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Common symptoms during pregnancy

Prenatal care - common symptoms

Growing a baby is hard work. Your body will go through a lot of changes as your baby grows and your hormones change. Along with the aches and pains of pregnancy, you will feel other new or changing symptoms.

Even so, many pregnant women say that they feel healthier than ever.

Fatigue

Being tired is common during pregnancy. Most women feel tired the first few months, then again toward the end. Exercise, rest, and a proper diet can make you feel less tired. It may also help to take rest breaks or naps every day.

Problems With Urination

Early on in the pregnancy, you will likely be making more trips to the bathroom.

  • As your uterus grows and rises higher in your abdomen (belly), the need to urinate often may lessen.
  • Even so, you will continue to urinate more throughout pregnancy. That means that you also need to drink more water, and may be thirstier than before you were pregnant.
  • As you get closer to delivery and your baby descends into your pelvis, you will need to pee much more, and the amount of urine passed at one time will be less (the bladder holds less due to pressure from the baby).

If you have pain when you urinate or a change in urine odor or color, call your health care provider. These could be signs of a bladder infection.

Some pregnant women also leak urine when they cough or sneeze. For most women, this goes away after the baby is born. If this happens to you, start doing Kegel exercises to strengthen the muscles of your pelvic floor.

Vaginal Discharge

You may see more vaginal discharge while pregnant. Call your provider if the discharge:

  • Has a foul odor
  • Has a greenish color
  • Makes you feel itchy
  • Causes pain or soreness

Constipation

Having a hard time moving the bowels is normal during pregnancy. This is because:

  • Hormone changes during pregnancy slow down your digestive system.
  • Later in your pregnancy, the pressure from your uterus on your rectum may also worsen the problem.

You can ease constipation by:

  • Eating raw fruits and vegetables, such as prunes, to get extra fiber.
  • Eating whole grain or bran cereals for more fiber.
  • Using a fiber supplement regularly.
  • Drinking plenty of water (8 to 9 cups daily).

Ask your provider about trying a stool softener. Also ask before using laxatives during pregnancy.

Heartburn

While you are pregnant, food stays in your stomach and bowels longer. This may cause heartburn (stomach acid moving back up into the esophagus). You can reduce heartburn by:

  • Eating small meals
  • Avoiding spicy and greasy foods
  • Not drinking large amounts of liquid before bedtime
  • Not exercising for at least 2 hours after you eat
  • Not lying down flat right after a meal

If you continue to have heartburn, talk to your provider about medicines that can help.

Nosebleeds and Bleeding Gums

Some women have nose and gum bleeding while they are pregnant. This is because the tissues in their nose and gums get dry, and the blood vessels dilate and are closer to the surface. You can avoid or reduce this bleeding by:

  • Drinking lots of fluids
  • Getting lots of vitamin C, from orange juice or other fruits and juices
  • Using a humidifier (a device that puts water in the air) to decrease dryness of the nose or sinuses
  • Brushing your teeth with a soft toothbrush to decrease bleeding gums
  • Maintaining good dental hygiene and using floss every day to keep your gums healthy

Swelling, Varicose Veins, and Hemorrhoids

Swelling in your legs is common. You may see more swelling as you get closer to giving birth. The swelling is caused by your uterus pressing on the veins.

  • You may also notice that the veins in your lower body are becoming larger.
  • In the legs, these are called varicose veins.
  • You may also have veins close to your vulva and vagina that swell.
  • In your rectum, veins that swell are called hemorrhoids.

To reduce swelling:

  • Raise your legs and rest your feet on a surface higher than your belly.
  • Lie on your side in bed. Lying on the left side is better if you can do it comfortably. It also provides better circulation for the baby.
  • Wear support pantyhose or compression stockings.
  • Limit salty foods. Salt works like a sponge and makes your body hold more water.
  • Try not to strain during bowel movements. This can worsen hemorrhoids.

Leg swelling that occurs with headaches or high blood pressure can be a sign of a serious medical complication of pregnancy called preeclampsia. It is important to discuss leg swelling with your provider.

Breathing Problems

Some women feel short of breath at times while they are pregnant. You may notice that you're breathing more rapidly than usual. It happens more often in the early part of the pregnancy due to the changes in your hormones. It may also happen again toward the end of your pregnancy because of pressure from the baby. Mild shortness of breath from exercise that quickly gets better is not serious.

Severe chest pain or shortness of breath that does not go away can be a sign of a serious medical complication. Call 911 or go to an emergency room right away if you have these symptoms.

You may get short of breath again in the later weeks of pregnancy. This is because the uterus takes up so much room that your lungs do not have as much space to expand.

Doing these things might help with shortness of breath:

  • Sitting up straight
  • Sleeping propped up on a pillow
  • Resting when you feel short of breath
  • Moving at a slower pace

If you suddenly have a hard time breathing that is unusual for you, see your provider right away or go to the emergency room.

References

Cline M, Young N. Antepartum care. In: Kellerman RD, Bope ET, eds. Conn's Current Therapy 2018. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:1123-1129.

Gregory KD, Ramos DE, Jauniaux ERM. Preconception and prenatal care. In: Gabbe SG, Niebyl JR, Simpson JL, et al, eds. Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 6.

West EH, Hark L, Catalano PM. Nutrition during pregnancy. In: Gabbe SG, Niebyl JR, Simpson JL, et al, eds. Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 7.

    • Pregnancy care

      Animation

    •  

      Pregnancy care - Animation

      It's always important to take good care of your health, but never more so than when you're pregnant. You're not only caring for your own body, you're also nurturing and growing a new human being. Let's talk about pregnancy care. During the nine or so months of your pregnancy, you'll see a lot of your ob/gyn. In fact, you should visit your doctor once a month during the first seven months of your pregnancy. Then you should see your doctor once every 2 or 3 weeks until your ninth month, and finally every week until you deliver. You might also see your regular doctor, a nurse midwife, or, if you have any complications, a perinatologist who specializes in high-risk pregnancies. That might sound like a lot of visits, but the goal is to keep a close eye on both you and your growing baby. Your doctor will check your baby's heart rate, and measure how quickly you're gaining weight. You'll likely have at least one ultrasound, where you can actually get to see your baby and find out the gender, unless you want it to be a surprise. Throughout your pregnancy, your doctor will monitor you for any health problems, such as high blood pressure or diabetes. At your regular prenatal visits, your doctor can give you advice about what to eat and how much to exercise. You can also ask about all those weird symptoms you've been having, like morning sickness, food cravings, and the constant urge to use the bathroom. There are a few things you need to do while you're pregnant to make sure you and your baby are healthy. First, you have to take 400 micrograms of folic acid every day. Folic acid is especially important right before you get pregnant, and during the first trimester of your pregnancy because it helps your baby's brain and spinal cord form. Taking folic acid can help prevent birth defects like spina bifida. One thing you need to avoid is alcohol. When you're craving a glass of wine or beer, have some sparkling water, grape juice, or ginger ale instead. Alcohol can be very dangerous for your baby. Also don't take any medicines without talking to your doctor first. That includes over-the-counter medicines like aspirin and cold relievers. Caffeine is okay, but only in moderation. Limit yourself to one cup of coffee, instead of your regular two or three. Don't smoke and stay away from anyone who is smoking. Cigarette smoke deprives your baby of oxygen. It can stunt your child's growth, and lead to birth defects such as a cleft lip or palate. If you're pregnant and you haven't seen a doctor yet, now is the time to call. The sooner you get prenatal care, the more likely that your baby will be born healthy. Let your doctor know if you have a condition like diabetes, seizures, or high blood pressure, or if you've been exposed to a sexually transmitted infection, chemicals, or radiation. Get medical help right away during your pregnancy if you have a fever, painful urination, vaginal bleeding, or severe stomach pain. Call if your water breaks, or you're not feeling your baby moving and it's near the end of your pregnancy.

    • Pregnancy care

      Animation

    •  

      Pregnancy care - Animation

      It's always important to take good care of your health, but never more so than when you're pregnant. You're not only caring for your own body, you're also nurturing and growing a new human being. Let's talk about pregnancy care. During the nine or so months of your pregnancy, you'll see a lot of your ob/gyn. In fact, you should visit your doctor once a month during the first seven months of your pregnancy. Then you should see your doctor once every 2 or 3 weeks until your ninth month, and finally every week until you deliver. You might also see your regular doctor, a nurse midwife, or, if you have any complications, a perinatologist who specializes in high-risk pregnancies. That might sound like a lot of visits, but the goal is to keep a close eye on both you and your growing baby. Your doctor will check your baby's heart rate, and measure how quickly you're gaining weight. You'll likely have at least one ultrasound, where you can actually get to see your baby and find out the gender, unless you want it to be a surprise. Throughout your pregnancy, your doctor will monitor you for any health problems, such as high blood pressure or diabetes. At your regular prenatal visits, your doctor can give you advice about what to eat and how much to exercise. You can also ask about all those weird symptoms you've been having, like morning sickness, food cravings, and the constant urge to use the bathroom. There are a few things you need to do while you're pregnant to make sure you and your baby are healthy. First, you have to take 400 micrograms of folic acid every day. Folic acid is especially important right before you get pregnant, and during the first trimester of your pregnancy because it helps your baby's brain and spinal cord form. Taking folic acid can help prevent birth defects like spina bifida. One thing you need to avoid is alcohol. When you're craving a glass of wine or beer, have some sparkling water, grape juice, or ginger ale instead. Alcohol can be very dangerous for your baby. Also don't take any medicines without talking to your doctor first. That includes over-the-counter medicines like aspirin and cold relievers. Caffeine is okay, but only in moderation. Limit yourself to one cup of coffee, instead of your regular two or three. Don't smoke and stay away from anyone who is smoking. Cigarette smoke deprives your baby of oxygen. It can stunt your child's growth, and lead to birth defects such as a cleft lip or palate. If you're pregnant and you haven't seen a doctor yet, now is the time to call. The sooner you get prenatal care, the more likely that your baby will be born healthy. Let your doctor know if you have a condition like diabetes, seizures, or high blood pressure, or if you've been exposed to a sexually transmitted infection, chemicals, or radiation. Get medical help right away during your pregnancy if you have a fever, painful urination, vaginal bleeding, or severe stomach pain. Call if your water breaks, or you're not feeling your baby moving and it's near the end of your pregnancy.

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      Review Date: 9/25/2018

      Reviewed By: John D. Jacobson, MD, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Loma Linda University School of Medicine, Loma Linda Center for Fertility, Loma Linda, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

      The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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