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Today Andie talks about pregnancy discomforts and how to prevent and relieve them during pregnancy.

Points from the video:

Anyone that knows me for a minute knows I love pregnancy.  I love EVERYONE’s pregnancy, and I was obsessed with my own. If I get to choose my heaven, and I like to hold power so in my mind I do,  my heaven will be me, big bellied and full of dancing life.  Pregnancy is my jam!

Although I consider pregnancy to be the absolute highlight of a woman’s life, I can admit, I suppose, that it is riddled with a few unpleasantries.

Discomforts of pregnancy.

Discomforts can be your first indication that a little person is on board. These discomforts can come and go as you grow, or they can become your not-so-best friend and last until you are holding your baby. Pregnancy and women don’t come with a nice, built-in crystal ball, so we don’t always have an idea of who will be blessed with any one of the not-so-fun parts.

What’s important to remember is every woman is unique, as is every baby and pregnancy. You could be one of the elite that get off clean and without pregnancy pains or you could be on the opposite end of the spectrum and suffer through an uncomfortable pregnancy.

There is no way anyone wants to sit and listen to me talk about every single possible discomfort, so I just picked out a few of the more common ones.  If there is something you were hoping to hear about (hairy nipples or a belly happy trail, etc.) feel free to ask in the comments. I do want to say, though, that although all of these “conditions” of pregnancy are really normal, if you are having concerns or questions about them, it would be right to talk to your midwife.

For my sanity and so I don’t forget anything, I’m going to start at the top of the head.

Headaches in Pregnancy

Headaches can happen anytime in your pregnancy, and their cause is not quite pin pointed. Tension, congestion, and even constipation can be the culprit of a pregnancy headache. This is one area that I really recommend you to pay attention to if you have concerns, because headaches that cannot be relieved or have other symptoms like swelling of hands feet and face, changes in vision,  or elevated blood pressure can be a sign of other issues.

Be sure to communicate with your midwife if your headaches are bothering you. Let her know if you are experiencing any other symptoms along with your headaches as well. Try using a cold pack on your forehead or back of neck to relieve a headache. Rest in a quiet place with low lights, and close your eyes.

Nasal Congestion or a Stuffy Nose

The hormones that help us get pregnant and stay pregnant, like to muck things up and dry out the lining inside your nose. That causes swelling and inflammation, which, in turn, shrinks the opening.  This causes us to feel like we can’t breathe through our nose when pregnant.

There are a few tricks you can try to relieve pregnancy congestion. Placing a warm wash cloth on your face can reduce congestion. Drinking a lot of water can help to thin the mucus in your sinuses. Or, try sleeping with your head elevated with extra pillows. A humidifier or a warm steamy shower can also help relieve pregnancy congestion.

Shortness of Breath During Pregnancy

So, you can’t breathe because the sinus swelling. Let’s throw in some shortness of breath in pregnancy too, right? We can thank our growing uterus and the upward pressure from those internal changes to the literal “we don’t have room to breathe” issue.

Shrinking your baby isn’t really an option, so try these tips to help with shortness of breath during pregnancy. When you are in motion, move slower, and take rests when needed. Try to make space in your abdomen and open up your rib cage by lifting your arms above your head, allowing more air in. Avoid lying on your back, and elevate your head to sleep.

Let’s move from the nose to the mouth.  This is probably one of the more common discomforts in pregnancy – nausea and or vomiting, morning sickness.

Nausea or Vomiting

Like I said, it’s common and normal to have a nausea when you’re pregnant. Again, those pregnancy hormones are at work. Typically, nausea and vomiting plague the first trimester and kindly packs their bags and lets us be for the next two trimesters. On occasion, though, it is the house guest that doesn’t know when to leave.

How can we combat nausea during pregnancy? That is the million dollar question and a million dollar industry. When morning sickness happens in the early hours, it is usually due to an empty stomach. Try eating something light and dry before getting out of bed or doing anything. Although it feels counter-intuitive to eat when you are nauseated, it is a Catch 22. We need to put some food in to stabilize blood sugar and make us feel human.

Another good idea to combat morning sickness is to try eating something before bed that is high in protein and will stick with us for a few hours. This can be something like a cheese stick. Eat small meals and snacks all throughout the day, and don’t wait until you are hungry to eat.

Also, don’t forget to drink, and make sure your drinks are cold. Drink in small sips, not in large gulps. Steer clear of fatty foods, spicy foods, or anything fried. If the food is smelly, it probably won’t please you, so don’t cook it. Ask your loved ones to cooking or eating smelly foods around you.

We don’t want to anger or wake the nausea monster.

Some pregnant women use Sea-Bands to combat nausea. Ginger can also help with morning sickness, and there is some wonderful research out there on Vitamin B6 for nausea relief. Again, talk to your midwife if you feel like your nausea and vomiting is too much.

Sensitive Gums During Pregnancy

Now, let’s discuss your gums during pregnancy. You may notice during pregnancy after brushing your teeth you are spitting out pink. Who would of thought that pregnancy could even touch your gums? Between the new way your blood circulates and those pregnancy hormones, not only can your gums feel tender, but they can also swell and bleed.

Honestly, any vascular tissue is the same. That is why you may notice nose bleeds or even vaginal spotting during pregnancy. I always recommend a baby-friendly dental checkup in pregnancy. Also, brush and floss regularly. The biggest part of this annoyance is knowing its normal.

Breasts

As we work down our body, we make our way to our breasts. Just as in our monthly cycles, hormones can cause tenderness in the breasts. The same happens in pregnancy. Most women will feel or see some changes in their breast during pregnancy.

There is typically an increase in size of your breasts as your fat tissue and milk glands change. This makes our breast feel firm and tender. Another visual difference could be veins that appear blue on or around your breasts. This happens when your blood supply increases and those veins plump up.

You might notice the color of your nipples turns darker than normal, and they begin to leak a thick clear to yellow fluid. This is very normal during pregnancy. Your best bet, even though I know the first thing we want to do is strip the bra off when we get home, is to wear a well-fitting, supportive bra made of cotton. This isn’t a time to play Victoria Secrets model. Some even find wearing a night bra is helpful. If the leaking is problematic try nursing pads inside your bra to keep the nipples dry.

Heartburn

Staying in your chest, let’s talk about heartburn and burping during pregnancy. It’s miserable. It’s painful. Hormones in pregnancy slow digestion down. They are responsible for relaxing all the places we want relaxed in pregnancy and labor and birth, but they also relax the parts we wish they wouldn’t, like the stomach sphincter. As your growing uterus pushes your stomach up, it can push all that acid and air through the stomach sphincter, causing heartburn and burping.

Here’s what can help with pregnancy heartburn and burping in pregnancy. Eating small meals, slow eating, and avoidance of spicy, fried, rich foods are a great start towards prevention of heartburn. Stay upright after you eat to avoid your stomach contents seeping through the relaxed stomach sphincter. Drink after your meal instead of drinking before or with meals. Also, drink warm liquids. When you are ready for bed, elevate your head and shoulders.

Round ligament pain

Although we are so grateful to our ligaments, they are fussy little things and tend to have big opinions. They enjoy being lazy. We haven’t asked them to do much in their lives and when we finally do in pregnancy they have their feelings about it. Ligaments can give us sharp pains or cramping, knife-like sensations, especially when we move too quickly. Picture a stretched rubber band popping back when we let go of it. Our ligaments are similar and can do the same during pregnancy. So, just like with a  stretching rubber band, we need do things more slowly during pregnancy. Hold your belly as you roll in bed to avoid stretching your ligaments too quickly or putting too much pressure on them. A pregnancy pillow can help.

Vaginal Discharge

Everything is bigger and better in pregnancy. We can’t leave out discharge. That wouldn’t be fair. Expect to see an increase in vaginal discharge during pregnancy due to increased blood supply and hormones. Your discharge should be white or clear and dry with a whitish, yellow tinge. Be sure to tell your midwife if your discharge is smelly or irritating, because this could indicate an infection.

While we can’t make vaginal discharge go away, there are some tips to help you cope with excess discharge during pregnancy. Wear cotton panties, don’t wear tight pants, and DO NOT DOUCHE! That’s my rule to life. No, No, and NO. Never in pregnancy, and honestly never in life, should you be douching. Douching is not good for us, and it can cause more harm than good. Clean daily with soap and water instead, and wipe front to back.

Frequent Urination

Your growing baby is applying upward pressure in you abdomen, but it is also pressing down, right onto your bladder. This pressure often makes pregnant mother’s feel like they need to pee all the time. Usually, this frequent urination gives you a break in the second trimester but wakes you up 17 times a night in the first and last. There’s not really a trick to prevent this. If you have to go, go.

Constipation

There are a couple of reasons for constipation during pregnancy. Hormones and our vitamins and supplements can both cause constipation. Another culprit for this is the literal pressure and blockage to the rectum from our growing uterus.

What can we do to prevent or relieve constipation in pregnancy? Add fiber, drink water (at least 8 full glasses a day), and move your body. If we move our body, our bowels move, too. Avoid straining when pooping, because that can lead to our next pregnancy discomfort.

Hemorrhoids.

Simply put, hemorrhoids are swollen veins. They are lumpy and hurt. Increased circulation and pressure on the rectum and vagina from your growing uterus are at fault for hemorrhoids in pregnancy.

Like I said earlier, avoid constipation so you can avoid straining. Sitting or standing for too long is not good, so change positions. You can use cold packs or try a warm bath to relieve the swelling and pain of hemorrhoids. Try not to wear tight clothing, though, because this can cause pressure and friction.

Varicose Veins

As we talk about enlarged veins in pregnancy, let’s talk about varicose veins. Because pregnancy affects circulation, veins enlarge or swell. The blood system doesn’t want to leave anyone out so they include your legs. Varicosities are typically hereditary, but there are some helpful tips to prevent varicose veins during pregnancy. Avoid sitting or standing for too long. Move around. Try not to cross your legs which restricts circulation. Elevate your legs as much as you can and exercise regularly.

If you are suffering from varicose veins during pregnancy, support hose can help.

Leg Cramps in Pregnancy

Your growing uterus can also affect your legs, putting pressure on them and causing cramps. Be sure to eat foods with calcium like broccoli, wear comfy shoes, stretch before bed, and try to avoid lying on your back.  Exercise can help with leg cramps during pregnancy as well. Once the cramp has taken hold, stretch the cramped muscle by straightening the leg, flexing your foot, and pointing your toes towards you.

Swelling in the Feet and Legs

Besides pregnancy leg cramps you may see cankles during pregnancy. We call this edema and all it is cause by fluid retention. Your expanding uterus puts pressure on the blood vessels carrying blood from the lower half of your body to the top.

It may sound counterintuitive, but drinking more fluids can help relieve pressure and edema in your body. It doesn’t add to the fluid retention, it helps. Avoid standing for too long, and steer clear of too much salt. Don’t wear tight shoes, either. Think supportive and comfy when it comes to pregnancy footwear. Increase your protein intake, and put your feet up. You deserve it anyway.

There’s so much more in terms of pregnancy discomforts that we could touch on, but I will be kind and not fill your day with ANDIE.

Feel free to leave a question or comment and keep this conversation going!

 

Resources:

Oh Baby, It Burns! – Heartburn in Pregnancy

Midwife Monday : Period Problems and Natural Remedies

I Think I Ate a Watermelon! – Weight Gain in Pregnancy – What to Expect

Birth Statistics

Taking Charge of Your Fertility, 20th Anniversary Edition: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive Health

 

If you are in Houston and surrounding areas, check out hhhomebirth.com!

 

About the Author

A certified nurse midwife and doctorate student has been in the Houston birth community for over a decade. Her experience includes elementary school nursing, hospital L & D, birth center, and home birth. Andie is confident in a woman's ability to grow and birth her baby. She feels a partnership in care is empowering and hopes to foster that relationship with families. She has a tender, lighthearted, and hands off approach to the evidence based care she offers. She has been joyfully dating her husband of 16 years since junior high and has five children. Her passions beyond bellies, birth, and breastfeeding are mission work and reading.