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Some Common Discomforts

There are many common discomforts associated with pregnancy. They are generally not serious and there are things you can do to relieve the discomfort. However, should any of these conditions persist you should discuss them with your doctor or someone at the clinic.

Frequent Urination

Increased urination is one of the first signs of pregnancy. The problem decreases after the third month, but it may return during the last month because the baby is pressing against your bladder. Frequent urination is normal during pregnancy and there is nothing much you can do to prevent it. Don't try to hold it in. It will only make you more uncomfortable and it increases the risk of kidney and bladder infection.

If you have a burning or itching sensation when you urinate, tell your doctor. Continue drinking plenty of liquids (preferably water, milk, and fruit juices) throughout your pregnancy.

Nausea and Vomiting

Nausea and vomiting are common complaints during the first month of pregnancy and are usually due to hormonal changes occurring in your body. About half of all pregnant women experience this problem. Nausea may start about the sixth or seventh week, but seldom continues beyond the end of the third month. Although often called morning sickness, nausea and vomiting may occur at any time of the day. If vomiting is severe and you cannot keep fluids down, report it to your doctor. Never take prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines, or a home remedy unless recommended by your doctor.

You may find some relief by eating dry cereal, a piece of toast, or a cracker about a half hour before getting out of bed in the morning. Move slowly when you get up. Let plenty of fresh air into the house to get rid of cooking and other household odors.

Divide your food into five small meals a day rather than three large ones, since keeping food in your stomach seems to control nausea. Avoid greasy and highly spiced foods or any food that disagrees with you. Drinking liquids between meals instead of with your food may help.


Heartburn has nothing to do with your heart. It is a burning sensation caused by hormonal changes that slow down your digestive system and by the pressure of the growing uterus against your stomach. Food mixed with stomach acid is pushed up from your stomach and causes the burning, especially after meals.

To avoid heartburn, try some of the hints suggested for nausea and vomiting. Eat five times a day and avoid greasy foods and other foods that do not agree with you.

Changing your sleeping position may also help relieve heartburn. Try sleeping with several pillows to raise your head or elevate the head of the bed a few inches.

Do not take baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) to relieve your heartburn. Remember, you should not take any medicines unless your doctor recommends them.


Constipation is also due to hormonal changes that tend to relax the muscles of your digestive system. Late in pregnancy, constipation may be caused by the growing uterus pressing on the lower intestine. There are several things you can do to relieve constipation. Drink 6 to 8 glasses of liquids a day. A glass of cold water or juice before breakfast is often effective. Eat foods that provide fiber, such as whole grain cereals and breads, and raw fruits and vegetables. Get some exercise every day and make a habit of going to the bathroom every day at the same time. If you continue to be troubled after trying these things, tell your doctor. Do not take enemas, laxatives, or home remedies unless recommended by your doctor.

Shortness of Breath

As your baby grows larger and takes up more room, you may become short of breath. This problem will go away shortly before your baby is born. Moving more slowly will help conserve your breath

Varicose Veins

Varicose or enlarged veins usually occur in your lower legs, but may extend into the Pelvic area. They are caused by your enlarged uterus which presses on your abdominal veins and interferes with the return of blood from your legs. Varicose veins usually shrink and disappear during the first few weeks after the baby is born. However, it is wiser to try to avoid varicose veins than cure them.

You can help avoid varicose veins by not wearing tight garters, stockings, or socks. If at all possible, do not stand in one place for long periods of time. If your job requires you to stand, walk around at break time to improve circulation. If you can, sit down and put your feet up occasionally. Jobs in which you sit most of the day often aggravate varicose veins. Do not sit with your legs crossed or with the pressure of a chair under your knees. If traveling by car, take frequent rest stops and walk around. Support hose may also help you prevent varicose veins.

If you have varicose veins or swelling in your legs, lie on a bed, couch, or floor and raise your feet and legs up in the air, resting your heels against the wall. Take this position for 2 to 5 minutes several times a day.

If you have severe varicose veins, you may be advised to wear elastic stockings during the day. Support hose are not as effective as elastic stockings. Put elastic stockings on before you get out of bed in the morning, before your veins become swollen with blood. Take them off just before you go to bed. Wash them in mild soap after every wearing.

If you have varicose veins around your vaginal area, try to take frequent rest periods. Lie down with a pillow under your buttocks. This position elevates your hips and should give you some relief.

Leg Cramps

Leg cramps are more common during the latter months of your pregnancy and are generally due to pressure from the enlarged uterus. They frequently occur in bed. You can often get relief from leg cramps by heat, massage, or stretching the calf muscle. Here are two exercises that may help:

  • Begin by standing about 6 inches away from a sturdy chair and holding on to the back of it. Slide the foot of the leg that is cramping as far backward as you can while keeping your heel on the floor. Bend the knee of your other leg as you slide the foot. Hold onto the chair and slide the foot back to the starting position. Repeat.
  • If you have someone to help you, lie down on the bed or floor and straighten your cramped leg. Have your helper push down against your knee with one hand and push up against the sole of your foot with the other hand so that your foot is at a right angle to your leg. Release and repeat several times. If cramps continue, tell your doctor.

Vaginal Discharge

During pregnancy, you may have a thick white discharge from the vagina. This is usually nothing to be concerned about. Do not use tampons for the discharge or for any other reasons while you are pregnant. Occasionally, however, vaginal discharge is a sign of infection. Tell your doctor if you find that the discharge is bloody, yellowish. greenish, or dark, has a bad odor, is heavy and frothy, or causes burning and itching. You can help prevent vaginal infections by bathing or showering daily, by wearing cotton undergarments, and avoiding tight slacks or pantyhose.


Hemorrhoids are enlarged (varicose) veins of the rectum that often become painful. Again, prevention is important. Try to avoid becoming constipated so you don't need to strain when you have a bowel movement. Sometimes straining may cause hemorrhoids to protrude from your rectum. If this should happen, tell your doctor. The doctor or nurse will show you how to push them back into the rectum.

Lying down on your side with your hips on a pillow will help relieve your hemorrhoids. You may also get relief from an ice bag or from a compress of clean gauze or fabric soaked in cold witch hazel or a solution of Epsom salts. If your hemorrhoids bleed, let your doctor know. Generally, the problem of hemorrhoids is relieved after pregnancy.

Skin Changes

You may notice dark or reddish streaks on your abdomen and breasts due to the stretching of your skin. There is not much you can do about these streaks, but they generally fade after pregnancy. Skin changes do not occur in all women since some have more elastic skin.

Some women develop splotches or brownish spots on the face, but these spots also usually fade or disappear after the birth of the baby.

Aches and Pains in the Lower Abdomen

During your pregnancy you may experience various aches and pains in your abdominal region. Sharp, shooting pains on either side of your abdomen may be due to pressure of the growing uterus on the ligaments which support it. Changing position will often relieve the pain. In the later months of pregnancy you may feel vague pains in the lower abdomen as your pelvic joints loosen to prepare your body for delivery. Other causes of minor pain may be constipation or bladder infection. Let your doctor know if you are uncomfortable or if the pain persists.