"Nobody told me pregnancy would be this challenging..."
Some women experience all manner of discomforts during pregnancy. But that doesn't necessarily mean you will have any at all. Some pregnant women feel better than ever before, despite the changes happening in their body.
The good news is that almost all the discomforts will pass. Some just take a little longer than others.
One of the first symptoms of early pregnancy is swollen and sore breasts. If this causes you discomfort, try wearing a firm bra.
Hormonal changes during pregnancy can also affect your skin. Some women get severe itching, while others get varicose veins. Your skin may develop pigment spots and/or stretch marks.
Nausea at the beginning and heartburn at the end
After a few weeks, you might start feeling nauseous. This usually passes around week 12, but sometimes it continues much longer. Read tips on dealing with nausea.
Heartburn is also quite common as the child grows larger and starts pressing on the stomach and hormones cause the stomach sphincter to slacken. Here are some tips for managing heartburn.
Expect to feel tired – get plenty of rest
Tiredness is probably the most common discomfort during pregnancy. This may be caused by many factors including hormones. Further on in the pregnancy, anaemia is a common cause of tiredness.
Breathlessness and heart palpitations are common in late pregnancy as your belly becomes increasingly larger.
Try resting with your hands and feet raised
The increased quantity of blood and fluid in your body can also compress the nerves and blood vessels in your hands and feet.
• This can cause pain and numbness in your hands. This disorder is known as carpal tunnel syndrome, and can happen during the second half of the pregnancy. Try resting with your hands raised and clenching and unclenching your fingers.
• Your feet and calves may swell up and your shoes may sometimes become very tight. It usually helps to wear support stockings and rest with your feet raised.
Roughly one in three pregnant women get a symptom known as restless legs, which is believed to be made worse by caffeine, nicotine and anaemia.
It is not unusual to wake up with cramp in your calves, which can be very painful. Try standing up and pressing your heel against the floor, or flex the sole of your foot against a wall or the end of your bed.
Anxiety and troubled dreams
Restless sleep and troubled dreams are very common during pregnancy. This is probably because your unconscious is processing the fact that you will soon be a parent. You might also wake up more often because it's hard to find a comfortable sleeping position, or because you frequently need to urinate.
When you can't sleep, you might start worrying about what labour will be like. While anxiety is a natural part of pregnancy, it can sometimes turn into severe fear of giving birth.
Almost all pregnant women experience mood swings because of the hormones circulating in their body, and might sometimes feel irrationally tearful or irritable.
Back pain and pelvic pain
Do you have backache? That's not surprising; the muscles in your back are working hard to support your growing stomach. Some pregnant women get sciatica, which causes sharp pain to radiate from the lower back down through the legs. If the problems are severe, ask your midwife for advice. You might be referred to a physiotherapist.
Pain in the pelvic region may be a symptom of symphysis pubis dysfunction (pelvic girdle pain). There are some movements you should avoid and things to be careful about if you have pelvic pain and symphysis pubis dysfunction.
Constipation, haemorrhoids and discharge
Haemorrhoids are swollen veins in or around the anus that can itch and sting. They are often made worse by constipation, a common complaint during pregnancy. Constipation is caused by the intestines not working as usual. Some iron supplements can make you even more constipated.
Try eating a natural laxative such as prunes. Drink plenty of water. If this doesn't help, ask at the pharmacy for a non-prescription remedy for constipation that is suitable during pregnancy.
Most pregnant women need to urinate frequently, especially towards the end of the pregnancy when the baby is pressing against the bladder. The risk of bladder infections is slightly greater than usual. If it hurts when you pee, contact your midwife at the maternity clinic.
An increase in vaginal discharge is common during pregnancy. Light, painless bleeding is not necessarily a sign of miscarriage, since all the mucous membranes have a greater tendency to bleed during pregnancy. Pregnant women are also more prone to thrush. Consult your doctor before using ordinary anti-thrush medicines.
Fragile mucous membranes in the nose and mouth
The mucous membranes in your nose and mouth also become swollen during pregnancy.
First try flushing your nostrils with salt solution if your nose is blocked.
Try brushing your teeth with a very soft brush, since your gums will bleed more easily than usual. And you should brush your teeth more thoroughly than usual since pregnant women are more prone to tooth decay.
Dizziness and vena cava syndrome
There is a good reason why people should offer you their seat on the bus, even before your tummy gets very big. Your blood pressure drops in early pregnancy, which can cause dizziness if you stand for too long or get up too quickly. If this happens, sit down carefully and lean your body forwards. This increases the blood supply to the head and you will feel better.
Your blood pressure usually rises again later in the pregnancy.
If you suddenly feel faint while lying on your back, you might have a condition called vena cava syndrome. This is caused by compression of the vena cava, a large vain that runs alongside your spine. Lie in a different position, for instance on your side, and the problem will probably go away.
Pregnancy pains and discomforts – the complete list
Pregnancy isn't always a bed of roses. A myriad of discomforts from heartburn to itching and nausea can actually make it quite a challenging time. Here is a list of pains and discomforts commonly encountered during pregnancy.