Although some women are lucky enough to experience the "glow" of pregnancy, for the rest of us the 10 months growing a baby is HARD work. Working each day through nausea and heartburn, trying our best to continue with our normal routine. This post is for the Mamas who aren't "glowing". Here are some of the most common pregnancy symptoms and their causes...as well as some things you might try to feel a little bit better.
Tender breasts, fatigue, heartburn and constipation are all caused by hormonal changes. Let's take a closer look at each one:
- Tender and swollen breast tissue - caused by hormonal changes, this tenderness most often subsides after several weeks...only to return towards the end of pregnancy. Wear a supportive bra and just be gentle.
- Fatigue - with progesterone on the rise, someone could dangle a million dollars in front of you to stay up past 7:00pm and you couldn't do it. Listen to your body, get rest and eat really healthy stuff...this too will subside!
- Heartburn - those pesky little pregnancy hormones are going to start affecting your digestion. First, they will begin to relax the valve between your stomach and esophagus, giving stomach acid a much easier route UP and OUT. Eating small and frequent meals, avoiding fatty or highly acidic foods and sleeping on your left side can all help to decrease your acid reflux.
- Constipation - again, progesterone is to blame here! The hormone is slowing down your digestion in an attempt to get EVERY last bit of nutrition from the food you are eating. And with most Mamas being put on a iron supplement during pregnancy, the combination of the two can lead to significant constipation. Increasing your water intake, eating more high-fiber foods and having regular physical activity can all help to keep things moving.
- Nausea/Vomiting - also known as Morning Sickness - can hit you any time, day or night. It may be partially caused by hormones, but there are also other factors at play here. Best tip - do not let your stomach get empty! Eating smaller, more frequent meals, foods that aren't too pungent (in the odor department), increasing your water intake, eating a few bites of pretzels or crackers just before you get out of bed in the morning and having foods that contain ginger may all help to alleviate your symptoms. HG, Hyperemesis Gravidarum, is a diagnosis your practitioner will make if you have severe Morning Sickness that is leaving you dehydrated and under-nourished. Always check with your practitioner before taking any type of medication or supplement.
- Increased Urination - during the first trimester, your blood volume increases by almost 50%. This means your kidneys are cleaning a lot more blood, producing a lot more urine to be expelled from your body. This symptom carries more of a DO NOT with it. Although you may be tempted, DO NOT decrease your fluid intake to try and increase the amount of trips you take to the bathroom. Let your body do what it needs to do and just know that you will be frequently having bathroom breaks for the next 10 months!
- Heightened Sense of Smell - evolutionarily speaking, a pregnant Mama needs to know if the rustle in the bushes is a friend or foe. Increasing your sense of smell is a great way to do that! Sometimes it's pretty cool...and other times it makes you even more nauseous than you already were. Just try and avoid stinky foods and stinky places.
As your belly gets bigger and your breasts continue to grow, some old symptoms should begin to subside and some new ones may start to appear. Here is a list of symptoms that should be on their way out as the second trimester begins:
- Increased Urination - It will still be more than before you were pregnant, but you should be pretty used to your bathroom trip frequency by this point...and it shouldn't increase again until the final trimester.
- Your Skin - the pregnancy hormones wake up the melanin in your skin. You may notice brown splotches or a dark line down the center of your abdomen called the linea nigra. You may also begin to notice stretch marks as your belly gets bigger. Your skin, especially the stretching skin of your belly, can feel very itchy and dry. Applying moisturizer regularly can help to soothe your skin.
- Your Nasal Passages - remember that blood volume increase? Well, as you enter the second trimester, it can cause your mucous membranes to swell leading to stuffy and/or bloody noses. Remember to keep drinking tons of water and try to keep your nasal passages as moist as possible with humidifiers and petroleum around the edges of your nostrils.
- Vertigo - changes in your circulation can lead to vertigo or general dizziness. Remember to move slowly when changing positions (standing up, sitting up, etc) and drink plenty of water...seeing a common thread here?
- Leg Cramps - OMG! Your partner will think you're being a big baby...but those of us that have been in the trenches know THEY HURT! The pain will wake you right out of a deep sleep. Increasing your water intake and increasing potassium in your diet can help to prevent them. When they happen, have your partner gently massage and stretch out the muscle.
You're in the home stretch...and boy will you feel it! You now get the good...feeling and SEEING your baby moving around inside your body. All the regular culprits will be pushing through and may even increase here in the last trimester (heartburn, constipation, sense of smell). Some of our old friends will be returning (increased urination, fatigue, nausea/vomiting). But here are some additional things you may start to feel:
- Shortness of Breath - your baby is pushing against your diaphragm. not allowing you to take a deep breath. It is totally normal to have to pause several times while climbing a flight of stairs and feel like you just ran a marathon once you reach the top. Combat this issue by going slow, being conscious of your breathing and having good posture so your lungs have a little more room to expand.
- Braxton Hicks Contractions - these are practice contractions...your uterus getting ready for the big day. You should not feel "pain" with these contractions, just an intense tightening sensation that will last for 15-30 seconds. They may increase with physical activity. Remember, four or more in one hour is considered a pattern of labor, even if they are just Braxton Hicks contractions! Follow this link for a GREAT video showing the difference between Braxton Hicks contractions and productive labor contractions.
- Backache - a little hormone called "relaxin" relaxes the connective tissues in your body. The reason for this is to make the pelvis more flexible so it can change shape during labor...however; ALL joints will be effected. So your wrists. ankles and knees may start to crack and your back may begin to ache. Using heat or ice, wearing (not flat) low-heeled shoes with good support and using a belly-band to help support the weight of your abdomen can help to alleviate the issue. REMEMBER - a backache that is coming and going in a regular pattern could be contractions! Make sure to really tune in to your body.
- Your Veins - Guess what!?! Your body is going to increase your blood supply one more time! Not nearly as drastically as in the first trimester, but enough that you may feel and see its effects. Varicose veins (leg veins that enlarge and can become painful), spider veins (little red guys that can appear anywhere on your body) and hemorrhoids (swollen, external veins in your rectal area) are all potential players here. Compression stockings will help with the varicose veins and increased fiber, increased water and treatment with warm water baths (either in the tub or using a sitz bath) can help with the hemorrhoids.
Keep In Mind:
Although we've just covered several lists of things that will make pregnancy a challenge...keep in mind that your body is performing a miracle! You are growing a NEW HUMAN BEING! Really wrap your head around that. The power within that statement. Take that power with you in your day and know that all of this is temporary. All of this is part of growing your baby...and it will be over before you know it.
In Gratitude & With Love,
In Gratitude & With Love,