Growing a human is no cakewalk and a lot is going to happen to your body over the full 40 weeks. Some things, like morning sickness, you know about. Other things, like the fact that morning sickness can last all day or even all pregnancy, will surprise you.
Every pregnancy is different and if we wrote about every symptom, you’d be reading from now until your due date. Here are some of pregnancy’s most common, most annoying, or even most painful symptoms – and how to cope.
According to old wives’ tales, heartburn is a sure sign of a baby with lots of hair. I’d happily take a bald baby if it meant I wasn’t burping up my dinner when I lie down at night.
Pregnancy heartburn happens for two reasons: the hormones that are softening up your hip ligaments to prepare your body to give birth are not discerning. They soften up everything else too – including the handy little stopper that prevents food from coming back up your oesophagus after eating. On top of that, the baby is taking over your abdomen, squishing all your poor organs, including your stomach. There’s simply not as much room and excess food comes back up the pipes.
Watching your diet helps pregnancy heartburn. That means eating in small quantities and avoiding the foods that make heartburn flare up. Citrus fruits, coffee, tomatoes, fatty foods, sugary treats, too much salt and (say it ain’t so) chocolate can all be culprits.
Sleeping propped up on pillows helps keep things under control at night, but if it’s too much to handle, see the doctor about medication that’s safe to take during pregnancy.
MORE Pregnancy Health
Pelvic pain, lower back pain, hip pain
All the pain! Whether your sciatic nerve is flaring, sending electric shocks down the back of your bottom and thigh, or the ligaments holding your pelvic bones together are so loose it feels like the bones are grinding on each other, this pain really is tough to deal with and makes even gentle exercise like walking or yoga nearly impossible.
There are support belts to strap around your hips that support your belly and ligaments, but in my experience, you can’t sit with a stiff belt wrapped under your belly. SRC Health’s Pregnancy Shorts ($189) and leggings ($199) are specialised compression garments for pregnancy and they’re perfect for giving you all the support you need while still being comfortable enough to wear all day and night. They were designed in consultation with an obstetrician to address pelvic and back pain, varicose veins and to help you manage decreased mobility and stability.
In the old days they said a woman lost a tooth for every pregnancy. If that’s true, with the big families they had in the old days, there must have been a lot of toothless women around. These days our gums just swell and bleed because of a brilliant little hormonal condition called Pregnancy Gingivitis in which your hormones make your gums more sensitive to plaque bacteria. The best way to deal with bleeding gums is to brush often and brush well, but do it gently.
Carpal tunnel syndrome
This can appear in varying severity. I used to wake up with tingling hands that would sort themselves out as the day went on. Some women have pain radiating up their forearms, or their hands go numb. This is from fluid build-up and swelling putting pressure on a major nerve that runs from the forearm to the hand.
For relief, try this exercise: make a fist, bend your wrist towards the palm, straightening your fingers and stretching your wrist backwards. Do this in reps of 10. There are wrist braces available from the chemist that can help as well.
Wee when you sneeze
Most of the other symptoms sort themselves out post birth, albeit slowly. This one takes some work. Remember how everyone kept hammering on about pelvic floor exercises in your antenatal classes? There was a good reason. Without a strong pelvic floor, you’ll wee a little when you sneeze, when you cough, when something is especially hilarious, when you jump or run or pretty much do anything with a remotely full bladder.
The only way to sort this one out is to do your pelvic floor exercises a few times a day. Squeeze for five seconds, let go for two. Repeat this 10 times, three times a day. In the meantime, if you’re planning to jump or sneeze or laugh, try to do it with an empty bladder.
In your pre-pregnancy life, a headache meant you would pop some pain relief and get on with your day. Headaches in pregnancy are caused by many things: tiredness, hunger, tension, infected sinuses, food sensitivities – and the rub is that you’re not meant to take anything much.
Like many ailments, prevention is the first step. Get enough sleep, eat regular, balanced meals so blood sugar levels are even, and keep a food diary to see if certain foods are triggering your headaches. Remember how chocolate can give you heartburn? It can give you headaches too.
If you’ve already got a headache, lying down in a dark, cool room can offer some relief. If it’s a sinus headache, try using a humidifier to add moisture to the air. There are medications that are safe to take for pain during pregnancy, but check with your doctor before taking anything.
Tiger stripes. They’re not harmful, they don’t do much more than itch, and after the baby, they remain a visible record of the strength and work it took to get a little person safely into the world. It can be hard to love stretch marks from pregnancy – so many dramatic changes happen to your body at once – but there are plenty of women speaking out, bearing and sharing their tiger stripes. If you can’t beat ’em, learn to love ’em.
When you’re in the thick of pregnancy, all the aches and pains seem like they’ll never end. But once your baby is born, you’ll forget about them so completely that you might even be crazy enough to do it all a second time. And for some, a third, or a fourth!
(This is a sponsored post for SRC Health)