the gag reflex, sensitive stomachs, and stress.

Relief:

Stay hydrated and eat a healthy well balanced diet. Prevention and treatment for nausea and morning sickness are synonymous, which can he helped by healthy eating and drinking habits.

Keeping salted crackers or a different light tasting snack beside your bed to eat before getting out of bed can help ease nausea/morning sickness. Allow some time for digestion and rise out of bed slowly.

Eat smaller meals more frequently throughout the day and stay away from foods that trigger your nausea. Foods that trigger nausea and vomiting will be very different from person to person, so writing down what you have eaten that meal or that day can help you figure out your trigger(s).

Eat more dry plain foods and suck on hard candy to help ease your stomach. (Ginger candy is great for this!)

Keep your home well ventilated and have a fan close by when you can't go outside for fresh air. This can help relax your body and help you avoid or relieve nausea.

Talk to your care provider about which prenatal vitamins you are taking as too much iron can result in nausea, switching to a different vitamin may help.

Also talk to them about taking a vitamin B6 supplement, which has proven to help nausea and vomiting.

If you are having issues with vomiting, Drink fluids half an hour before and after you eat, but not with meals. This helps your stomach not get too full or too empty, as does eating more small meals per day. This helps since progesterone (which is high during pregnancy) slows the process of digestion. Drink lots of fluids to avoid dehydration!

Avoid spicy and greasy foods, common nausea triggers, and try going to bed early to build up your energy.

Lemon, ginger and mint teas may be helpful in calming your stomach.

If these tips don't work for you and you are really struggling with nausea, you could talk to your care provider about taking a prescription.

2) Backache

A growing baby can be hard on your back. Backache during pregnancy is very common and typically occurs during the last half of pregnancy in your sacroiliac joint, where your pelvis meets your spine. Weight from your growing baby and uterus can put pressure on nerves and blood vessels in your back. Stress, hormonal changes, muscle separation (also from growth) and posture changes can also be factors.

Relief:

Regular exercise boosts flexibility and strong muscles. Hot and cold packs for up to 20 minutes several times a day can also help alleviate pain, just be sure not to apply a heat pack to your abdomen during pregnancy!

Improve your posture by lying down on your side with a pillow between your legs when relaxing or sleeping. Remember to sit with your spine straight and shoulders back, a support belt may also help.

Seeing an acupuncturist and/or chiropractor can really help as well.

If your back pain is stress related, talking to a friend or counselor may help.

Try squatting as opposed to bending over, avoid wearing high heels, and sleep on your back.

3)Sore breasts

Tender, sensitive and tingling breasts are among the earliest signs of pregnancy. Soreness in breasts is normal, especially in the first trimester, and should lessen once you enter your second. Just as breasts are sore before menstruation from the time we enter puberty, our breasts are sore during pregnancy because they are creating more milk ducts and because of changes in hormone levels. Your breasts and nipples are also growing in size to prepare for feeding your baby.

Relief:

Wearing a supportive bra with wide straps and no underwire can ease soreness and make you more comfortable. You may need to change sizes a couple of times during pregnancy to accommodate your growing breasts. Wearing a well fitted bra while exercising and a maternity cotton bra while sleeping could ease soreness as well.

Applying a hot cloth compress or warm water during a shower or bath (talk to your care provider about the appropriate temperature for your stage of pregnancy) can give you some relief. Apply heat in other ways, such as a heating pad.

Drink water regularly to flush your body of excess fluids and hormones.

Cut down on your sodium consumption.While healthy sea salt consumption is important during pregnancy, many people feel relief of breast soreness by temporarily cutting down on sodium.

A diet rich in vitamins and minerals can also alleviate breast soreness. Eating a lot of leafy greens, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds can reduce tenderness and balance hormonal effects.

Certain herbal salves, such as Arnica, can reduce soreness.

4) Heartburn

Progesterone is high during pregnancy, it relaxes your muscles and relaxes the stomach valve that keeps acid out of the esophagus, which causes heartburn. Also, the growing uterus crowds the stomach which can force acid into the esophagus.

Relief:

Just as it does when you are not pregnant, over eating can cause heartburn. Try not to eat until you are completely full and eat five or six smaller meals a day. Eating too fast can also cause heartburn so try to eat slow.

Try to get most of your fluids in between meals as opposed to during meals.

Sit or stand after eating a meal, don’t lie down or bend over until you have had some time to digest since both of these things can cause acid to enter the esophagus.

Try to give yourself at least three hours between a meal and when lying down or going to bed, keep your head and chest elevated.

Avoid foods that seem to trigger heartburn as it can be different from person to person. Some foods that may trigger heartburn are super fatty foods, caffeine, citrus and chocolate.

Wearing loose fitting clothing can ease pressure on your abdomen.

Ginger is known to ease heartburn, so try ginger-ale or ginger candies. You could also talk to your care provider about taking an antacid.

5) Headache

Lack of sleep, surges of hormones and blood volume, poor posture due to the body adjusting to your growing baby, carrying too much weight, low blood sugar, dehydration, caffeine withdrawal and stress can all cause headaches.

Relief:

Prevention; good posture, relaxation, exercise, hot or cold packs applied to forehead, well balanced meals.

Treatment; warm compress around eyes and nose or cold compress at the base of neck, depending on where the headache is coming from.

Maintain blood sugar by eating frequent smaller meals.

Getting a massage, relaxing in a dark room or taking a warm bath (talk to your care provider about the appropriate temperature for your stage in pregnancy) or shower may also help.

Avoid potential headache triggers such as chocolate, aged cheddar, alcohol, peanuts, breads with fresh yeast, sour cream, and preserved meats.

Consult your health care provider before taking any medications.

6) Sleeplessness

Sleeplessness is most common during pregnancy in the first and third trimesters. Other pregnancy discomforts can affect your ability to sleep, such as needing to pee frequently in the night, back pain, nausea and vomiting, breast tenderness, abdominal discomfort, leg cramping, vivid dreams, shortness of breath and heartburn. Stress may also be a factor.

Relief:

If it is stress related, try writing down your worries and thinking of possible solutions or try talking to your partner, trusted friend or counselor.

Start a bedtime routine by going to bed at the same time every night and give yourself some time to wind down and relax before bed.

Avoid screens for at least an hour before bed.

Take a soothing bath, but make sure to talk to your care provider about what temperature is appropriate during your stage of pregnancy.

Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day and minimize your fluid intake after 7pm to avoid too many pee breaks in the night. Keep a night light in your bathroom so you don’t need to be shocked by the bright light for your pee breaks.

Eat a healthy dinner and eat it slowly without becoming too full to avoid heartburn and have a light snack in the late evening so you don’t go to bed hungry. A dinner high in protein helps your blood sugar levels stay steady throughout the night.

Lie on your side and place a pillow between your knees and under your belly as it grows bigger.

Exercise during the day so you are tired at night and don’t be afraid to nap.

7) Fatigue

Fatigue is very common during pregnancy, especially during the first trimester. The cause is not known, but it is thought to be partly caused by the rise of progesterone. It could also be caused by other pregnancy discomforts, like having a hard time sleeping due to back pain or having to get up many times in the night to use the bathroom. If you are experiencing nausea or vomiting, that could be draining as well. Iron deficiency or feelings of depression can cause fatigue as well.

Relief:

Get lots of rest, even a 15 minute nap can help.

If you are still working, take a vacation/sick day if possible and give yourself time in your schedule to relax more. There may be many things you wish to get done, but remember you are working hard in growing a baby!

A healthy diet of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, skim milk and lean meats can be very energizing, whereas high fat or junk food can drain your energy.

Staying hydrated and exercising regularly can help you keep your energy. Take frequent breaks and stretch.

8) Constipation

Constipation affects approximately half of women during pregnancy. Worry, anxiety, low fiber and minimal exercise can all cause constipation. It can also be caused by high progesterone levels which relax muscles including intestinal muscles. Pressure on the intestines from the expanding uterus may also be a factor.

Relief:

The following can treat and prevent constipation: Eat 25-30g of high fiber foods per day such as prunes, figs, bananas, vegetables, whole grains and flax.

Drink 10-12 cups of fluids each day. The combination of a high fiber diet and plenty of liquids is the best combination for eliminating waste.

Try to exercise for 20-30 minutes a day

Reduce intake of iron. Talk to your care provider about the supplement you are taking. Iron is important during pregnancy, but too much can cause constipation.

Talk to you health care provider if you would like to use an over the counter medication.

9) Shortness of breath

Occurring between 60-70% of pregnancies, you may start to feel breathless in your first or second trimester. Also known as Dyspnea, referring to a ‘’hunger for air’’, may cause discomfort at times but in pregnancy is harmless. Pregnancy hormones encourage your body to hold onto fluids, and so your body produces more blood. Breathing more deeply allows your heart to deal with your expanded blood supply. You are breathing at the same rate, but are taking deeper breaths to inhale oxygen and exhale carbon-monoxide more efficiently. It also helps your body cope with your baby’s growing metabolism. Your rib cage is moving up and outwards, which causes feelings of breathlessness, especially in your third trimester when your baby is getting much bigger.

Relief:

Having an upright posture can help give your lungs more room, as can holding your arms above your head and taking deep breaths.

Light exercise, which means being able to maintain a conversation while doing it, may be helpful in the long run even though it might make you feel breathless while doing it. If you feel really breathless before physical activity or only after a small amount of physical activity, mention it to your Midwife or GP.

Eating healthily and maintaining a healthy weight can help.

Drinking lots of fluids and avoiding eating foods high in salt, sugar and fat can ease breathlessness.

Iron rich foods such as red meat, eggs and dark green vegetables can help. If you think you might be anemic, or you find it difficult to eat iron rich foods, talk to your care provider about taking a multivitamin or iron supplement.

10) Moodiness

Mood swings are very common during pregnancy due to stress, fatigue, fluctuation of hormones and the reality of the upcoming life changes. Whether you are wondering whether your baby will be healthy, how you will be as a parent, how your family will adjust to a new family member or how you will cope financially, there are many things to consider during pregnancy that may result in feeling overjoyed one minute and anxious the next.

Relief:

Put yourself at the top of your to do list and be patient with yourself, remembering that a whirlwind of emotions is normal right now. There may be many things you want to do before the baby comes but remember that nurturing yourself is nurturing your baby too.

Strengthen your relationships with those you care about most and do things that make you feel good. Take a nap, go for a walk with a friend or with just you, watch a movie, read a book, get a prenatal massage or take a prenatal yoga class.

Get plenty of rest, eat well and drink lots of fluids. Staying healthy can ease stress in your body and drinking lots of water can flush your body of extra hormones.

If mood swings are interfering with your daily life and self care isn't doing the trick, talking to a trusted friend, counselor or your care provider about how you are feeling may help.

11) Stretch marks

Stretch marks are caused by tiny tears in the elastic tissue that lies just beneath the skin. It is very common to get them during any kind of rapid growth, especially during the last trimester of pregnancy. Stretch marks are usually genetic, and some people wear their stretch marks proudly whereas others may feel self conscious about them.

Relief:

Things like moisturizing daily may reduce their appearance, and after the birth the colour will fade from a dark pink, purple or brown to a less noticeable shade. Cocoa butter or coconut oil can also help with the itchiness that comes with growing skin and may help reduce the appearance of the marks.

Plenty of vitamin C in your diet can contribute to healthy skin and make you less prone to stretch marks.

Watching your weight and trying to gain weight slowly and steadily (1 pound per week in your second and third trimesters) instead of in big spurts can also help. See Health Canada's pregnancy weight gain calculator to find your optimal weight gain for your pregnancy.

You can also talk to a dermatologist after the birth about other options such as Retin-A or laser therapy.

12) Hemorrhoids

Effecting half of pregnant women, especially during the second and third trimesters, hemorrhoids can be uncomfortable and painful but are otherwise harmless. Pressure from the enlarging uterus, constipation and increased blood flow to the pelvic area can cause hemorrhoids.

Relief:

Staying regular with your pooping is the best way to avoid hemorrhoids, so drink plenty of water and eat lots of fibrous foods.

Kegel exercises can encourage circulation to the area to help avoid hemorrhoids or to help heal.

Sleeping on your side can relieve pressure from the affected area, as can lying on your left side a few times a day.

Movement helps circulation and flushing things out, so try to avoid sitting or standing in long stints. Don’t force out your poop and be very gentle when wiping, use two-ply with warm water to wipe and don’t wipe too hard.

A 10-15 minute warm bath (talk to your care provider about the appropriate temperature for your stage of pregnancy) can help the affected area stay clean and reduce discomfort.

Ice packs, witch hazel compresses, and a donut shaped pillow can also ease discomfort.

If these suggestions don’t help, your care provider might recommend a stool softener or cream.

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