What are some of the common discomforts of pregnancy?

KEY POINTS

  • You may be uncomfortable at times during pregnancy. Discomforts like back ache and being really tired are common and shouldn’t make you worry. 

  • For most discomforts, you can do several things to help you feel better.  

  • Don’t take any medicine, supplement or herbal product to treat a discomfort without talking to your provider first. Some may harm your baby. 

  • If any of the discomforts become severe or painful or interfere with your daily life, tell your provider right away. 

BACK PAIN AND SCIATICA

What can you do about back pain and sciatica during pregnancy?

Pregnancy hormones, your growing belly and the weight gain during pregnancy can cause lower-back pain, especially in the later months. Pressure from the uterus can affect your sciatic nerve, which goes from your lower back, hip and down the back of the leg. Pain along your sciatic nerve is called sciatica.
Here’s what you can do to help relieve back pain during pregnancy:

  • Stand up straight with your chest up and your shoulders back and relaxed. Don’t lock your knees. Don’t stand for long periods of time. If you have to stand for a long time, try to rest one foot at a time on a stool or box. Sit in chairs that have good back support. Put a small pillow behind your lower back for extra support.
  • Wear shoes with low heels and good arch support. Don’t wear flat heels or high heels.
  • Don’t lift heavy things. To pick something off the floor, bend at the knees and keep your back straight. Don’t bend over at the waist.
  • Sleep on your left side and put a pillow between your legs. Sleep on a firm mattress. If your mattress is soft, put a board between it and the box spring to make it feel more firm.
  • Wear maternity pants that have a wide elastic band that goes under your belly. You may want to try wearing a belly-support girdle made just for pregnant women.
  • Be active every day. Talk to your health care provider about exercises and stretches you can do to help strengthen your back muscles. Try putting a heating pad or ice pack on your back.
  • Talk to your provider before you take any pain medicine. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicine, supplements and herbal products.

Call your provider right away if:

  • Your back pain is severe or if you have it with a fever.
  • Your feet are numb or your legs are weak.
  • You have severe pain in your calves.

 

BREAST CHANGES

What can you do about sore breasts during pregnancy?

Your breasts begin to change early in pregnancy as they get read to make breast milk to feed your baby. Breast changes include:

  • Getting bigger, fuller and heavier. They may even seem swollen. Tender, swollen breasts may be one of the first signs that you’re pregnant. Your breasts grow because of pregnancy hormones and the increase in fat and milk glands in them. As the skin on your breasts grows, it may be itchy and you may see stretch marks.
  • Nipples and areolas getting darker. Your nipples may stick out more, and the areolas may get larger. The areola is the dark area around the nipple.
  • Leaking colostrum. Your body starts making it during the last few months of pregnancy. As you get closer to your due date, colostrum may leak from your breasts.

Here’s what you can do to help relieve soreness in your breasts:

  • Get a good maternity bra that has wide straps and bigger cups.
  • If you exercise, make sure your bra gives you good support.
  • If your breasts itch, use lotion. Talk to your health care provider about what kind to use.

If the soreness in your breasts doesn’t go away or is severe, call your provider. If you’ve had breast surgery or implants, tell your provider.

CONSTIPATION

What can you do about constipation during pregnancy?


Constipation is common later in pregnancy. It’s when you don’t have bowel movements or they don’t happen often, or your stools (poop) are hard to pass. Constipation during pregnancy may be caused by pregnancy hormones and the weight of your growing uterus that can affect your digestion. Digestion is the process of how your body breaks down food after you eat.

Here’s what you can do to help relieve constipation during pregnancy:

  • Drink lots of water. Fruit juice (especially prune juice) can help, too.
  • Eat foods that are high in fiber, like fruit, vegetables, beans, whole-grain bread and pasta and bran cereal.
  • Eat smaller meals several times a day. Smaller amounts of food may be easier to digest.
  • Do something active every day. Walking is good. Ask your provider about other activities that are safe during pregnancy.
  • Tell your provider about any supplements you take, especially an iron supplement. Too much iron can lead to constipation. Don’t take any medicine, supplement or herbal product during pregnancy without talking to your provider first. A supplement is a product you take to make up for certain nutrients that you don't get enough of in foods you eat.
  • Ask your provider about over-the counter medicine you can take. These are medicines you can buy without a prescription from your provider. Don’t take any kind of medicine during pregnancy without talking to your provider first.

If you haven’t had a bowel movement in 3 days, call your provider right away.


FATIGUE AND SLEEP PROBLEMS


What can you do about fatigue and sleep problems during pregnancy?  

Fatigue means being really tired and having little energy. You may feel fatigue early and late in pregnancy. Your body may be tired because:

  • It’s working hard to take care of your growing baby. Your body’s making pregnancy hormones and you’re using a lot of energy, even when you sleep.
  • You may have trouble sleeping at night because you’re uncomfortable or you need to get up to go to the bathroom. Later in pregnancy, leg cramps may wake you up at night.
  • You may feel more stress than before you got pregnant. Stress is worry, strain or pressure that you feel in response to things that happen in your life. Stress can make you feel tired.
  • You may have other children to take care of and other activities that take up a lot of your time.

Here’s what you can do to help you feel less tired:

  • Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Take short naps during the day, if you can.
  • Eat healthy foods. Drink plenty of water during the day but cut back a few hours before you go to bed at night.
  • Do something active every day. Talk to your health care provider about activities that are safe during pregnancy.
  • Cut back on activities that aren’t necessary or that make you tired. Ask your partner, family and friends to help you out around the house or running errands. If you have sick days or vacation days at work, use them.

Here’s what you can do to help you get a good night’s sleep:

  • Sleep on your side with a pillow under your belly and another one under your legs.
  • Take a warm shower or bath before you go to bed to help you relax.
  • Do exercises, like yoga, to help you relax before going to bed.
  • Make sure your bedroom is quiet and comfortable.
  • Cut out the caffeine, especially before bedtime.

Call your provider right away if you’re severely tired or if it begins to interfere with your everyday life.


HEADACHES


What can you do to help relieve headaches during pregnancy?


Headaches are common during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester. They’re often caused by pregnancy hormones, stress or body tension caused by carrying extra weight throughout pregnancy. If you’re cutting back on caffeine during pregnancy, you may get a headache until your body is used to the new amount.

Here’s what you can do to help relieve headaches during pregnancy:

  • Talk to your health care provider before you take any medicine, supplement or herbal product to relieve your headache. Some may be harmful to your baby.  
  • Try to figure out what causes your headache (called a headache trigger). Common headache triggers are cigarette smoke, certain foods and eye strain. Once you know your triggers, try to limit or get rid of them.
  • Eat healthy foods, drink lots of water and do something active every day.
  • Get a good night’s sleep every night. Rest during the day when you can.
  • Try to reduce your stress. Stress is worry, strain or pressure that you feel in response to things that happen in your life. Tell your health care provider if you need help to reduce your stress.
  • Try relaxation techniques, like deep breathing, yoga and massage. Take a warm shower or bath before you go to bed.
  • Put a damp cloth on your head or on the back of your neck.

Call your provider right away if your headache:

  • Is severe or doesn’t go away. Severe headaches during pregnancy may be a sign of preeclampsia.
  • Comes with fever, vision changes, slurred speech, sleepiness, numbness or not being able to stay alert
  • Comes after falling or hitting your head
  • Comes with a stuffy nose, pain and pressure under your eyes or a toothache. These may be signs of a sinus infection.

HEARTBURN

What can you do to help relieve heartburn during pregnancy?


Heartburn is a painful, burning feeling in the throat or chest. It happens when food or stomach acid backs up into your esophagus. The esophagus is the tube that carries food, liquid and saliva from your mouth to your stomach. Heartburn is common during pregnancy because pregnancy hormones relax the valve between the stomach and the esophagus, and your growing uterus (womb) puts pressure on your stomach.

Here’s what you can do to help relieve heartburn during pregnancy:

  • Eat five or six small meals a day instead of 3 large meals. Eat meals slowly—don’t rush.
  • Drink more fluids between meals and less with meals.  
  • Don’t eat late at night. Eat your last meal 2 to 3 hours before you lie down or go to bed.
  • Don’t eat foods that cause heartburn, like greasy or fatty foods, spicy foods, citrus products (like oranges or orange juice) and chocolate.
  • Don’t drink alcohol. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause serious problems for your baby.  
  • Raise your head up on pillows when you sleep.
  • Talk to your health care provider before you take any medicine, like an antacid, to help relieve heartburn.

Call your provider right away if you:

  • Have heartburn that returns as soon as your antacid wears off
  • Have heartburn that wakes you up at night
  • Have trouble swallowing
  • Are spitting up blood
  • Have black stools (poop)
  • Are losing weight

Learn more about other common discomforts of pregnancy.

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