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. Here are some tips to avoid straining to open your bowels as this can stretch and weaken your pelvic floor muscles and support.
To help ease 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
- If you eat wholemeal breads and cereals, have plenty of water with these to keep your motions soft and easier to pass
- Exercise – keep active as this can help to keep your bowels regular. Read more about being active during pregnancy. Fit for pregnancy information. Aquanatal guidelines.
- 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
- Include dried fruits as a snack and if you have gestational diabetes please discuss with your midwife
To help pass a motion:
- Try using a footstool under your feet and leaning forwards, elbows to knees, when passing a motion. Gently brace your tummy outwards (say ‘mmmmm’) and bulge your tummy outwards, (say ‘oooo’) gently to pass the motion and breathe out softly – try not to hold your breath. How to Empty Your Bowels Without Straining – YouTube. Improving your bowel function.
- Some women find they prefer to also support the vaginal area with their hand when passing a motion
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
- Keep hydrated
Around 1 in 5 women suffer from pain in their pelvic joints during pregnancy. It is often called pregnancy-related pelvic girdle pain (PGP) or symphysis pubic dysfunction (SPD).
Although PGP is painful, it is not dangerous for your baby and most women who experience it can have a vaginal birth.
It’s hard to predict who will experience PGP and the causes are unclear.
Skin and hair changes
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
- Inform your midwife if you have any/develop any in your pregnancy