Pregnancy is a time of great change. There are the obvious physical changes as your abdomen grows and your posture changes. But there are also less obvious physical and emotional changes over the course of your pregnancy. Some of these changes can be beneficial, like the “pregnancy glow” and “happy hormones” many women experience. However, some women will suffer from less welcome symptoms which can make their 40-week term more uncomfortable and hard to manage.
Common pregnancy discomforts can include:
Why do these problems occur during pregnancy?
There are many changes in all the major body systems during pregnancy, and some of these changes are believed to contribute to various pregnancy-related discomforts.
- Hormonal changes are an inevitable and necessary part of pregnancy so your body can support the pregnancy and the developing baby. They are one of the first changes that occur with pregnancy.
However, increased levels of hormones such as progesterone and oestrogen, and the production of other hormones such as relaxin and Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG) are believed to be partly responsible for some of the discomforts of pregnancy including morning sickness, constipation, reflux, and dizziness.
- Cardiovascular changes in pregnancy include an increase in your heart rate, body temperature and circulating blood volume. These changes are needed to help your body support the pregnancy. However, they may contribute to feeling more tired, short of breath and problems such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and varicose veins.
- Changes in physical shape and posture can start earlier in pregnancy, but really accelerate in the second half of pregnancy. Such changes can start to place more load on the low back and pelvis in particular, contributing to low back and pelvic girdle pain in pregnancy. Many pregnant women also find more load is also placed on other joints too, and may experience upper back pain, neck pain or aches and pains in the legs. The growing uterus can also put downward pressure on the pelvic floor, contributing to bladder problems and upward pressure on the stomach and diaphragm, contributing to reflux and shortness of breath.
How can you manage pregnancy discomforts?
Many pregnancy discomforts can be managed and improved with treatment. A Women’s Health Physiotherapist can assess your problem and provide advice and treatment for a number of pregnancy-related aches and pains including:
Other advice for pregnancy
For other pregnancy-related discomforts, you may find the following ideas useful.
- For morning sickness, try to eat a healthy diet and small amounts of food more regularly, as hunger can sometimes make things worse. Many women also find gentle exercise and ginger tea helpful. If your morning sickness is extreme, your Obstetrician or midwife may diagnose hyperemesis, and recommend medication to help.
- Gastro-intestinal problems including reflux and constipation may also be helped by a healthy diet, with smaller and more regular meals. Good bowel habits, toileting position and stool softeners of fibre may help. A Women’s Health Physio can provide advice on these ideas.
- Avoid sleeping on your back in pregnancy. You may find a large pillow for support can make sleeping on your side more comfortable. If you suffer from reflux, propping yourself in a semi-reclined position may be more comfortable.
- If you suffer from low blood pressure, dizziness or fainting, learning to take more time as you get up from lying down or from sitting can help, as does adequate fluid intake. Your Obstetrician or midwife will monitor your blood pressure and may recommend medication if they feel it is too low.