It’s difficult to imagine how it feels to be pregnant unless you’ve been through it. Change is expected but the physical transformation can be a big adjustment. The “child” part is great but getting is a real challenge.
Every woman has a different experience. For some, it’s 40 weeks of love, peace, and harmony. For others, it’s painful, torturous, and full of physical and mental suffering. But, even if you love being pregnant, you’re probably experiencing at least a few physical ailments.
There are aspects of pregnancy that are truly challenging. From minor discomforts to major annoyances, these are 15 of the most common symptoms that pregnant women wish they could do without.
Although not every pregnant woman experiences severe nausea, 80% report moments of queasiness in the first trimester. Although it commonly occurs at the crack of dawn, it can repeat all day long. Some women see relief within the second trimester. Others don’t have it so lucky, feeling ill effects all throughout pregnancy.
Why pregnancy nausea occurs is not certain but raised hormone levels are a probable cause. Plus, pregnant women have sensitive noses. Queasiness can be triggered by unpleasant odors and the smell of certain foods.
One tried and true natural remedy that is almost guaranteed to cure nausea is ginger. It’s a traditional Chinese medicine; a yin and yang food that balances the body’s constitution. Whether in the form of tea, ginger ale, or the raw ginger root, ginger sedates the lining of the stomach. Loose leaf or bagged peppermint tea can also be used to treat morning sickness.
It’s tough to completely prevent nausea during pregnancy. For some women, it just comes with the territory. If you can’t keep anything in your stomach and you’re vomiting everything you eat or drink, visit your doctor immediately.
Carrying a child is hard work. It takes energy out of your body which is why tiredness is one of the first symptoms of pregnancy. Full-body fatigue can start as early as one week. By week 12, it is common for expecting moms to have full-on fatigue. This syndrome can deplete motivation, diminish enthusiasm, and curb sex drive.
The number one relief of tiredness is, of course, rest. Besides getting plenty of sleep, aromatherapy can elevate your mood and energy level without adverse side effects. Aromatherapy uses plants and plant oils to stimulate brain function. Some scents have a calming effect, while others liven your mood. Peppermint oil has invigorating properties that can boost vitality.
For quick results, apply several drops of oil to a washcloth, then inhale. You can also add peppermint oil to a bowl of hot water, and the refreshing scent will quickly permeate the room. Keep in mind, aromatherapy oils are extremely concentrated. Allergic reactions and rashes have been reported when applied directly to the skin. Also, always use high-quality grade oils for the best results, and check with your doctor to know which application is best for you.
13 Frequent Urination
Peeing every 10 minutes is another challenge of childbearing. It’s one of the first signs of pregnancy, starting in the first trimester around week six. But, why does it feel like you have to go to the bathroom, even when your bladder is not that full?
When a woman is expecting, her expanding uterus and the baby’s weight add constant pressure to the bladder and the urethra, causing urinary stress. This is why pregnant women feel like they have to pee even after a recent trip to the bathroom. Also, expectant mothers retain liquid. This extra fluid is flushed through the kidneys, resulting in more trips to the toilet.
No pregnant woman escapes the clutches of frequent urination but there are steps you can take to make bathroom breaks less frequent:
- When you pee, lean forward so your upper body is at a 45-degree angle. This will completely empty your bladder.
- Do not stop drinking liquids during the day. You and your baby need to stay hydrated. Instead, reduce your water and juice intake in the early evening.
- Avoid coffee, tea, and other drinks containing caffeine. Caffeinated drinks will make you urinate more often.
Many women never experience heartburn until they’re expecting. Also known as acid indigestion, heartburn can strike more often as the baby grows. Once the abdominal cavity becomes crowded, the organs become squished. As a consequence, stomach acids climb the esophagus to the back of the throat.
The feeling is like a burning liquid, followed by acid-tasting burps. For the most part, heartburn is not dangerous but it can be painful. Heartburn’s scorching sensation and bitter taste can be too uncomfortable to sleep. This is why many pregnant women awake in the middle of the night.
There are various products on the market guaranteed to soothe the scorching fire of heartburn. Surprisingly, there is an inexpensive, effective, natural remedy for heartburn--green or leafy vegetables. Eating lettuce, cucumbers, or broccoli will dramatically neutralize stomach acid. They balance the pH levels of gastric fluids, offering fast, effective relief of acid indigestion.
Some expecting mothers turn to ice for relief but sucking on ice chips will only temporarily extinguish the fire, not cure the affliction. Your best bet is to avoid spicy or high-fat foods, dairy, and caffeine. And, to ensure a good night’s sleep, do not eat within three hours of bedtime.
11 Swollen Legs and Feet
Puffy feet and swollen legs are common side effects in the third trimester of pregnancy. Hormonal changes, water retention, and weight gain burden the veins, reducing blood flow back to the heart. As a result, the legs and feet can balloon.
The swelling can be uncomfortable but it often disappears after childbirth. For the time being, there are steps you can take to cope with swollen legs and feet:
- Elevate your legs. Rest your feet on a surface that is higher than your heart. This will channel the excess liquid from your feet into your body. The extra fluid will pass through the urine.
- Sleep on your left side. The inferior vena cava is a large vein that transports blood from the lower part of your body back towards your heart. This vein is located along the right column of the spine. Sleeping on your left side will alleviate the pressure on this blood vessel.
- If only one leg appears bloated, this could be a sign of deep vein thrombosis. If the legs and feet suddenly swell, this could be a symptom of high blood pressure. Both cases require immediate medical care.
10 Bladder Leakage
Urinary incontinence is an embarrassing symptom, yet quite common among pregnant women. A Norwegian study found that pregnancy more than doubles the prevalence of bladder leakage.
Sneezing, coughing, and even laughing can cause expecting mothers to wet themselves. Leaking a few droplets because of a sneeze or a cough is called stress incontinence. Only a small amount of urine escapes but if it happens often, it’s enough to make you feel uncomfortable, and a little embarrassed.
Experts suggest routinely visiting the washroom, even before you have the urge to urinate. By the time you feel the need to pee, your bladder is almost full. This is when the slightest pressure can force an involuntary flow of urine.
So, just in case, make a trip to the bathroom at set times. Also, sit forward while voiding your bladder to empty it completely. These tips can actually train your bladder.
Scheduling your bathroom breaks may seem like an inconvenience but it’s better to release your urine in the toilet than walk around with wet underwear.
If you’re prone to headaches, pregnancy can aggravate the issue. Likely explanations are hormonal changes, sleep deprivation, fatigue, anxiety, hunger, dehydration, eye strain, and an increase of blood flowing through the veins.
Before pregnancy, over-the-counter drugs would be the go-to solution. However, most of these painkillers are strictly limited while pregnant. Here are some ways to treat headaches naturally:
- Rest in a tranquil room. Turn off the lights, close your eyes, elevate your feet, and practice deep breathing. A sensitivity to light and noise can trigger pounding in your head.
- To prevent dehydration, drink 10 cups (or 2.3 liters) of water every day.
- An absence of nourishment can cause blood sugar to dip, and low blood sugar is a common symptom of headaches. Instead of three big meals, eat smaller meals throughout the day.
- A good night’s sleep will nip headaches in the bud. But don’t sleep too long. Oversleeping can also cause your head to hurt. Strive for 8-10 of uninterrupted sleep every night.
If your headaches persist longer than four hours, contact your practitioner. Never hesitate to call your obstetrician or health care professional if a health concern has you worried.
8 Lower Back Pain
Ten months of chronic back pain can plague a pregnancy. In fact, 75% of soon-to-be mothers experience this condition.
Pregnancy back pain is partly the result of hormonal changes that soften and thin out ligaments, joints, and muscles to prepare for dilation during labor. Plus, weight gain causes an expecting mother’s center of gravity to shift. To compensate for the baby’s growing weight in the uterus, a pregnant woman has a tendency to push her weight forward, creating an arch at the base of the spine. Other factors are poor sleeping positions, carrying multiple children, and being overweight.
To ease your achy, breaky back:
- Wear comfortable shoes
- Use a back support on a chair
- Avoid prolonged standing
- Sleep with a body pillow
- Take a warm bath to relax tired muscles and ease stiff joints
Also, while sitting in a chair or on a couch, you can place a pillow or a rolled up towel in the small of your back. It will support your back and help you maintain proper posture.
7 Mood Swings
As the pregnancy hormones rage, so do the mood swings. One minute you are thrilled and excited to be carrying a child, the next minute you’re achy, stressed, panicked, and crying. Your mental state turns on a dime because it’s dependent on pregnancy hormones.
It’s common to experience a mixture of emotions while pregnant because expectant mothers have a cocktail of pregnancy chemicals surging through their bodies:
- Human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG) is a hormone that helps to form the placenta.
- The hormone progesterone assists in maintaining pregnancy.
- Estrogens are a cluster of hormones that help the uterus grow, prompting fetal development.
- Oxytocin readies the cervix for delivery and stimulates milk production.
For 40 weeks, these among other hormones play a huge role, completely affecting your mind and body. So, when you’re losing your composure, make an effort to relax. You may think you need to paint the nursery or clean the house right now but you don’t. Instead, take a bath or have a nap. It’s important to take an emotional break, especially when you are carrying a child.
6 Sleep Deprivation
Sleep as much as you can now: it’s a common pregnancy tip. But, as your belly grows, getting some shut-eye is easier said than done. Pregnancy interrupts sleep patterns for 78% of women with the first and third trimesters being notorious for sleep loss. The causes include:
- Frequent urination - Increasing baby weight and the extra flow to the kidneys fills the bladder faster. When nature calls at night, sleep deprivation is an unfortunate side effect.
- Anxiety - It’s natural for a pregnant woman’s mind to be on overdrive because life-altering changes are occurring in her life. The anticipation can cause sleepless nights.
- Snoring - Pregnant snoring is caused by the extra weight of pregnancy, nasal congestion, and the uterus bearing down on the diaphragm.
Typically, the discomforts of pregnancy are the reason for sleepless nights. To help you get a good night’s sleep:
- Sleep on your side with a pillow wedged between your bent knees. Pillows can help correct your sleep position.
- Limit your fluids hours before bedtime.
- Consider using nasal strips that help airflow in your nose.
- In the daytime, talk to your partner, a friend, or a parent about any concerns you are having about pregnancy.
5 Charley Horses
In the U.S. and Canada, they call it a charley horse. In Australia, it’s a corked thigh. It's a paralyzing spasm that flares up in the calf or thigh muscle. Without warning, the calf is momentarily locked in a position that feels like your leg is on fire. The pain is crippling, leaving the muscle feeling tender and strained. Charley horses usually occur at night when you’re lying down, and they’re painful enough to wake you out of a sleep.
Many women never experience a charley horse until pregnancy. Medical experts are still not certain why expecting mothers experience leg cramps but theories include vitamin and mineral deficiencies in the diet and fatigue from carrying extra weight.
How You Can Avoid Charley Horses
To avoid leg cramps:
- Stretch your calf muscles before bed
- Ensure you drink plenty of water throughout the day
- Elevate your feet whenever possible
- Always wear comfortable shoes
Pregnancy can be a wonderful time in a woman’s life but it can also create a heightened level of anxiety. With no break and no day off for almost a year, it’s no wonder why stress is a common symptom of pregnancy.
Expecting mothers, particularly first-time moms, worry because they don’t know what’s in store. Major life changes, concerns about labor, and financial burdens are all common anxieties. At times, the stress can overwhelming, causing an expecting mom to lose it over an issue that is seemingly small.
Your state of mind impacts your body; hence, your pulse and hormones influence the baby. Starting in week 20 of your pregnancy, your hormones are absorbed by the placenta. Studies show that high levels of the stress hormone cortisol discharged over a long time can cause the baby to have a low birth weight or a premature birth.
With a baby in your womb, it’s important to take positive steps to keep stress under control. First, try to fix the source of your tension rather than mask your feelings by finding comfort in other ways. Second, try activities that shut down stress, such as getting more sleep, taking hot baths, and meditating.
3 Finding Comfort at Night
The physical transformation of pregnancy affects every part of the body. Exhaustion can hit you like a ton of bricks. Unfortunately, as your baby grows, getting much-needed sleep becomes increasingly difficult.
With a big pregnant belly, lying on your stomach is impossible, and lying on your back can reduce the blood flow to the developing fetus. If you sleep on your stomach or back, you have to adjust to sleeping on your side.
A pregnancy pillow can help. It is a total body pillow that cradles your belly, head, and back, all while keeping your knees apart. Placing a regular pillow between your legs can also help you sleep more comfortably.
In later months, some women ditch their beds entirely, finding comfort in a reclining chair for the last few months of pregnancy. The benefit is that you can lean back without being fully reclined.
You need your strength, and a good night’s sleep will help you recover from pregnancy fatigue. Make it your mission to get more rest.
2 Car Rides
Pregnancy is not a handicap. Most pregnant women can function like anyone else but a growing baby can cause all sorts of pain. Knowing how to relieve discomfort can make the grueling sides of pregnancy less of a burden.
As long as you are feeling well, driving while you’re pregnant is fine. The only obstacle can be getting in and out of a car. For heavily pregnant women, this can be a challenge. Also, the steering wheel may eventually get in your way.
Take your time getting in and out of the car. Make sure that you are sitting at least 10 inches back from the steering wheel. Adjust your seat to sit as far back as possible. And, of course, always wear your seat belt to protect you and your unborn baby.
Still, during pregnancy, traveling in a car for an extended period of time can tighten your muscles. If you’re in the passenger seat, gently point, flex, and rotate your feet to stretch your calf muscles. Wiggle your toes to help prevent your feet from swelling. Movement can ease the discomfort.
1 Weight Gain
If you are struggling with negative body issues during pregnancy, you’re not alone. While some expectant moms love every inch of their evolving physiques, others struggle with the dramatic changes.
A body during pregnancy is beautiful, and all the curves that add to it should be celebrated. But aside from the protruding belly, it’s the rounder face, the swollen ankles, the fuller bosom, and the wider bottom that some women find hard to accept.
On one hand, excessive weight gain can lead to physical pain. Back pain, hemorrhoids, and varicose veins are painful symptoms of too much weight. Also, the extra weight produces a bigger baby, so exciting the birth canal may increase the risk of complications. Plus, the more you gain, the harder it is to shed after delivery.
On the other hand, your body is going through a slew of changes to make a healthy newborn. If you’re feeling good while eating healthy, and your baby is developing well, try not to be overly concerned about the few pounds you have to gain to start your family. When your hormones settle and objectivity returns, you’ll remember your body transformed so a baby could thrive.