While a few lucky women sail through their pregnancies without even a twinge of morning sickness, most of us have to contend with a few (or maybe quite a few) pregnancy-related issues. Here's how to cope with some of the most common pregnancy problems.
Heartburn: Hormone changes during pregnancy, combined with your growing belly, can make it easier for stomach acid to wash up into the throat. Here are some ways to put out the fire:
- Eat small, frequent meals (this will also help with morning sickness).
- Stay away from greasy or fried food, coffee, cola, and smoking (which you should avoid during pregnancy anyway).
- Eat slowly and chew your food well.
- Don't lie down for at least half an hour after meals.
- Prop up your head and shoulders while you're asleep.
- Try calcium carbonate, an antacid that's also used as a calcium supplement. Don't take more than the dose recommended on the package, and don't treat yourself with any other over-the-counter medications (including other antacids) before checking with your doctor or pharmacist.
Morning sickness: As any pregnant woman knows, "morning sickness" should really be called "all-day sickness." It usually gets better after the first trimester, but an unlucky few suffer right up until they deliver their baby. Here are a few ways to help that queasy stomach:
- Have small, frequent meals. Don't let yourself get too hungry.
- Have small amounts of fluids several times a day. But don't drink fluids during or just before or after a meal.
- Before you get out of bed in the morning, eat a small nutritious snack like crackers or a granola bar (keep it by your bed), then rest in bed for 15 minutes.
- If certain scents or foods turn your stomach, steer clear! The most common offenders are fried, spicy, or fatty foods.
- If you're having trouble finding foods you can keep down, try bread, noodles, watermelon, crackers, cereal, mashed potatoes, clear soup, apple slices, pretzels, or pickles.
- Try having your food cold instead of hot to take away some of the smell.
- Try smelling lemons or ginger to calm your stomach.
- Have a few salty potato chips to ease nausea before your meal.
- Take your prenatal vitamin with food so it doesn't upset your stomach.
- Get plenty of rest and fresh air.
- Try acupressure wrist bands (available at your local pharmacy).
- Ask your doctor about taking Diclectin® (doxylamine/pyridoxine), a prescription antinausea medication for pregnant women.
Fatigue: Considering the enormous amount of work your body is doing right now, it's not unusual to feel completely exhausted. The best solution: rest! Give yourself permission to get the sleep you need, even if this means adjusting your schedule and asking for help with household chores.
Frequent urination: In the first trimester, those frequent bathroom trips are due to the pregnancy hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), which causes increased urination. In the second trimester, you usually get a bit of a break from bathroom time. But in the third trimester, bathroom breaks are back with a vengeance as the growing uterus puts pressure on the bladder. What can you do?
- avoid caffeine
- avoid fluids in the early evening and before bedtime – drink more fluids during the rest of the day to make up for this
- go to the bathroom when you feel the urge
- when you urinate, lean forward to help the bladder empty more
Constipation: During pregnancy, food moves more slowly through the body to give you a better chance to absorb nutrients. Iron supplements can also make you constipated. What can you do to stay regular?
- eat high-fibre foods like fruit, vegetables, beans, and whole grains
- get plenty of fluids
- stay active
- go to the bathroom when you feel the urge – don't wait
Sore back: A growing uterus, a shifting center of gravity, and loosening ligaments add up to back pain for many pregnant women, especially in the third trimester. Here are a few ways to ease back pain:
- Choose your shoes wisely. Opt for a low heel with good arch support.
- Lift with your legs, not your back. And don't lift heavy objects – ask for help.
- If you have to stand for a long time, put one foot up on a step stool or box.
- When picking things up, squat down and keep your back straight instead of bending from the waist.
- When getting up, roll onto your side first, then use your hands to push up.
- Apply a heating pad or ask for a back rub.
- Choose chairs with good lumbar support or put a little pillow behind the small of your back when sitting.
- Stay active – try water exercises and walking.
Stretch marks and itchy belly: There's no sure-fire way to prevent or get rid of stretch marks. But you can reduce your risk by trying to gain no more than a healthy amount of weight: 25 to 35 pounds (11 kg to 16 kg) for most women. Use lotion to keep your skin well hydrated and to avoid "itchy belly." After the baby is born, the stretch marks will likely fade.
Gestational diabetes: This is a type of diabetes that starts during pregnancy and usually disappears after the birth. The first sign is usually a high result on a routine pregnancy blood sugar test, usually done between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. Your doctor will do more detailed blood sugar tests to confirm it. Being diagnosed with gestational diabetes usually means a few changes:
- You'll need more frequent medical tests, such as blood sugar testing, ultrasounds, urine testing for protein, and blood pressure measurements.
- You'll be asked to make some healthy diet changes and exercise more frequently.
- You may need to use insulin injections if your blood sugar can't be controlled by exercise and eating changes alone.
- Because women who had gestational diabetes during pregnancy are at a higher risk of diabetes later in life, your doctor will check your blood sugar about 6 weeks after the birth, and then yearly.
Gestational diabetes increases the risk of having a large baby, a C-section, or very low blood sugar levels in the baby after birth. But it can be controlled to help keep both you and your baby healthy.
High blood pressure (pregnancy-induced hypertension): Some women develop high blood pressure during their pregnancies. Usually this happens in the last trimester (the last 3 months), and usually goes away after the birth. It can increase the risk of certain complications for both mother and baby. It may limit the blood flow to the placenta, which means the baby gets less oxygen and nutrients. It can also cause serious problems for the mother, such as seizures or decreased blood flow to the vital organs. Let your doctor know if you have a severe headache, vision changes, abdominal pain, decreased amounts of urine, or severe swelling of your hands or feet. If you develop high blood pressure during your pregnancy, your doctor will test your blood pressure, weight, and urine frequently. You may need medication, bed rest, and healthy eating to get your blood pressure down. If you are close to the end of your pregnancy and your blood pressure is quite high, you may need to deliver your baby before your due date. Delivering the baby is the only way to cure high blood pressure of pregnancy.
This is not a complete list of all pregnancy-related problems. Talk to your doctor for advice of managing these and other pregnancy issues not listed here.