Understanding common challenges during pregnancy

Reviewed on : 22 March 2016

Women are the chosen ones by God to be able to nurture a new life and though they assist the almighty in something which is nothing less than a miracle, they face a variety of pains and discomforts during the course of their pregnancy. Every stage of pregnancy is associated with different challenges and these can vary from very short-term irritants to long lasting problems. As every pregnancy is unique in its own way, every woman may not experience all the issues associated with the process of procreation.

Fatigue – Feelings of being drained and distressed are very common during pregnancy, simply because the growing baby requires extra energy. It can also be linked to lower hemoglobin levels in the blood (anemia). Experts suggest that women who experience pregnancy fatigue should just take ample amount of rest and try to maintain as much a regular schedule as practically feasible. They should also try to engage in moderate to light physical exercise, consume a balanced diet and maintain their hydration levels.

Breast Changes – Most pregnant women will feel changes in their breasts including alterations in size. The breast increase in size is due to the enlargement of milk glands and fat tissues. During the first and last few months of pregnancy, this leads to respectively firmness and tenderness of the breast. The experts have stated that to combat this issue, women should wear bras, preferably cotton ones, that are comfortable and have appropriate support. They can also wash their breasts occasionally with warm water and moisturising soap to prevent dryness.

Nausea – Nausea and vomiting are the most common problems that pregnant women face. This occurs due to hormonal changes in the body. Since eventually body adjusts to these changes, the nausea and vomiting are usually experienced more in the early stages of pregnancy. Though usually more in the morning, this problem can occur during any time of the day. Some experts believe that dry foods like cereals, toasts or crackers before going to bed can help somewhat with morning sickness. The BRAT diet, consisting of bananas, rice and tea, can help some when women feel hungry but also nauseated.

Ginger and certain acupressure wrist bands have also been reported to be effective against nausea and vomiting. All pregnant women should consume sufficient amount of fluids throughout the day to compensate for any losses and try to avoid spicy and fried foods which can aggravate the problem of nausea. Frequent, smaller meals instead of a three large meals also help to reduce nausea.

Heartburn – Another common problem experienced during pregnancy is heartburn or indigestion. This happens because the digestive system of the mother tends to slow down due to hormonal changes. This weakens the stomach sphincter and leads to regurgitation of acidic stomach contents into the oesophagus leading to sensation of heartburn. To avoid and combat this issues, pregnant women should drink fluids, consume multiple small meals each day, avoid lying down immediately after eating and keep their head in a posture so that they are higher than their feet while lying down.

Constipation – Vitamins or iron supplements that the women have to take during their pregnancy, in conjunction with the hormonal changes, can cause constipation. Sometimes, the increased pressure on the rectum during pregnancy can also lead to constipation. Women who face constipation during their pregnancy should increase their fibre intake. Consumption of warm liquids and exercising can also help deal with this problem. In extreme cases, one can consult with a doctor who can prescribe laxatives to manage the problem.

Difficulty Sleeping – Drinking warm milk before going to bed can prove to be helpful for women who find it difficult to sleep during pregnancy. A warm shower also acts the same way. Lying on the left side can improve circulation and might make the women feel better enabling a more restful sleep. Positioning a pillow under the head, abdomen, behind the back and between the knees can prevent muscle strain and enable sleep.

Dizziness – There is no fixed period for the bouts of dizziness a pregnant woman may experience. It can happen anytime, mostly during the middle later stages of pregnancy. This is caused in some cases due to transient reduced blood supply to the brain, as the blood tends to collect in the veins of the lower limbs because of sluggish blood flow due to the increased levels of hormone progesterone, which dilates the blood vessels. The dizziness can also be due to lower blood pressure due to an increased blood supply to the uterus and also dilation of blood vessels due to progesterone.

The recommendations to prevent dizziness include to avoid standing still in one position for longer durations. Sudden movements, especially if getting up from a prone position, should be strictly avoided. Consumption of water and other fluids throughout the day is essential. Pregnant women should also eat smaller meals at regular intervals.

Hemorrhoids – The increased volume of blood along with sluggish blood flow due to the increased levels of hormone progesterone and pressure on the rectum by the enlarged uterus can sometimes give rise to hemorrhoids. These are swollen veins that are present on the anus. To avoid this, pregnant women should maintain adequate hydration levels, consume a fiber rich diet and exercise regularly as per the doctor’s advice. Ice packs and cold compresses in the affected area can also be helpful. Pregnant women should also avoid wearing tight underwear. If the problems still persists, they should contact their healthcare provider.

Headaches – Headaches are quite common during pregnancy. They are usually caused by tension, congestion or sometimes pre-eclampsia. Ample amount of rest and hydration is recommended for women who have headaches during their pregnancy. If they persist, the women should approach their doctor.

Leg Cramps – Another common problem women face during pregnancy is leg cramps. The increasing weight of the uterus can apply increased pressure on the leg muscles leading to cramps. Calcium rich foods should be consumed to avoid leg cramps. Women should avoid wearing heels. Whenever they rest, the legs should be kept elevated. Massaging the cramped area can also ease the pain. Regular light exercise can provide better long term relief.

Bleeding and Swollen Gums – The gums can become swollen during pregnancy because of the increased blood circulation and hormonal changes. The only recommendation for this problem is to ensure that pregnant women ensure that their teeth and gums are healthy. Regular brushing and flossing is advised.

Varicose Veins – Varicose veins can be another reason for having leg cramps during pregnancy. The veins in the legs swell up due to the changes in blood circulation. Most cases of varicose veins are hereditary. Moving around often is one of the keys to avoid this problem. A sedentary lifestyle can cause the veins in the legs to swell up. Wearing a support stocking, specially designed to relieve varicose veins, can also help. Exercising regularly and raising the feet when resting are also beneficial.

Shortness of Breath – The changes in physiological lung function can cause shortness of breath among pregnant women. Raising the arms higher than the head can be of some help. Women should avoid lying flat on their back and sleep with the head slightly elevated relative to the rest of the body. Persistent shortness of breath can point to pulmonary or cardiac problems and in such cases, pregnant women should consult their doctors immediately. Slowing down a bit while moving and resting can also help in dealing with the shortness of breath.

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