The Common Discomforts of Pregnancy

Symptoms, Tips, and When to Call the Doctor

Pregnancy is an exciting time, but it’s not always comfortable. While you’re expecting, hormone changes and a growing uterus can lead to a variety of symptoms. For some, pregnancy is a breeze with only a few, mild complaints. But, for others with more severe symptoms, it can be a long, difficult nine months. 

Most discomforts of pregnancy are normal, but occasionally they can be a warning sign of something more serious. It’s important to know what to expect, so you can recognize when something isn't right.

This article describes some of the common pregnancy discomforts, tips to help you through them, and when to call the doctor. 

Common discomforts of pregnancy
 Verywell / JR Bee

Nausea and Vomiting

Nausea and vomiting, also known as morning sickness, is one of the most common pregnancy complaints, especially during the first three months. Doctors aren't exactly sure why pregnancy causes nausea and vomiting, but they believe it has to do with the rise in pregnancy hormones. 

Morning sickness can range from a little queasiness when your stomach is empty to more severe nausea and vomiting. It's more likely to occur in the morning but can happen at any time of the day. While it usually goes away early in the second trimester by about 14 weeks, it sometimes lasts throughout an entire pregnancy. And, it may be worse if you're carrying twins

To combat nausea and vomiting, you can: 

  • Keep crackers or a snack by your bed and have a little bite to eat before you get up for the day.
  • Sit up in bed for a few moments before you get out of bed. 
  • Take it slow when you get up and out of bed in the morning.
  • Eat small meals more frequently throughout the day, so your stomach isn't empty.
  • Carry snacks with you, and don't go without food for long periods. 
  • Eat high protein, low-fat, nutritious meals to help with nausea.
  • Eat bland foods that are easy to digest, such as dry toast, crackers, bananas, rice, apples.
  • Try to stay away from the smells and tastes that make you feel queasy.
  • Drink plenty of water to replace what you're losing through vomiting.
  • Wear motion sickness bands on your wrists.
  • Get enough rest.
  • Talk to your doctor before taking any medication, even over-the-counter medicine.
  • Call the doctor if you cannot keep anything down or you are becoming dehydrated.

Breast Tenderness

Very early in your pregnancy, your breasts will already be preparing to make milk for your baby. Hormone changes similar to those just before a period can cause sore, tender breasts. Breast changes are usually noticeable by the sixth to eighth week of pregnancy. Some women see only mild changes, but for others, the breasts can grow very large in size and weight. The breasts may continue to grow throughout your pregnancy, but the tenderness usually subsides by the fourth month. 

When your breasts are full and sore, you can:

  • Choose a proper bra that can support your growing breasts and hold up the extra weight. 
  • Wear a comfortable bra to bed for support during sleep. 
  • Wear a supportive sports bra during exercise.
  • Choose loose-fitting clothes that do not put pressure on your breasts.
  • Try warm or cold compresses to ease soreness.  
  • Ask your doctor about safe pain relief if you need it.

Fatigue

If you're feeling tired and need a nap, you're not alone. Your body is working hard, and you're going through physical and emotional changes as your baby develops and you prepare for motherhood. While some women have more energy during pregnancy, it's far more common to feel exhausted.

To fight the fatigue, you can:

  • Try to get some rest. Allow yourself to take some extra time to sit with your feet up or grab a nap if you can, and try to go to bed early. 
  • Ask for help. You don't have to do it all. It's OK to ask for help. You can ask your partner to make dinner while you rest or a family member to help out with other children. 
  • Limit social activities. If you can't make it to every social gathering, your friends, family, and co-workers will understand. It's not forever. When you're feeling less tired, and you can tolerate more activities, your social group will still be there to welcome you back with open arms. 
  • Get some exercise. Doctors recommend light to moderate physical activity during a healthy pregnancy. Staying active can help you have more energy. 
  • Eat well. Poor eating habits can prevent you from getting the nutrition you need during pregnancy. If you're not getting enough iron or protein, it can sap your energy. Try to eat well-balanced meals with healthy snacks to get enough nutrients to keep your body healthy, strong, and energized. 

Frequent Urination

When you're pregnant, there's more fluid circulating in your body, and your kidneys work more efficiently. Add that to a growing uterus pressing on your bladder, and you end up spending more time in the bathroom than usual. Frequent urination tends to be more of an issue in the first and last trimester with a little break during mid-pregnancy. 

When experiencing frequent urination, you should: 

  • Stay hydrated.
  • Don't hold it in.
  • Lean forward when you pee to help empty your bladder. 
  • Limit nighttime drinking, but be sure to get enough during the day.
  • Don't wear clothes that are tight around your waist.
  • Wear a sanitary pad or liner if you leak urine.

Heartburn and Indigestion

Heartburn and indigestion can start at any time, but they are more common in the second and third trimester. As your growing belly puts pressure on your stomach, food can back up into your esophagus and cause a sour taste in your mouth along with burning and pain. 

If you get heartburn, you can:

  • Eat smaller meals more often during the day.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Don’t eat close to bedtime or right before a nap.
  • Don’t lay down flat for naps or bedtime. Sleep propped up on incline instead.
  • Avoid spicy foods or foods that trigger your heartburn.
  • Ask your doctor about a safe antacid.

Sweating and Night Sweats 

Changing hormones, extra weight, and more blood circulating in your body during pregnancy can raise your temperature and make you feel warm and sweaty, especially at night. 

To deal with excessive perspiration and night sweats, you can: 

  • Wear light clothing or layers that you can remove.
  • Stay away from caffeine and spicy foods.
  • Drink plenty of water to keep you hydrated and replace what you're losing through sweat. 
  • Carry wet wipes or a small fan with you to cool you down if you're feeling warm and sweaty.
  • Exercise in a cool room instead of outdoors when it's hot. 
  • Stay indoors in air conditioning or with a fan. 
  • Keep your bedroom colder at night and layer blankets for comfort.
  • Place a towel over your pillow and sheets to soak up night sweats.
  • Try to stay within the recommended guidelines for weight gain during pregnancy

Headaches

You can get a headache when you're pregnant for the same reasons you can get one when you're not pregnant. But, during pregnancy, you do have some additional triggers such as pregnancy hormones, stress, fatigue, low blood sugar, and cutting out caffeine. It's no wonder headaches are a common pregnancy discomfort.

If you're suffering from headaches during pregnancy, you can: 

  • Rest when you can and try to get enough sleep at night.
  • Drink plenty of healthy fluids to stay hydrated.
  • Eat snacks and don't skip meals to prevent your blood sugar from dropping. 
  • Cut down on caffeine slowly instead of all at once.
  • Take a warm bath or shower to help you relax.
  • Ask your doctor if you can take a safe pain reliever such as Tylenol (acetaminophen) if you need it.
  • Talk to a counselor or a therapist if you have excessive anxiety or stress.
  • Call the doctor right away or go to the hospital to get checked if you have a severe headache that does not go away in a few hours, or you feel dizzy and faint.

Constipation, Gas, and Bloating

During pregnancy, food moves more slowly through your system to absorb more nutrients. And, as your uterus grows, it begins to push on your intestines. Slower digestion and pressure on the bowels can lead to constipation, a build-up of gas, bloating, and pain

To relieve constipation and gas, you can: 

  • Eat high-fiber foods such as fruits and veggies or talk to your doctor about a fiber supplement.
  • Add fruit juice such as prune juice to your daily diet.
  • Drink plenty of water or other healthy fluids.
  • Exercise to help those bowels move.
  • Ask the doctor about a safe stool softener.
  • Do not use laxatives or enemas, which can be dangerous during pregnancy.

Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids are swollen, varicose veins on the outside the rectum. They can be painful and cause itching, burning, and bleeding. Hemorrhoids tend to develop toward the end of pregnancy as the extra belly weight puts pressure on the veins. Sometimes they go away on their own after the baby is born, but not always.

If you develop hemorrhoids, you can:

  • Do your best to avoid constipation.
  • Don’t strain or push very hard to poop.
  • Add fiber and fluids to help you go to the bathroom and make the stool softer.
  • Move around to keep bowels moving.
  • Avoid sitting or standing for long periods where the uterus is just pushing down on the bowels.
  • Keep the perineal area clean by gently washing after bowel movements (front to back).
  • Use a sitz bath.
  • Try witch hazel pads.
  • Do not use medicine without talking to your doctor.
  • Discuss your symptoms with the doctor at your prenatal appointment or call the doctor for treatment help.

Backache

As pregnancy progresses, your breasts grow, your belly expands, the number on the scale goes up, and your muscles, ligaments, and joints stretch out and loosen. These changes affect your center of gravity and balance. As your body adjusts, the strain on your shoulders and back can lead to upper and lower back pain.

To prevent and relieve back pain, you can: 

  • Pay attention to your posture.
  • Sit up straight.
  • Stay within your doctor’s guidelines for weight gain.
  • Try not to stand or sit in one spot for a long time.
  • Get up and walk around, especially if you sit at a desk all day.
  • Lift with your legs while keeping your back straight instead of bending over from your waist.
  • Try not to lift anything heavy, including your other children.
  • Do some stretching and light exercise to relieve aches and pains.
  • Try a pregnancy support belt to help support your uterus and ease back pain.
  • Don’t overdo it with your daily activities and be sure to get enough rest.

Round Ligament Pain

The round ligaments are on the sides of your uterus. During pregnancy, they stretch to support the uterus as it grows. The stretching and pulling of these ligaments can sometimes cause pain. Round ligament pain is a quick, sharp, stabbing pain in your lower abdomen that is common in the second trimester. It can come on suddenly when you change positions, laugh, cough, sneeze, or even roll over in bed, but it only lasts a few seconds. 

To try to avoid round ligament pain, you can: 

  • Change positions slowly.
  • Practice good posture.
  • Use prenatal exercises and stretches.
  • Wear a pregnancy support belt just below your belly to help hold up your growing abdomen.
  • Avoid heavy lifting and standing for long periods. 

If you feel pain, you can: 

  • Change your position.
  • Slow down and rest for a little while. 
  • Bend toward the pain.
  • Use a warm compress or take a warm bath. 
  • Talk to the doctor about taking a pain reliever such as Tylenol.
  • Call the doctor or go to the hospital if the pain continues, gets worse, or is accompanied by other symptoms such as cramping, bleeding, or fever.

When to Call the Doctor

So many symptoms and discomforts are a normal part of pregnancy. However, on occasion, what seems like a pregnancy symptom could be a warning sign of a problem.

You should call your doctor or go directly to the emergency room if:

You should always feel comfortable calling your doctor if you're having any concern about your pregnancy. It's better to call and get the reassurance that you're OK, then to wait and have something happen to you or your baby. 

A Word From Verywell

Pregnancy is a happy time, full of excitement. You dream of what your child will look like, how they will add to your family, and who they will become. But, along with all the joy comes some discomfort. From changing hormones to an ever-expanding midsection, so much is going on in your body. There’s bound to be a few uncomfortable symptoms you’ll have to deal with during pregnancy. 

It’s normal to be to worry about the new symptoms. But, remember, most pregnancies are healthy, and the common discomforts are usually just that – common and uncomfortable. In most cases, what you’re feeling is not dangerous for you or your baby at all.

By talking to your doctor, learning, and understanding what’s typical and when to be concerned, you can feel more confident that what your experiencing is normal and healthy. And, you’ll be more likely to realize when something is not quite right so that you can notify the doctor. Then, you can spend less time worrying about the discomforts and more time enjoying your pregnancy.

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