Last March, we blogged about 10 Common Pregnancy Discomforts and How to Alleviate Them to help our expectant moms find relief while their bodies are busy growing and nurturing their little ones.
Since a bit of time has passed and a whole new set of babies are on the way this year, we wanted to revisit that list and expand it with a few more of the discomforts that we hear about frequently from patients.
Some women experience very little discomfort while pregnant – especially during the first two trimesters – and very few will ever experience all of them, but keeping this list handy can be of comfort to you whether you experience one or all 10 of them throughout your pregnancy.
- Abdominal (menstrual-type cramping). Doesn’t it just figure that the eight to nine months you won’t have your period – you can still experience period-like cramps? This is a result of the expansion of ligaments and connective tissues as they stretch to accommodate your uterus. If cramping is severe, irregular or spasmodic and/or accompanied by bleeding, call your doctor or midwife to be safe. A heating pad and a dose of Tylenol can help during the 1st trimester, after that it’s a sign you need to get your feet up, rest and increase fluid intake.
- Backaches. Not surprisingly, a growing abdomen and increased weight can put a strain on your back. Try to avoid wearing heeled shoes, lifting or excessive bending. Cat Stretches can help, as can pelvic rocking. A supportive bra and external abdominal binder, as well as Tylenol, can also provide relief. If the backache comes and goes regularly during your 2nd or 3rd trimester, give your OB a call to make sure it isn’t associated with early labor contractions.
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. This one might be a surprise, but makes sense when you consider increased fluid retention that can put pressure on certain nerve pathways. A wrist sprint will help while sleeping or typing on the computer and the pain should resolve after your baby is born.
- Constipation. While your joints and ligaments are getting looser, all those compressed organs in the abdominal cavity are getting tighter and more compressed. Plus, increased levels of progesterone relax the smooth digestive muscle fibers, which decrease intestinal contractions. On top of that, you are probably taking prenatal vitamins and other nutritional supplements, and all of this can lead to constipation. To relieve constipation, focus on a diet that is high in fiber, including lots of veggies and fruits. Drinking warm liquids first thing in the morning will help, and continue drinking at least eight glasses of water throughout the day. Exercise can get things moving and, if those methods are unsuccessful – you can take Colace or Metamucil at their recommended doses.
- Mood Swings. Your body is flooded with fluctuating hormones, the like of which your body has never seen outside of pregnancy. Combine that with a few of these common pregnancy discomforts, lack of sleep and the stress (albeit a positive stress) of a new baby on the way and it’s no wonder you’re feeling a little moody. The best thing you can do is get as much rest as you can, make sure you’re well-hydrated and nourished and be compassionate and patient with yourself. Carving out a little “Me Time” never hurts either, if that’s a possibility. If mood swings seem beyond your control or lead to unusual depression, contact your doctor to check in.
- Headaches. Well, let’s see here: you’ve got aforementioned hormone fluctuations and potential sleep deprivation, stress, mood swings, increased blood flow and blood sugar changes…headaches are bound to crop up. In most cases, drinking plenty of water, taking it easy and taking a recommended dose of Tylenol every 4-6 hours will help. If the headaches are severe, are not alleviated with Tylenol, alter your daily activity levels or are accompanied by swelling in your feet, hands and/or face – contact your doctor as soon as you can to rule out the possibility of preeclampsia.
- Stretch Marks. Your skin is amazingly elastic, but oftentimes it simply can’t keep up with the rapid expansion of your belly, thighs, hips and/or breasts. While applying lotion with vitamin E and aloe very can help to reduce the itching associated with tight, stretched skin – it’s impossible to avoid stretch marks if your skin expands too quickly. The good news is that stretch marks typically fade with time.
- Itching. Speaking of the itching associated with stretching skin, your skin may also itch as the result of hormone fluctuations (is there anything hormones don’t cause?). Taking a bath in Aveeno Bath can soothe dry, itchy skin as can daily or bi-daily lotion applications. Make sure you’re hydrated and use Benadryl or caladryl ointments if necessary.
- Varicose Veins. Like stretch marks, varicose veins are often hereditary and are caused by hormonal effects on your veins along with increased blood volume and impaired circulation. The best thing you can do to avoid them is to avoid restrictive clothing, reduce the amount of time you spend on your feet and refrain from crossing your legs. Support hose can also help. Exercise is also helpful for circulation. Rest and get your feet up whenever you can.
- Leg Cramps. Decreased circulation and the pressure the pregnancy-heavy uterus puts on your pelvic blood vessels can cause leg cramps. Unfortunately, you may experience these at night while you’re sleeping. Elevate your legs several times a day if you can and make sure you’re getting enough calcium and magnesium via diet and supplements. While a cramp is in mid-swing, straighten the affected leg and point the heel – have your partner help by gently pulling back on the balls of your toes to further extend the calf/foot muscles. Massaging the calf or foot can also help to relieve a cramp. If leg cramps are a repeat occurrence, check with your doctor to see if you should increase your intake of calcium and magnesium.
If you’ve experienced pregnancy discomforts we’ve neglected to mention here, give Women’s Health Associates a call at 913-677-3113 and we’ll be happy to figure out its cause and a comfortable solution. And, of course, if you believe your situation is serious, contact 9-1-1 or your health provider immediately.