Pregnancy can be a very exciting time, especially if it has been much anticipated.
Over the 40-week duration of pregnancy, many physical and emotional changes occur. Unfortunately, sometimes these can be associated with unpleasant symptoms, which can make pregnancy uncomfortable or difficult for some women.
Uncomfortable symptoms in pregnancy can include:
- “Morning sickness” (nausea and vomiting)
- Low back or pelvic girdle pain
- Gastro-intestinal symptoms – such as bloating, reflux, and constipation.
- Varicose veins
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Dizziness or fainting
- Pelvic floor dysfunction
The adverse symptoms associated with pregnancy can usually be put down to a few factors:
The production or increase of certain hormones is necessary to sustain a healthy pregnancy, and starts immediately. However, these hormonal changes are believed to account for a number of the more unpleasant symptoms of pregnancy as well.
- Increases in Progesterone, Oestrogen and the production of Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG) are believed to contribute to morning sickness
- Increased oestrogen may also contribute to skin changes – this makes some women “glow” but others complain of skin outbreaks
- Increased progesterone relaxes the smooth muscles in the body and the walls of the blood vessels. This may contribute to gastro-intestinal symptoms, varicose veins and also lowers blood pressure, contributing to dizziness or fainting
- Increased relaxin levels are believed to cause softening of the supporting ligaments and muscles throughout the body, which can contribute to various body aches and pains, including low back pain and pelvic girdle pain. It may also contribute to pelvic floor dysfunction
Shape and Posture Changes, Weight Gain
These changes tend to become more obvious in the second half of pregnancy, and can make life a little more uncomfortable for some women.
- The growing “baby bump” will cause a shift forward in the centre of gravity. This can place more load on the low back and pelvis, contributing to pain
- Compensatory changes can occur further up the spine, with some women also complaining of mid back, or neck pain and headaches
- The increasing size of the uterus can push up on the diaphragm and stomach, contributing to shortness of breath and reflux
- That same increased size and weight of the uterus also stretches the abdominal muscles and puts downward strain on the pelvic floor muscles. The can contribute to low back and pelvic girdle pain, as well as pelvic floor dysfunction
- The overall increase in weight and effect on posture may also contribute to other joints aches, including knee and hip pain
Other pregnancy-related changes
- An increase in circulating blood volume can contribute to varicose veins and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- An increase in resting heart rate and body temperature make you feel like you are working harder at rest, and can make some feel light-headed and short of breath
Many of the adverse symptoms of pregnancy can be well-managed, or at least improved upon, with treatment.
- For more information on managing pelvic girdle pain, click here.
- For more information on managing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, click here.
- Morning sickness luckily only lasts for the first trimester for most pregnant women, although for some it can be prolonged. Eating a healthy diet, ginger tea, and continuing to exercise in pregnancy can all be helpful. A few unlucky women may experience extreme morning sickness (hyperemesis) and may need stronger medication to deal with this
- Gastro-intestinal symptoms such as reflux and bloating can be managed by eating smaller meals more often, rather than large meals 3 times a day
- Constipation can be managed by ensuring good toilet positioning and bowels habits, and eating a healthy diet with fibre included. Some women need assistance with stool softeners if the problem persists
- Varicose veins can occur in the legs or vulva, and can be quite painful. Support garments can be recommended, as well as ensuring sufficient movement/activity during the day to aid circulation
- Dizziness and fainting can be improved by ensuring adequate fluid intake and moving slowly from sitting or lying down to standing, to allow the blood pressure to adjust. Those with persistent symptoms should speak with their doctor and have their blood pressure checked
Advice for Pregnancy
- Seek help for any adverse pregnancy symptoms, as early intervention can make pregnancy a lot more comfortable
- Exercise during pregnancy is recommended, and can improve many joint aches, improves mood and the ability to cope with the demands of pregnancy
- Remember that sleeping on your back is not recommended in pregnancy. When sleeping on the side, you may be more comfortable with a pillow between your knees, and possibly extra padding under your hips
- There are many amazing changes occurring in the body during pregnancy – remember to account for these in your day to day life. You may need more rest, and to adapt the way you do some things to help you manage better
Need More Information?
You can read more about our treatment options and exercise options for pregnancy. To book see any of our experienced & qualified allied health staff about this issue, you can: