Pregnancy is the biggest natural body change. The female body is designed for pregnancy, but even so having another little person grow inside can cause some discomforts. It is a time to look after your health. You have to look after yourself to be able to look after your baby, this does not just relate to pregnancy but also after the baby is born.

With my first pregnancy I was working a lot of nights and got run down and ended up in hospital with bronchitis at 38 weeks. Looking back I should have rested more and finished working earlier. This pregnancy my Midwifery job is more clinic work, which I am finding easier. Some women will sail through their pregnancy and others will find 40 weeks feels like 40 years.

I have listed some of the common pregnancy discomforts and some things I have found or heard are of help. Hormones and the increase in weight cause most of these discomforts. Everyone will put on a different amount of weight in pregnancy and a lot of LMC’s do not weigh pregnant women any more. How much weight you put on doesn’t always relate to the weight of your baby sometimes it is more to do with how many chocolate biscuits you have been eating!

I always feel hungry when pregnant. I put on 22 kgs in my first pregnancy and it all came off again after 6 months. There is an expected average weight gain during pregnancy of around 12 kg, with 2 kg in the first 20 weeks then 0.5 kg per week until the birth. This weight is from the growth of the baby, uterus, breasts, placenta and from an increase in fat storage (for breastfeeding) fluid around baby (amniotic fluid) and body fluid (blood etc)

Pregnancy Discomforts

Bleeding gums and increased salivation (saliva): Use a soft toothbrush and maintain good care of your teeth and gums. There has been research linking gum disease and other infections to premature births.

Morning sickness: Pregnancy often causes changes in taste, food cravings and nausea. It is called morning sickness but nausea can happen at any time of the day and is due to raised hormone levels usually in the first 12 weeks. Small frequent meals and dry crackers, ginger or Acupuncture/pressure may help

Tiredness/Insomnia: Try catnaps during the day. Insomnia is common, normal and largely ‘untreatable’ so allow yourself to stop being anxious about being awake – say things like ‘well at least I’m resting, and its nice and cosy in this bed’.

Constipation/Haemorrhoids: Your gut slows down to allow more nutrients to be absorbed for the baby but this can lead to constipation. Exercise and increasing the fibre in your diet often helps. Kiwicrush found at most supermarkets in the frozen section is a natural laxative.

Leg Cramps: Stop feet flexing at night with a pillow at bottom of feet.
Some people say drinking a Banana smoothie (calcium and potassium) helps reduce this.

Backache: The weight of the baby can cause you to lean backwards to try to balance but this can put strain on your back in the area of your lumbar curve. Also relaxin hormone can cause ligaments to be more relaxed. This is why it is important to concentrate on good posture and not to do heavy lifting. Gentle exercise eg yoga, swimming, walking and heat packs can help.

If your backache is pregnancy related you can see a physiotherapist for free with a referral from your LMC.

Emotional Changes: It is common to be more emotional and have memory loss.

Varicose Veins or Swollen feet: Avoid constriction such as crossing your legs and rest with feet up.

Heartburn: This is related to relaxation of the opening at the top of your stomach letting the acid come back up. Try a bland diet and sleep with extra pillow to keep the head above the stomach using gravity to stop gastric juices coming back up. Take antacids only if prescribed by a health professional.

Stretch marks: Some woman will get stretch marks over the breasts, abdomen and legs. These red marks will go silvery white around 6 months after the birth but never fully go away. There is a lot of lotions that claim to reduce stretch marks but the often if you are going to get them or not is more due to your skin type.

Sweating: You will often hear people tell pregnant woman they will have an inbuilt heater and some days it will feel like that. Helpful during winter but not in summer. You think that a Midwife would know not to time being pregnant during the hottest months of the year! The hormone progesterone can raise body temperature and the extra blood supply to the skin leads to more sweating.

Find more information at –

Please always consult your Midwife or Doctor re health problems. Ministry of Health provides access to health information such as pamphlets, fact sheets, booklets and posters. There is a lot of information and pamphlets covering health in pregnancy some topics they cover are:

Pregnancy Information

Alcohol effects babies brain development and it is not known what is a safe level of alcohol consumption in pregnancy. The Alcohol Advisory Councils web site is ph 0800 787 797

Smoking effects the placenta and the baby will get a reduced oxygen and food supply thus often being smaller when born. Babies exposed to cigarette smoke have a higher risk of cot death/sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) If you can not stop smoking even reducing the number of cigarettes per day you smoke will help.

Avoid any drugs unless they have been prescribed, and always let your doctor or chemist know you are pregnant. Even avoid vitamin supplements and homeopathic remedies until you have consulted with a health professional. It is recommended to take folic acid supplements in early pregnancy, as what you can get via your diet is often not enough.

Avoid x-rays during pregnancy unless they are medically needed.

High intake of caffeine has been linked to small babies and miscarriages.

Do not try to diet when pregnant, your baby will need good iron and calcium supplies. If you are on a special diet your LMC can refer you to see a dietician.

Article by Helen Pulford (Midwife and Childbirth Educator) owner of:
Directory for pregnancy, childbirth and parenting web sites.
Childbirth education resources.

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Birth Resources provides information but it is not a substitute for professional midwifery or medical care. You should always seek the advice of your midwife, doctor or health professional for any concerns you may have regarding your health.

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