During pregnancy, hormonal changes contribute to increased laxity of joints. As the baby grows, your posture needs to adapt to the changing shape of the abdomen. This can result in backache and/or pelvic pain.
To prevent backache
- maintain good posture
- bend the knees when lifting.
- wear low-heeled supportive shoes.
- daily exercise (walking, swimming and/or yoga).
- back exercises which strengthen your back and abdominal muscles
- sit with a rolled-up hand towel at the base of your spine for support and comfort.
If you have backache
- apply heat (eg wheat pack)
- gentle massage
- avoid heavy lifting, vacuuming, sweeping
- check with your midwife or doctor – referral to a physiotherapist may be necessary
The need to pass urine frequently is common throughout pregnancy as the growing uterus presses on the bladder. However, if you notice pain, stinging or burning when you pass urine it may mean that you have a urinary infection and this needs to be treated. Please contact your midwife or doctor.
A daily glass of cranberry juice and increasing your daily intake of water may reduce the likelihood of a urinary infection.
Bowel – Constipation
During pregnancy, hormonal changes slow the movement of food through the bowel.
What can help?
- Increase the amount of water you drink daily.
- Eat plenty of fibre-rich foods every day, eg cereals, vegetables, fruit, wholegrains, prunes.
- Mild laxatives recommended by your doctor or midwife are safe to take, but try to avoid strong laxatives.
- Constipation may also be caused by iron tablets, so if you need to take these, increase your fluid and fibre intake.
- Walking can help as this increases peristalsis of the bowel.
- You may safely take Metamucil or Fybogel.
These are varicose veins which appear as small swellings outside your rectal area. They may become itchy, painful and sometimes bleed slightly.
To prevent or relieve haemorrhoids:
- Avoid constipation
- Avoid straining when going to the toilet – placing a stool or cushion under your feet while sitting on the toilet may help
- Pelvic floor exercises may help to control haemorrhoids
- Sitting in a warm bath using an ice pack may bring relief
- Haemorrhoid preparations with local anaesthetic – available you’re your pharmacy
- Safe to take are Proctosedyl and Rectinol
- If you cannot get relief, or if the haemorrhoids bleed, seek medical advice.
This discomfort is often a problem during pregnancy. It is caused by hormones which relax the stomach muscles, and also by the growing baby pushing on the stomach. This forces food and stomach acids upwards causing a burning feeling in the chest and throat.
Prevention or relief:
- small sips of milk, fruit juice, soda water or plain water
- sit up, raise the arms above the head
- avoid greasy or spicy foods, tea, coffee, cigarettes, alcohol
- eat small, frequent meals
- drink plenty of fluids separate from your meals
- sleep with your back elevated
- you may safely take Mylanta, Gaviscon, Rennie – follow the manufacturers’ instructions.
Nausea & Vomiting
These are two of the most common discomforts of pregnancy. A poor diet, stress, drugs and lack of sleep can make them worse, so try to eliminate these factors.
Prevention or relief:
- Replace large meals with small frequent meals.
- Avoid fatty and spicy foods.
- Avoid alcohol, tea, coffee.
- Eat plenty of fresh fruit, and vegetables rich in Vitamin B.
- Eat something (eg a dry biscuit) before getting out of bed.
- Ensure an adequate fluid intake – at least 6-8 cups of water per day, more if you have been vomiting.
- If vomiting becomes too frequent, seek medical advice.
- Ginger products may help, eg ginger beer, ginger biscuits, ginger tea, grated ginger in hot water.
Muscle cramps of the feet, lets and thighs can occur in late pregnancy, usually at night.
- Exercise will help to improve circulation in your legs.
- A warm bath and gentle leg massage before bed may also help.
- Wear socks to bed.
- If you get a sudden spasm or cramp, massage the cramped muscles upwards towards the heart, and pull your foot toward the knee. Get up and walk around to warm the cramped area.
- Try not to point your toes while in bed.
It is normal to have some swelling in the hands, face or feet, particularly towards the end of pregnancy. It tends to be worse in hot weather, or when standing or sitting for long periods. Swelling should ease after resting. If swelling is accompanied by high blood pressure and/or protein in the urine, you must consult your doctor.
Prevention or relief:
- Avoid highly-salted foods.
- Ensure plenty of rest with feet elevated.
- Regular exercise and/or massage.
- Increase fruit and vegetable (anti-oxidants) intake.
Ligaments and muscles soften during pregnancy due to hormonal action and this makes them prone to strain and injury. It is therefore important to exercise with care. Discomfort can also be felt from ligaments stretching with the growth of the uterus which occurs throughout the pregnancy. Pain can be relieved by using wheat packs or Paracetamol. If pain is severe or constant, check with your midwife or doctor.
This occurs due to increased blood supply to the mouth and softening of the gums. It can occur spontaneously or after brushing your teeth. Good dental care and nutrition prior to and during pregnancy is very important. If your gums are bleeding it may help to rinse you mouth with cool water containing salt or lemon juice. Change your toothbrush to a softer type and floss daily.
Vaginal thrush is a common problem in pregnancy. It causes a vaginal/vulval itch and sometimes a white/yellowish discharge. It is safe to treat it with any of the over-the-counter preparations available from your pharmacy. Either vaginal cream or pessaries are satisfactory. If using a cream apply it with an applicator, otherwise the treatment may not be effective.
Your may find you become short of breath whenever you are moderately active in the last few months of pregnancy – this is normal and is due to the size of your growing baby. Gentle exercise and sleeping on two pillows may help. However, if you are breathless on even mild exertion, or have a cough or chest pain, it is important to get medical advice.
Cold or Flu
These common respiratory infections do not pose any problems for your pregnancy. If you have a fever you should treat it with Paracetamol as directed and drink plenty of fluids. If fever persists for more than 48 hours, see your GP. Symptom relief is usually all that is required. To relieve coughing, you may safely take Benadryl or Duratuss.
These occur in pregnancy due to the increased blood supply of the nasal lining. If bleeding occurs, apply an ice pack to the nose until bleeding is controlled. It should last for only a few minutes. If it is very heavy or frequent, seek medical advice.
These are painless contractions (or uterine tightenings) which occur throughout the pregnancy. They become more noticeable as the baby grows and often become more uncomfortable towards the end of the pregnancy. They are a normal part of pregnancy and prepare the uterus for labour.
Carpal Tunnel syndrome
During pregnancy, the increased fluid in your hands and feet can lead to swelling (oedema). Sometimes this can put pressure on the nerves in your wrists (the carpal tunnel). This causes numbness, tingling or pain in the hands and fingers. This usually improves after pregnancy. Gentle massage and exercise can help to relieve some swelling, but check with your midwife or doctor. If pain persists you may need referral to an occupational therapist.
During pregnancy, hormones affect the vein walls, including the veins in the legs. Also, the growing uterus slows blood flow to the legs. This is made worse by standing still for long periods. Varicose veins can be noticed in the legs, the vulva or anus. They can also be the cause of swollen ankles.
- Avoid tight underwear.
- If standing, move around from foot to foot, wriggle your toes.
- Avoid heat directly on legs, eg. a hot bath or hot leg wax.
- Do not massage varicose veins as you may disturb the circulation.
- Take regular exercise, especially swimming or walking.
- Support stockings or pantyhose can help relieve the ache in your legs.
- Resting with legs elevated will help reduce swelling and ease the ache by aiding circulation.