Pregnancy is an exciting time, but it’s not always comfortable. For some, pregnancy is a breeze with only a few mild symptoms. But for others with more severe symptoms, it can be a long, difficult journey.
Here are some of the most common discomforts of pregnancy, what you can do about it, and when severe symptoms may be a sign that you need to see your O&G specialist.
Nausea and vomiting is the most common pregnancy discomfort, and most women experience that in the first 3 to 4 months of pregnancy.
It is caused by hormonal changes during pregnancy and is usually temporary. However, some women continue to experience nausea and vomiting throughout their pregnancy.
You should eat small meals throughout the day as an empty stomach can worsen your nausea. Keep dry biscuits or crackers on your bedside so you can eat it first thing in the morning and try sitting up for a while before getting out of bed.
Avoid having large amounts of drinks and consider breaking them down into smaller amounts each time, in between mealtimes. Have a healthy snack such as fruit, yoghurt, or crackers before bedtime so that you don’t go to bed hungry at night.
Limit your intake of fried foods, spicy foods, and fatty foods. Instead, you may want to opt for a bland diet of toast, bananas, apples, and rice that are easy to digest. Hot foods may have a stronger smell which can trigger your nausea.
Stay away from smells and tastes that make you nauseous. You may also want to have other people help you with cooking or have your food during the times of the day when you don’t feel as nauseous.
Ginger tablets, ginger tea, or dry ginger ale can help with nausea as well. Make sure you drink more water, fruit juice, lemonade, or clear soups to keep yourself hydrated as you lose fluids when you vomit.
If you are experiencing severe vomiting where you become severely dehydrated or you cannot keep anything down, you may need to see your O&G specialist as it could be a sign of another condition.
It’s common for a pregnant woman to feel tired all the time because her energy is being used up for the baby’s development and the changes that she is undergoing physically and emotionally. Low iron levels can also cause anemia which in turn leads to increased fatigue.
Give yourself extra time to rest. Take naps and sleep earlier to regain your energy. Balance any physical activity you do with rest even if it is just sitting down.
Incorporate some light to moderate exercise into your routine as that can help boost your energy levels. Ask your family members or partner for help and don’t feel like you have to manage all the household chores on your own. Don’t force yourself to attend every social gathering if you’re feeling too tired.
Maintain a nutritious diet and ensure that you’re getting enough protein and iron to boost your energy. You may also want to ask your O&G specialist to test you for anemia.
As you gain weight and your center of gravity gets pulled forward due to your expanding belly, your back and shoulder muscles experience more strain. Your pelvic joints and ligaments also loosen and stretch as they prepare for childbirth. This can lead to aches in the upper and lower back.
Ensure you sit and stand up straight and avoid standing or sitting for long periods of time. Take frequent breaks and walk around if you sit down a lot as part of your job. Wear shoes with low heels or flats that are comfortable. Bend your knees and squat down if you need to lift things up instead of bending down at the waist.
You may need to put a pillow behind your lower back for more support, get a chair with more back support, and have a footrest or stool for your feet. You may also need to put a board under your bed to make it firmer. Avoid lifting anything heavy and perform light exercises that can strengthen your back muscles and relieve back pain. Massages, warm baths, and heating pads can also help to relieve any aches and pains.
If you have aches in your lower back that extend to your stomach and do not subside within an hour even after changing your position or rest, contact your gynaecologist immediately as it may be a sign of premature labour.
Pregnancy headaches can be caused by changes in hormonal levels, stress, fatigue, and low blood sugar. It can also be caused by caffeine withdrawal especially in the early part of your pregnancy.
Rest in a room with low lighting and try to rest your shoulders, back, and neck. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Avoid skipping meals and have frequent, small meals so that your blood sugar level doesn’t drop which can lead to headaches.
Warm showers and baths can also alleviate headaches or you can use an ice pack on your forehead. Check with your O&G specialist if you can take any pain relief medication such as Panadol to help with the headaches.
If you have a severe headache that does not subside even after a few hours or you feel dizzy or faint, call your O&G specialist immediately as it can be a sign of preeclampsia. Headaches that come with nausea or affect your vision are also worth a visit to your O&G specialist.
As your uterus expands, the pressure can cause you to experience leg cramps or aches and pains in your legs.
If you experience leg cramps, gently straighten your leg and flex your foot to stretch the muscles. Apply a heating pad or hot water bottle and massage the affected area. Wear comfortable shoes with low heels or flats, and elevate your legs when you can to reduce the pressure. Wearing a support hose or compression stocking may also be helpful.
Exercise can also help you strengthen your muscles and provide more support to your uterus. Stretch your legs every day before you sleep and avoid lying on your back as your body weight and the pressure of your uterus can reduce blood circulation and cause cramps.
Pregnant women often experience more vaginal discharge due to hormonal changes and an increased supply of blood. Normal vaginal discharge is clear or white, odorless, and doesn’t cause any irritation. Burning, itching, swelling, foul odours, bloody discharge, bright yellow discharge, and green discharge may indicate a yeast infection and you will need to consult your O&G specialist if you experience any of these symptoms.
To reduce discomfort due to vaginal discharge, avoid wearing tight-fitting pants, and wear underwear made out of cotton or natural fibres. Don’t douche as it can cause air to get into your circulatory system or break your waters if you are late in your pregnancy. Instead, clean the vaginal area with water and soap while wiping yourself from front to back.
Your enlarged uterus exerts more pressure on your large intestine and rectum, which can affect your digestion and bowel movements. Changes in your hormones, vitamins, and iron supplements can also slow down digestion.
Eat foods with more fiber such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Drink more water so that you stay hydrated or fruit juice. Take your fluids warm and exercise regularly to ease constipation.
However, if you want to take medication for constipation, consult your gynaecologist first.
Low blood sugar levels, low iron levels, dehydration, and low blood pressure can all contribute to dizziness. The uterus exerts pressure on your major arteries which can cause low blood pressure. Additionally, increased levels of progesterone, a hormone, widens your blood vessels so that blood tends to move downwards and pool in your legs. If you move between sitting and standing too quickly, your low blood pressure can contribute to dizziness.
Avoid standing up or sitting down too quickly as getting dizzy can cause you to fall. If you are standing for a long period of time, move around frequently. Eat small and frequent meals throughout the day to maintain higher blood sugar levels and drink more water.
Lying down on your left side can also help improve circulation throughout your body.
During pregnancy, your body undergoes many changes including a growing uterus and belly coupled with fluctuations in hormones, resulting in varying degrees of discomfort. Most pregnancy discomforts are normal in a healthy pregnancy but severe symptoms can be a sign of a more serious condition. Consult your O&G specialist if you experience severe discomfort or intend to take any medication to alleviate these common discomforts.
Established in 2011, Singapore O&G Ltd (SOG) was formed with the vision of creating a specialist medical and surgical group catering to the healthcare needs of the modern woman, her children and her family. With clinics strategically located throughout Singapore, we give women and children easy access to high-quality, trusted healthcare services with a personal touch.
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