Your body has a lot of work to do during pregnancy and goes through so many changes. Sometimes these changes can cause irritation or discomfort, and at times you may feel worried by some of the symptoms.
Although these symptoms can be difficult to cope with, they are usually nothing to worry about, but you should always mention anything that’s worrying you to your midwife or consultant.
Constipation is a very common pregnancy symptom and is usually nothing to worry about. It’s usually caused by the hormonal changes in your body, or sometimes by prenatal supplements or other problems.
To help prevent constipation, you can:
- Eat foods that are high in fibre, such as wholemeal breads and cereals, fruit and vegetables, and pulses such as beans and lentils – read more about having a healthy diet in pregnancy
- Exercise regularly to keep your muscles toned – read more about exercise in pregnancy
- Drink plenty of water
- Avoid prenatal supplements containing iron. If you have been advised to take iron supplements and you are struggling with constipation, speak to your general practitioner (GP) about alternatives.
If you are still having problems with constipation, please speak to your midwife or GP. Learn more about constipation including symptoms and treatment.
Cramp is a sudden sharp pain, usually in your calf muscles or feet. It’s most common at night. Nobody really knows why it happens, but there are some ideas about causes of cramp and why it can occur in pregnancy.
Regular gentle exercise in pregnancy, particularly ankle and leg movements, will improve your circulation and may help prevent cramp.
Try these foot exercises:
- Bend and stretch your foot vigorously up and down 30 times
- Rotate your foot 8 times one way and 8 times the other way
- Repeat with the other foot
It usually helps if you pull your toes hard up towards your ankle or rub the muscle hard.
Pregnant women can often feel faint. This is usually due to hormonal changes. Fainting happens if your brain is not getting enough blood and, therefore, not enough oxygen.
You are most likely to feel faint if you stand up too quickly from a chair or out of a bath, but it can also happen when you are lying on your back. Read more about the causes of fainting.
Here are some tips to help avoid feeling faint:
- Try to get up slowly after sitting or lying down
- If you feel faint when standing still, find a seat quickly and the faintness should pass – if it doesn’t, lie down on your side
- If you feel faint while lying on your back, turn on to your side
- It’s better not to lie flat on your back in later pregnancy or during labour. You should avoid going to sleep on your back after 28 weeks as it has been linked to a higher risk of stillbirth
Find out about:
- Symptoms that might mean you’re going to faint such as a sudden clammy sweat, ringing in your ears and fast, deep breathing
- Treating faintness including what to do to help someone who is about to faint
You’re likely to feel warmer than usual during pregnancy. This is due to hormonal changes and an increase in blood supply to the skin. You’re also likely to sweat more.
It can help if you:
- Wear loose clothing made of natural fibres, as these are more absorbent and breathable than synthetic fibres
- Keep your room cool with an electric fan or air cooler
- Wash frequently to help you feel fresh
Incontinence is a common problem during and after pregnancy. Pregnant women are sometimes unable to prevent a sudden spurt of pee or a small leak when they cough, laugh, sneeze, move suddenly or just get up from a sitting position.
This may be temporary, because the pelvic floor muscles (the muscles around the bladder) relax slightly to prepare for the baby’s delivery.
You can find out more about:
Watch this video on how to strengthen your pelvic floor:
When to get help
In many cases, incontinence is curable. If you have a problem, talk to your midwife, doctor or health visitor.
Peeing a lot in pregnancy
Needing to pee a lot often starts in early pregnancy and sometimes continues until the baby is born. In later pregnancy, it’s caused by the baby’s head pressing on your bladder.
How to reduce the need to pee
If you find you need to get up in the night to pee, try cutting out drinks in the late evening. However, 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’re on the toilet. This lessens the pressure of the womb on the bladder so you can empty it properly.
When to get help
If you have any pain while peeing or you pass any blood in your pee, you may have a urine infection which will need treatment.
Drink plenty of water to dilute your pee and reduce pain. You should contact your GP within 24 hours of noticing these symptoms. Read more about symptoms and treatment of urinary infections.
Don’t take any medicines without asking your midwife, doctor or a pharmacist whether they’re safe in pregnancy.
Hormonal changes taking place in pregnancy will make your nipples and the area around them go darker. Your skin colour may also darken a little, either in patches or all over.
Birthmarks, moles and freckles may also darken. Some women develop a dark line down the middle of their stomach. These changes will gradually fade after the baby is born, although your nipples may remain a little darker.
If you sunbathe while pregnant, you may find you burn more easily. Protect your skin with a high-factor sunscreen and don’t stay in the sun for too long. Read more about keeping skin safe in the sun.
Hair growth can also increase in pregnancy, and your hair may be greasier. After the baby is born, it may seem as if you’re losing a lot of hair, but you’re just losing the extra hair you grew in pregnancy.
Hair loss during pregnancy can sometimes be a sign of vitamin deficiency or other issues. Speak to your Midwife or GP if you are concerned about this.
Varicose veins are veins that have become swollen. They can be uncomfortable but aren’t harmful. They most commonly affect leg veins.
You can also get varicose veins in the vaginal opening (vulva), although these usually get better after the birth.
If you have varicose veins, you should:
- Avoid standing for long periods of time
- Try not to sit with your legs crossed
- Try not to put on too much weight, as this increases the pressure
- Sit with your legs up as often as you can to ease the discomfort
- Try compression tights, which you can buy at most pharmacies – they won’t prevent varicose veins but can ease the symptoms
- Try sleeping with your legs higher than the rest of your body – use pillows under your ankles or put books under the foot of your bed
- Do foot and other antenatal exercises, such as walking and swimming, which will help your circulation
Around 1 in 5 women suffer from pain in their pelvic bones or joints during pregnancy. It is often called pregnancy-related pelvic girdle pain (PGP) or symphysis pubic dysfunction (SPD), and is caused by instability in the pelvic joints.
Although PGP is painful, it is not dangerous for your baby and most women who suffer from it can have a vaginal birth.
It’s hard to predict who will suffer from PGP but you are more likely to get it if:
- You’ve had it before in a previous pregnancy
- You have a physically demanding job
- You are having twins or more
- You have a history of back or pelvic pain
- You’ve had a previous injury to the pelvis
- You have a high body mass index (BMI)
- You have hypermobility
The causes are unclear, but in some cases it’s caused by relaxin, a hormone that makes your ligaments softer and more supple so that your baby can pass through the pelvis. In some women this can cause instability in the pelvis which leads to pain.
- Pain in the lower back
- Pain in the middle of your pelvis at the front
- The feeling that your pelvic bones are pulling apart
- Clicking or grinding in the pelvis
- Pain in the inner thighs / between your legs
- Pain that’s worse when your legs are moved apart, or by standing on one leg
- Pain that’s worse in the night and when standing after sitting or lying for a long time
If you are struggling with pain in your pelvis, speak to your midwife or GP – they can refer you to a physiotherapist who can give you some exercises to help, and help you to find less painful ways of sitting, lying, standing and walking. They may give you a pelvic support belt, or crutches if you are really struggling to walk.
You can reduce the amount of pain by modifying the way you move and your activities:
- Exercise gently, but avoid activities that make the pain worse
- Practice the pelvic floor and tummy exercises advised by the physiotherapist
- Wear flat shoes that offer lots of support
- Rest as much as possible
- Squeeze your knees together when trying to roll over in bed, stand up or lie down
- Swivel to get out of the car, rather than standing on one leg
- Get dressed sitting down
- Place a pillow between your legs when sleeping
- When using stairs, go up backwards on your bum, or take one step at a time
- Ask for help with chores, particularly vaccuuming or emptying the washing machine
- Sit down for chores like ironing and cooking where possible
- Wear high heels
- Stand on one leg, or put all your weight on one leg (e.g. when getting dressed, climing stairs)
- Don’t push things with your feet (e.g. doors, boxes etc.)
- Lift anything too heavy
- Push anything too heavy, like a full shopping trolley
- Carry anything heavy in one hand / on one shoulder – a backpack will help spread the load
- Sit on the floor
- Cross your legs when sitting
- Sit in one position for too long
PGP should improve after birth, although you may find you still have twinges around the time your period is due – this is because of similar hormones being released. If the pain continues, it’s a good idea to go back to the physiotherapist – you may be able to arrange an appointment directly if your referral has been left open, or you may need a new referral.
You could try these exercises to manage pelvic girdle pain:
Other common health problems in pregnancy include:
- Bleeding gums
- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
- High blood pressure and pre-eclampsia
- Indigestion and heartburn
- Leaking nipples
- Morning sickness and nausea
- Piles (haemorrhoids)
- Stretch marks
- Swollen ankles, feet and fingers
- Teeth and gums
- Vaginal discharge
- Vaginal bleeding