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Problems in Pregnancy

Think of stretch marks as pregnancy service stripes.”
Joyce Armor 

Pregnancy is undoubtedly one of the most special times you will ever experience. There are, however several nuisances that you will more than likely encounter along the way. Rest assured that you are not alone in experiencing these problems (there’s a reason scriptwriters and comedians love to focus on these aspects of pregnancy) and the joy your baby will bring far outweighs these little niggles along the way. Your body is changing to create an optimal environment for your baby’s development, and just as adding a new room to the house causes the rest of the family upheaval for awhile, the house is better for it in the end. Here’s what to expect of your body as your baby settles in:

Tender breasts

As your body starts to change to accommodate a developing baby, your breasts get ready to perform their intended function – breastfeeding. Anywhere from week 1 to week 12 of your pregnancy, extra blood begins to run through them and the milk glands grow, causing some swelling and pain. Your breasts will continue to grow throughout your pregnancy, but the tenderness should fade after the first trimester. You will probably also notice spots around the nipple area becoming darker and more noticeable. Late in your pregnancy your nipples may start to leak slightly. This is colostrum - the first milk your breasts make in preparation to feed your baby.

Fatigue

The changes your body is undergoing are extremely demanding and even simple daily tasks may become exhausting. There is an increased load on your heart caused by the need to supply extra oxygen to your baby’s developing organs; this will cause you to feel tired more quickly than usual. As your pregnancy progresses the mere fact that your baby is growing and getting heavier will takes its toll on your energy levels. Listen carefully to your body and rest whenever you can. If your tiredness seems excessive, consult your doctor to ensure that you are not anaemic.

Frequent Bathroom Breaks

As pregnancy hormones take hold you will almost certainly want to urinate much more often. As baby grows, this need increases due to the physical pressure on your bladder. Don’t be tempted to drink less to avoid urinating often – urinary tract infections can occur very easily during pregnancy and it is vital to drink plenty of fluids, especially water, to prevent this from happening. Consult your doctor immediately if you experience any pain or burning when you urinate. Later in your pregnancy, try rocking back on forth on the toilet – this alleviates some of the pressure of the womb on the bladder and helps you to empty it properly. You may also experience the occasional leak of urine when coughing, laughing or changing position. This is caused by the relaxation of the pelvic floor muscles and is perfectly normal – and temporary! Concentrate on performing pelvic floor exercises – these will help with the birth process and will reduce the risk of long-term incontinence.

Morning sickness

Most women experience some nausea and vomiting early on in their pregnancy. For many this does indeed happen only in the morning but don’t be surprised if it continues throughout the day and at night. Happily, this generally eases off early in the second trimester, but it may reoccur from time to time until you give birth. Every mom can share a long list of what helped her ease her nausea, but most will agree that the following are helpful: eating small meals regularly and eating ginger biscuits or drinking ginger tea. Exactly why morning sickness occurs is still unknown, but hormonal changes seem to be the most likely cause. You will also experience changes in taste preferences and other minor digestive niggles throughout your pregnancy.

Constipation

If you are going to be plagued by constipation, it will more than likely occur in the first 3 months of pregnancy. Pregnancy hormones are wreaking havoc once again and relaxing your muscles to such an extent that your bowels are not pushing food through your body as effectively as they should be. Your colon in turn absorbs more water from the food, making your faeces more difficult to pass. Combat this common, albeit annoying, problem by eating high fibre foods, fresh fruit and vegetables and drinking plenty of fluids. Constipation may lead to haemorrhoids around the anus, which are painful and itchy. Ask a pharmacist for a haemorrhoid cream or your doctor for treatment advice.

Weight gain

There is no avoiding this one - you will put on weight during your pregnancy. Weight gain varies from woman to woman, with the average being between 10 to 12.5kg. Should you be particularly under or over-weight when you fall pregnant, your doctor will have specific advice as to your weight gain during pregnancy. Remember that while you are nourishing two, you are not actually eating for two and it is in your best interests, and your baby’s, to maintain a healthy weight. Your pregnancy weight gain is made up of your developing baby, placenta and amniotic fluid, the growth of your womb and breasts, the increased blood in your circulation, water retention and fat stores.

Backache

It stands to reason that with a developing baby pushing your abdomen out, your spine will be under greater stress. Add to that the strain caused by the softening ligaments of the joints of your lower back and pelvis and you have the perfect recipe for backache. Make the best of a difficult situation by making sure you sleep on a good mattress and avoiding lifting heavy objects. When you have to lift something, make sure you bend you legs and keep your back straight. Be kind to your back – you will need its support when lifting a baby and toddler!

Heartburn

Pregnancy hormones cause many muscles in your body to relax, including the muscle at the end of your oesophagus. This causes acid from your stomach to pass back up into your oesophagus, causing heartburn. Try eating small, frequent meals so that your stomach never becomes overfull. Listen to your body and avoid acid producing foods. Don’t suffer in silence - there are many antacid remedies available from pharmacies.

Varicose veins

As your circulation is slower during pregnancy, you may experience swollen veins in your legs. Try to avoid standing for long periods of time and wear compression stockings, especially if you already have varicose veins.

Swelling

When you are pregnant, your body retains more fluid. This causes swelling or oedema, especially in the ankles, feet and hands. Once again, try to avoid standing for long stretches and put your feet up whenever you can. Spend some time each day lying down with your feet elevated above your heart. If the swelling seems severe, consult your doctor or midwife to ensure that you are not developing a condition called pre-eclampsia.

Stretch marks

It goes without saying that your skin needs to stretch as your body grows with pregnancy. For many (but not all) women this means the onset of pink or purplish lines called stretch marks. These start out as red lines and can appear anywhere on the body, most often showing up on the tummy, thighs and breasts. Whether or not you will get stretch marks depends entirely on your skin type, with the likelihood increasing if your weight gain is above average. There are many creams and oils available to aid in preventing these marks. While these are worth using to keep the skin elastic, the results are not guaranteed. The good news is that stretch marks fade considerably after your baby is born.

Try to keep a sense of humour throughout your pregnancy and focus on the wondrous outcome. As always, trust your instincts and consult your doctor or midwife if you experience anything that you feel is more than a normal issue.

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