Thursday, March 19, 2009

Common Pregnancy Complaints

Some of the most common pregnancy complaints are listed here:

Morning sickness is so common, nearly 80% of pregnant women experience it to some degree. It's a misnomer since it can occur any time of the day (or all day); not just morning. But, because an empty stomach seems to exaggerate it, mornings can be very rough. There seems to be a connection with blood sugar levels. Having some crackers at the bedside to eat immediately on rising may help a little. Keeping the levels even through the day is also helpful so frequent snacking may be better than "3 squares" but make your choices healthy ones because excess weight gain brings lots of complications.

Some women are bothered by odors or particular foods. The good news is this usually only lasts for the first trimester, except in a few unlucky cases.

Breast tenderness is a common early complaint by some, especially in first pregnancies. This is part of the body's normal function in preparing for milk production. You will also notice other breast changes such as darkening of the areola (skin around the nipple).

Fatigue and headaches are also very frequently reported. You ask yourself, "how can one microscopic baby cause this much havoc?" Hormones are doing all kinds of strange things to you right now and you feel exhausted. Treat yourself to naps as needed and get plenty of sleep at night! Your partying days are likely on hold for a while. If you have trouble sleeping, check out our March 9 blog entry Sleep, Glorious Sleep. Regular exercise can also help, believe it or not.

Breathless, winded, feeling faint? You're not alone here. Your body is making 1/3 to 1/2 more blood volume than pre-pregnancy. Even climbing a short flight of stairs can make you short of breath. This is normal as you breathe for two and pump that extra blood volume. Speaking of blood volume - your red blood cell ratio will change. Some women become anemic and almost all women do to some degree as volume increases but red blood cell production doesn't keep up. The best thing you can do is eat iron-rich foods (meats, spinach, cream of wheat, other whole grains, beans, dark colored fruits). Supplements are sometimes added later in pregnancy but your prenatal vitamin also contains iron and side effects are sometimes a problem when taken as pills, so dietary sources are preferred. For a good list, see HealthCastle.

Backache is very common. Usually this is related to overstretching of your abdominal muscles and hormonal changes that cause the relaxing of the ligaments throughout your body as well as your back. This is also one of the reasons we advise you to wear sturdy, low-heeled shoes. Your balance will be affected and the loosened ligaments that support your ankles can cause you to fall if you wear heels.

Always use good body mechanics and use caution when lifting (bend at the knees and use your legs rather than your back when picking up your toddler, etc.), change positions frequently and try to avoid long periods of either sitting or standing. Good sleep positions can also help. Tips

Heartburn is the result of hormonal changes that affect digestion (the same ones that sometimes result in constipation as the system is slowed). Again, small, frequent meals will help, avoid spicy or fried foods and include milk as your beverage. Antacids are considered safe in pregnancy but you should always discuss it with your midwife or doctor. Other options might be needed.

- the "C" word. High levels of progesterone cause slowing of the intestines. To help counteract this uncomfortable problem which can lead to hemorrhoids, drink lots of water, exercise daily, eat foods with high fiber content and give yourself plenty of bathroom time (good excuse to get some reading done). Additional supplements such as Metamucil and laxatives like Miralax or MofM are acceptable, but again - get the OK from your doctor whenever you take anything. The Pregnancy Risk line is another good resource for information about the safety of medications in pregnancy or while nursing. (See the number on the right in the hotline section.) Since many meds that have cautions are actually safe (it's a matter of the process for labeling, testing that is not done on pregnant women, etc.) these are the experts to advise you.

Hemorrhoids - the "H" word. This disorder is relatively common during pregnancy, partly because of the tendency to constipation and partly due to pressure on the anus by the baby's head. Some women get them for the first time while they're pregnant and in most cases they go away after delivery. They are aggravated when you strain to pass a bowel movement (see the "C" word above). If you develop these varicose veins of the rectum, ice packs and pain relief ointments can help, as well as stool softeners and sitz baths. For a good explanation about hemorrhoids, see Dr. Mercola's video here. However, this is not specific information for pregnancy so use of any supplements he recommends should only be with the approval of your own provider.

Pain - ouch! Some women experience a low, sharp pain from the stretching ligaments that support the uterus. This is usually experienced on either side of the lower abdomen and may occur especially with a change in position. Call your doctor for pain that doesn't quit, that is cramping, rhythmic in nature or is accompanied by other symptoms (fluid leaking, bleeding) which could be related to preterm labor. See MoD. As you grow, sometimes the help of a maternity support garment is needed. A doctor can order this in pregnancy and it is considered durable medical equipment by insurance plans.

Irritability - OK, kind of subjective, but it's a common occurrence so hopefully friends and family will realize this is temporary and hang in there until you are back to normal. I had left this one off and had someone point it out to me. I couldn't deny it was really a symptom!

Fortunately most of these annoying problems disappear with the birth of your baby and you will be so delighted this will be a dim, distant memory. For now, try these measures for relief and when in doubt call your provider.

For the net "surfers" out there, here are some good, general pregnancy sites you might enjoy. is a great resource for various pregnancy concerns. There's lots of commercial stuff here -they are home to American Baby, Family Circle, and Parents magazines. These are reliable sources and you can get a free subscription to American Baby there too.

Medscape has an extensive list of common symptoms in pregnancy with full explanation. If you want lots of detail and technical information check it out here: Medscape

eMedicine (WebMD) also shares some common pregnancy conditions here. Best Blogger Tips

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