In case you hadn’t noticed, pregnancy isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. If you’re battling some common pregnancy symptoms, these tips might help.
Heartburn in pregnancy is caused by a combination of two factors; pressure and hormones. As your baby grows, it takes up most of the room in your abdomen, which compresses your stomach. Some of the hormones of pregnancy cause relaxation of smooth muscles like the sphincter that keeps food inside your stomach. The growing uterus pushes up on your stomach, which causes food and stomach acid to escape through the leaky sphincter into your esophagus, causing heartburn.
- Take an antacid (like Tums or Maalox), which are safe to take in pregnancy and can give you temporary relief. Changing how you eat may help as well.
- Avoid foods that trigger your heartburn – even if they are your favourites.
- Eat smaller, more frequent meals.
- Reduce nighttime heartburn, by not eating right before bed and boosting yourself up with some extra pillows so you are not lying flat.
- If you try these and you are still suffering, adding an over-the-counter acid-blocker like Zantac might help. Of course, talk to your care provider first.
You finally find a comfortable position and manage to fall asleep… only to wake up with a painful muscle spasm! No one really knows what causes leg cramps, but they might be due to a build-up of lactic acid in the muscle tissue.
- Try to loosen cramped muscles with massage, walking or stretching.
- Warm the muscle with a hot shower or hot water bottle.
- Prevent leg cramps by staying well hydrated during the day, exercising and stretching regularly.
- A few scientific studies have suggested that taking extra magnesium might be helpful in preventing muscle cramps, but talk to your doctor before adding any supplements.
Nausea and vomiting affect the majority of women at some point in their pregnancy. The good news is that it usually goes away on its own by 16 to 20 weeks. There are some strategies for dealing with nausea that can help you get through the first trimester.
- Stay away from bad smells. You will probably notice that some foods and smells make you more nauseous than others, so avoid those triggers.
- Eat something! At this point, eat whatever appeals to you, even if it is not the most nutritious food. You have time later to eat nutritious food and you can’t get nutrients from food that won’t stay down.
- Rest up. Fatigue can make nausea worse, so try to get plenty of sleep.
- Eat small meals throughout the day.
- Ask your doctor for help. Diclectin is a prescription medication that is very safe in pregnancy that helps with nausea.
- Try ginger. Studies show it can reduce nausea and cause less drowsiness than pharmacologic anti-nausea medications.
Sometimes nausea and vomiting gets so bad that you can’t keep anything down and become dehydrated. This condition is called hyperemesis gravidarum, which often needs to be treated with IV fluids and medications. If you are unable to keep liquids down, call your doctor.
Fluid retention and swelling can lead to compression of nerves in the wrist during pregnancy, especially in the last trimester. This leads to carpal tunnel syndrome, which causes numbness and tingling in the hands. It can be quite uncomfortable, but usually goes away within a few weeks of delivery. Wearing wrist splints at night to keep your wrists straight while you sleep can help with the symptoms. You can usually buy splints at pharmacies or health-care supply stores.
Sometimes a herniated disc or a history of scoliosis can cause back pain in pregnancy, but these are pretty rare. Most back pain in pregnancy is caused by the weight of the baby pulling forward on the spine and from increasing looseness in your joints. Back pain is usually worse with second or third pregnancies compared with the first.
- Wear supportive shoes with a low heel (not flats).
- Use a lumbar pillow when you are sitting at your desk. Sleeping on your side with a pillow between your knees can also help.
- Keep active. Back pain is not an excuse stop exercising. Activities like prenatal yoga or even physiotherapy can strengthen the core reduce pain.
- Back pain is a great excuse to indulge in a massage, which is safe in pregnancy and can soothe those sore muscles.
Nearly everyone gets swollen feet and lower legs by the third trimester.
- You can help reduce the swelling by avoiding standing for long periods and by keeping your feet elevated when you are sitting down.
- Put your feet in a bucket of cold water or a kiddie pool when the weather is hot.
- Try compression stockings. Though not too fashionable, they can really help with the discomfort of swelling. You can buy them at most pharmacies and healthcare supply stores.
In rare cases, swelling can be a sign of a serious problem. Swelling combined with high blood pressure can be a sign of preeclampsia, so you should get your blood pressure checked if you’re really swollen. Other symptoms can include headache, right sided upper abdominal pain and seeing spots in your vision. A blood clot usually presents with one leg being painful and much more swollen than the other.