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Common Ailments During Pregnancy

Most of these problems are caused by hormonal changes and the extra strain your body is under. They are usually temporary, cause minor discomfort and can be treated simply.

Backache
During pregnancy, the ligaments in your body naturally become softer and stretch
to prepare you for labour. This can put a strain on the joints of your lower
back and pelvis, which can cause backache.

Avoid lifting heavy weights and wearing high heeled shoes. Support your back with a cushion. Kneeling on all fours and rocking from side to side can relieve the pressure on the back, as can gentle exercise to strengthen your abdominal muscles.  A firm mattress may also help to prevent and relieve backache. If your mattress is too soft, put a piece of hardboard under it to make it firmer. Massage can also help.

Bleeding
Bleeding during pregnancy is relatively common. However, bleeding from the vagina at any time in pregnancy can be a dangerous sign, and you should always contact your GP immediately if it happens to you. Bleeding is not often caused by something serious, but it's very important to make sure and find out the cause straight away.

In early pregnancy you might get some light bleeding, called 'spotting'. This is when the developing embryo plants itself in the wall of your womb. This often happens around the time that your first period after conception would have been due.

During the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, vaginal bleeding can be a sign of miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy. However, many women who bleed at this stage of pregnancy go on to have normal and successful pregnancies.

Bleeding Gums
Hormonal changes during pregnancy can make your gums more vulnerable to plaque, leading to inflammation and bleeding. This is also called pregnancy gingivitis or gum disease.  It is therefore important to keep your teeth and gums as clean and healthy as possible, by practising good oral hygiene.  Your dentist will be able to help with this.

Bloatedness
This is because you are retaining fluid, which is a common complaint that is aggravated by prolonged standing. It is important to remember that you should not limit your fluid intake to avoid feeling bloated. You should drink two litres of fluid daily and should limit your intake of tea and coffee as the caffeine content of these drinks will affect the vitamins in your food, particularly vitamin C.

Constipation
Ensure a diet of fibre and drink plenty of water.  Regular exercise can also help, as can the avoidance of iron supplements.  Read more about 'Constipation During Pregnancy'

Cramp
Cramp is a sudden, sharp pain, usually in your calf muscles or feet. It is most common at night. Nobody really knows what causes it, but the extra weight of pregnancy may place strain on the leg muscles, making them more vulnerable to cramping.  To relieve the pain, it usually helps if you pull your toes hard up towards your ankle or rub the muscle hard.  Regular, gentle exercise in pregnancy, particularly ankle and leg movements, will improve your circulation and may help to prevent cramp occurring.

Faintness
This arises from low blood pressure. Avoid long periods of standing, getting up quickly and overheating, especially in the bath.  If you feel faint while lying on your back, turn on your side.

Headaches
Headaches in women are often caused by hormones, and many women who are not pregnant notice a link with their periods. Menopause and pregnancy are also potential triggers.  Headaches can get worse in the first few weeks of pregnancy, but they usually improve or stop completely during the last six months. They don’t harm the baby but they can be uncomfortable for you.

Try to get more regular rest and relaxation.  Taking paracetamol in the recommended dose is generally considered safe for pregnant women, however, it is adviseable to speak to your pharmacist or GP about how much paracetamol you can take and for how long.

Heartburn/Indigestion
This is partly caused by hormonal changes, and in later pregnancy by the growing womb pressing on your stomach.  It is also thought to be a result of the relaxing of the lower oesophageal sphincter (ring of muscle) that acts like a gate between your stomach and your oesophagus, allowing stomach acid to leak back up.  As many as eight out of 10 women experience indigestion at some point during their pregnancy, the symptoms of which can include feeling full, feeling sick or nauseous, and burping. The symptoms usually come on after eating food.

Heartburn is a painful, burning sensation in the chest or regurgitation of acid in the throat. Eat small frequent meals and avoid eating within three hours of going to bed at night; avoid spicy or fatty foods and very cold liquids. Alcohol, smoking, coffee and chocolate may aggravate the problem. Sit as upright as possible and prop yourself up with pillows at night.  You may want to keep a glass of milk beside your bed in case you wake up with
heartburn in the night, as this can also help to relieve the burning sensation.

If you have severe indigestion, or if changes to your diet and lifestyle don't work, your GP may suggest using medication to help ease your symptoms. Several indigestion medicines are safe to use during pregnancy.   However, check with your GP or pharmacist before taking anything that they have not recommended.

Nosebleeds

Nosebleeds are quite common in pregnancy because of hormonal changes. They are
usually short but can be quite heavy.  During pregnancy, you may also find that your nose gets more blocked up than usual.

To stop a nosebleed, firmly pinch the soft part of your nose, just above your nostrils, for 10 minutes.  Lean forward and breathe through your mouth, as this will drain blood down your nose instead of down the back of your throat (stay upright, rather than lying down, as this reduces the blood pressure in the veins of your nose and will discourage further bleeding.)

Piles
These are dilated veins in your anus and can be very painful, itchy and uncomfortable. Piles usually occur from the third month onwards, and usually occur because the hormones make your veins to relax. This could also be due to anxiety, heartburn, and your baby pressing on your bladder.  A hot milky drink and a warm shower may help you relax.  Eat a high fibre diet and drink lots of water.  Take regular exercise to improve circulation and avoid standing for long periods.  Try to avoid straining to pass a stool as this may aggravate your piles.  Your GP can prescribe suppositories and creams for added help.

Stretch Marks
These are raised, red lines on your breasts, abdomen or bottom and are very common in the general population.  Hormonal changes in pregnancy can affect your skin and make you more likely to get stretch marks, however.  After your baby is born, the marks should gradually fade and become less noticeable, but they won't go away completely.

You are more likely to get stretch marks if your weight gain is more than average in pregnancy. Most women gain between 10kg and 12.5kg (22 to 28lb) in pregnancy, although this can vary a great deal.

Some creams claim to remove stretch marks once they've appeared, but there is no reliable evidence that they work. There is also limited evidence about whether oils or creams help prevent stretch marks from appearing in the first place.

Swollen Ankles, Feet and Fingers
Ankles, feet and fingers often swell a little in pregnancy as your body is holding more water than usual. Towards the end of the day, the extra water tends to gather in the lowest parts of the body, especially if the weather is hot or if you have been standing a lot. The gradual swelling isn't harmful to you or your baby, but it can be uncomfortable. 

It may help to avoid standing for long periods, wear comfortable shoes, put your feet up as much as possible and do some simple foot exercises.

If your face, feet or hands swell up suddenly, however, you should seek medical attention immediately. A pregnancy condition called pre-eclampsia can cause sudden swelling like this, although most women with swelling don't have pre-ecplampsia.

Tender Breasts
Wearing a good support bra will help as your body prepares for feeding your baby

Thrush
This is a yeast infection affecting as many as 75% of women. It causes itching, irritation and swelling of the vagina and surrounding area, with an unusually coloured discharge.It can be treated quickly with a cream prescribe by your doctor.  Thrush may be prevented by wearing loose cotton underwear, and some women find it helps to avoid perfumed soap or perfumed bath products.

Urinary Problems
These are due to the extra weight and pressure of your baby pressing on your bladder and pelvic floor and can occur when you laugh, sneeze or run. Regular pelvic floor exercises during and after pregnancy will help.

Needing to urinate often may start in early pregnancy. In later pregnancy it is the result of the baby’s head pressing on your bladder.  If you find that you need to get up in the night to pass urine, try cutting out drinks in the late evening. But make sure you drink plenty of non-alcoholic, caffeine-free drinks during the day. Later in pregnancy, some women find it helps to rock backwards and forwards while they are on the toilet. This lessens the pressure of the womb on the bladder so that you can empty it properly.

Vaginal Secretions
Almost all women have more vaginal discharge in pregnancy. This is because during pregnancy the cervix (neck of the womb) and vaginal walls get softer and discharge increases to help prevent any infections travelling up from the vagina to the womb.  Towards the end of pregnancy, the amount of discharge increases and can be confused with urine.

In the last week or so of pregnancy, your discharge may contain streaks of thick mucus and some blood. This is called a 'show' and happens when the mucus that has been present in your cervix during pregnancy comes away. It's a sign that the body is starting to prepare for birth, and you may have a few small 'shows' in the days before you go into labour.

Increased discharge is a normal part of pregnancy, but it's important to keep an eye on it and tell your GP if it changes in any way.  Healthy vaginal discharge should be clear and white and should not smell unpleasant.

Varicose Veins
Varicose veins are veins that have become  swollen. The veins in the legs are most commonly affected. You can also get varicose veins in the vulva (vaginal opening). They usually get better after the birth.

These can be helped by avoiding standing for long periods of time, not sitting with your legs crossed, trying not to put on too much weight or sitting with your legs up as often as you can.  You may wish to try support tights, and sleeping with your legs higher than the rest of your body.  Exercise, such as walking and swimming, will help your circulation and may therefore relieve the pain, as will these simple foot exercises:

  • bend and stretch your foot up and down 30 times
  • rotate your foot eight times one way and eight times the other
  • repeat with the other foot

Courtesy of http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/common-pregnancy-problems and https://www.huggies.co.za/bump-on-board/features/article-346503