Your body will go through many changes during pregnancy, some will be very common symptoms (or complaints!), some changes may be more of a cause for concern whilst others are natural and healthy – even if they do feel a little weird!
Most mums-to-be will get some kind of morning sickness during pregnancy, usually during the first trimester. ‘Morning sickness’ is a deceptive term as it can happen at any time of the day. It may be triggered by smells, foods or occur for no reason at all.
Eating little and often can help quell the queasiness, as can ginger biscuits or ginger tea (or better still, root ginger). It is advisable to make sure you have carbohydrates at each meal and obviously avoid foods or smells that make it worse. Try to drink water little and often too.
See your midwife or doctor if you have excessive vomiting and weight loss as some women need a prescription to bring things under control.
You have progesterone to thank for this pesky problem. It relaxes the muscle in the stomach from quite early on in your pregnancy so lunch can lurch up the wrong way. Later on, the sheer size of your baby bump can also contribute to heartburn when your uterus places pressure on your stomach.
Some of your morning sickness strategies could also help minimise heartburn and drinking milk can also help too as it neutralises stomach acid. Eat little and often and try to eat a few hours before you plan on going to bed so you are lying down on a relatively empty stomach. Try sleeping with more pillows to keep your head elevated and avoid tight clothes.
If you are really uncomfortable and these tips aren’t helping, see your doctor or midwife, who may prescribe antacids.
Shortness of breath
Breathlessness in pregnancy can be down to hormonal changes that affect the way you absorb oxygen into your bloodstream via your lungs. These changes can heighten your sensitivity to the levels of carbon dioxide breathed out. Women tend to breathe more efficiently while pregnant, but this transition to deeper breaths may make you feel breathless. Some mums-to-be are more aware of this change than others.
When you take a breath in, your diaphragm moves down so there is more room for air to enter your lungs. However, during pregnancy your womb is growing and there is less space for your diaphragm to move down. This means you can’t take in as much air in a breath which can leave you feeling breathless.
Breathlessness can also be brought on by anaemia or extra weight. If you are worried about feeling short of breath at any point during your pregnancy, don’t hesitate to speak with your doctor, and call your midwife immediately if the breathlessness is sudden or accompanied by chest pain.
There are no official guidelines for pregnancy weight gain, and it will very much depend on your weight before you became pregnant, but the average weight gain is between 10kg and 12.5kg (22-26lbs), mostly after 20 weeks.
You will be weighed and measured at your antenatal appointments and your midwife will provide you with guidance too.
By the time you reach your due date, just over a third of your weight gain will be baby, placenta and amniotic fluid. The other two thirds are due to changes in your body; additional blood volume, fluid, fuller breasts, fat stores, and extra uterine muscle growth.
Resist the urge to splurge on unhealthy foods; a healthy balanced diet is best for baby and you. Women are advised to have 2,000 calories a day. It is only during the last trimester that your pregnant body needs more than this, and even then it is only an additional 200 calories a day which should come from nutritious food choices; carrot batons and hummus, yoghurt and fruit and seeds or half an avocado on wholegrain toast are nutritious good for you options and around 200 calories . Find out more about healthy eating in pregnancy here.
Oedema is the medical name for fluid retention that can cause swollen ankles and feet, also delightfully known as ‘cankles’. It can happen during pregnancy because your body is storing more fluid than usual. Your bump also puts pressure on the blood vessels in your pelvis that can slow your circulation down and cause the blood to collect in certain areas.
Support tights, exercise and not sitting or standing for too long can all help. Swelling usually gets worse as the day goes on, so try to put your feet up regularly if you find that you can’t distinguish between your calf and your ankle when you settle down for your afternoon cuppa!
Call your doctor or midwife if you have sudden or severe swelling as it could be a sign of pre-eclampsia which is a serious condition needing medical attention.
Growing a baby is hard work and so tiredness is completely normal. Sadly, there is no quick fix so listen to your body and rest when you need to.
Fatigue is often worse during the first trimester and, by comparison, you may feel surprisingly spritely during your second. The size of your bump can slow you down at the end of your third trimester, but you are on the home straight by then and have every right to put your feet up!
However, if you feel exceptionally exhausted or breathless see your doctor who will want to rule out anaemia.
Anxiety, apprehension and physical discomfort can all contribute to sleepless nights before bump turns to baby. If you are left counting sheep because of emotional concerns, lean on a friend or confide in a professional. A problem shared is said to be a problem halved – which could lead to double the dozing time for worrisome weary you.
If you are struggling to sleep because your burgeoning bump makes it hard to get comfy, try snuggling up to a V shaped cushion as they can be positioned to support your bump and take the weight off your spine.
Non-pregnancy specific sleep tips still apply; a warm bath or warm cup of milk can be soothing and help you to unwind. The additional calcium is a bonus for baby too. Potassium in bananas can help keep leg cramps at bay if they are bothering you and headaches can be halted if you stay hydrated.
Find out more about safe sleeping positions with the charity Tommy’s.
Hormonal changes and surges can cause headaches for some women, particularly early on in pregnancy.
Check in with your doctor or midwife who may advise you to take the occasional dose of paracetamol – which is considered the safest painkiller to take if needed during pregnancy. Never exceed the recommended dose and avoid medications containing codeine and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen unless prescribed by your doctor. Check labels and talk to your healthcare professionals about the medication you’re taking.
Drink plenty of water to ensure you are hydrated as dehydration can be one of the main causes of headaches.
If your headache is very bad, is affecting your vision, causing pain below your ribs, causing vomiting or sudden swelling then call your midwife, doctor or 111 immediately.
Your breasts are gearing up for the busiest chapter of their lives, making milk for your little miracle. They can feel tender before you even realise you are pregnant thanks to the boosted blood volume and hormone surges that kick off once you become pregnant.
Keep things comfy with sports bras for non-wired support. Get measured regularly throughout your pregnancy to ensure your bras fit your growing breasts. And if you plan on breastfeeding, you can save money by buying nursing bras while pregnant as they can be worn before and after baby arrives.
That pesky progesterone at work again! The hormone slows down activity in the gut so things might not move along as quickly as they did pre-pregnancy.
Avoid laxatives, unless recommended by your doctor or midwife. Instead, up your fruit and veg to make sure you’re getting enough fibre, and drink plenty of water.
Iron supplements can cause constipation so don’t take these unless recommended by your doctor or midwife.
Ah, the glamour of being a baby-making machine! The dreaded haemorrhoids (piles) are swellings containing enlarged blood vessels found around the anus. They can be itchy, uncomfortable or very painful.
Constipation and straining when going to the toilet can cause problems so try to eat a high fibre diet and stay hydrated. Of course, you will need to push and strain during labour so things can temporarily worsen at birth – but the good news is it is short lived and things will improve afterwards.
Talk to your GP, midwife or pharmacist as there are ointments that can help and please don’t be embarrassed- they’ve seen and heard it all before!
If varicose veins run in the family, i.e. your mum and grandma have these, then I’m afraid you are more likely to continue the family tradition! During pregnancy, progesterone dilates your veins and your growing baby puts pressure on the deep veins in the pelvis.
You can buy maternity support tights if you spot any varicose veins but avoid tight clothes; they can constrict the veins and exacerbate the situation. Regular walks stimulate blood flow to the legs, and it can also help to put your feet up when you are sitting down – any excuse hey!
You may be wearing your baby bump at the front but your abdominal muscles and spine are helping to bear the load, which can cause your back to ache.
A little common sense can go a long way so put your high heels away for the next few months and treat yourself to some flats. Avoid lifting heavy objects; the hormone relaxin loosens your joints in pregnancy so you are more susceptible to picking up an injury.
Try not to sit down for long periods without getting up and doing some gentle stretches and keep an eye on your posture too.
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a condition where a nerve in your wrist which controls sensation and movement in part of the hand is compressed. Swollen tissues can put pressure on this nerve causing numbness or pain in the hands.
CTS can cause numbness, tingling or pain in the fingers and doing fiddly finger tasks can feel difficult and achy. I’m afraid that fluid retention in pregnancy can make you more susceptible.
Speak to staff at your antenatal clinic if you are experiencing symptoms; they will show you some exercises that might help and may suggest wearing a wrist splint for a short period of time.
Pelvic joint pain
During pregnancy some women can experience discomfort in the two bones at the front of the pelvis. This is partly due to the hormone relaxin which softens the ligaments of the joint – giving them more movement. It can also arise because of the weight of your bump pushing down on this part of your body.
As well as discomfort, you might also notice a clicking sensation in your joints which is another symptom of pelvic joint or pelvic girdle pain. If you are suffering speak to your doctor or midwife who may refer you to a physiotherapist.
Skin and hair
Those extra hormones may create a little baby-making havoc but they have their upsides too.
You don’t shed as much hair as normal while pregnant giving you a thicker, more lustrous mane. Remember that in the months after birth when you think you are shedding hair, it’s just your body returning to its normal pre-pregnancy state. Enjoy it while it lasts!
Pregnant women are often described as glowing. While this may in part be down to your distracted dreamy maternal state, it is also thanks to the increased blood volume, which gives you a brighter and more radiant complexion.
Alexis and Beccy are the duo behind The Mother Box – a complete package of pregnancy, birth and postnatal gifts, courses and workshops carefully created to nurture, heal and empower new mums.