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It is quite normal to have a few discomforts throughout your pregnancy. We have put together some commonly experienced symptoms in pregnancy, useful tips on how you can overcome them and red flags when you need to consult a doctor.
Nausea and vomiting / “Morning sickness”
This is a very common symptom experienced by many mothers and affects at least 50% of all pregnancies. It can happen at any time of the day, or any stage of the pregnancy. Nausea and vomiting usually starts around six weeks into your pregnancy and settles by about 14 to 16 weeks. These symptoms may arise as a result of increasing level of pregnancy hormones.
What can be done?
When to consult a doctor?
Fatigue and feeling faint
It is common to feel tired during pregnancy, especially in the first 12 weeks. Later in pregnancy, you may experience difficulty sleeping, which can be due to anxiety about approaching childbirth and parenthood, and feel tired because of the extra weight you are carrying.
Some women may feel faint, especially when you stand too quickly from a chair, get off the toilet, out of a bath, or when you are lying on your back. Other conditions such as anaemia can also make you feel tired during pregnancy.
Heartburn affects up to 60 to 80% of pregnancy and it is partly caused by hormonal changes reducing gastric emptying time, and later when the growing baby presses on your stomach. It can also be caused by eating a heavy meal, food with high fat contents or caffeinated drinks. Women feel burning pain or discomfort in the throat, chest or stomach, accompanied by a bitter taste in the mouth.
Constipation is very common especially in early pregnancy affecting up to 40% of women. It means that you are not passing stools as often as you normally do and, you have to strain more than usual or you are unable to completely empty your bowels.
Pregnancy hormones can reduce the speed at which your bowel digest and move food through the body. In later trimesters, fully grown baby can also compress large intestines, contributing to constipation symptoms. Iron supplements, along with reduced intake of water due to poor appetite will also worsen constipation.
Frequent urination and incontinence (leaking urine) are common symptoms experienced by up to 30% of pregnant woman. These symptoms are usually caused by the increased pressure from the developing pregnancy onto the bladder, but sometimes can be due to a urinary tract infection, especially if you feel burning sensation when you pass urine.
Most women experience backache at some stage during their pregnancy. The causes include mechanical stress on the lower back to the expanding uterus, shifting of the centre of gravity forwards and changes in your posture, which put strain on your back. It usually goes away after the baby is born, but for many women, back pain lingers for months after giving birth. It can rarely be due to urinary tract infection, kidney stone, or a sign of preterm labour.
Lower limb swelling
Mild lower limb swelling especially at the end of the day is very common and can be simply due to water retention or increase pressure on the blood vessels in your legs. Up to 80% of pregnant women will experience some lower limb swelling.
Leg cramps are normal but sometimes uncomfortable during pregnancy. They usually happen at night and are more common late in your pregnancy. There are many suggested reasons for cramps, such as carrying extra weight, changes to your metabolism, vitamin deficiency, being too active or not active enough, but the truth is nobody really knows the reasons.
During pregnancy, increased levels of progesterone hormone increases vaginal discharge to prevent any infections travelling up from vagina to the womb. It is thus, normal to experience more vaginal discharge during your pregnancy. Rarely, it can be due to a vaginal infection.
Round ligament pain
This is very common and is not dangerous to you or your baby. Pregnancy hormones cause the ligaments to be looser and more elastic. Stretching of these ligaments can cause them to go into spasm, causing pain in the lower abdomen or groin area. It can be made worse by sudden movement such as standing up from a sitting position, rolling over in bed, or any actions that increase abdominal pressure such as sneezing, coughing or laughing.
Hair changes during pregnancy
Hormonal changes during pregnancy can affect your hair, making it thicker or thinner. Many women experience their hair feeling thicker around 15 weeks of pregnancy. This is not because each hair strand itself becomes thicker, but because the hair stays longer, means less hair falls out than usual.
Some women experience more hair falling out during and after pregnancy. This is usually nothing to worry about as your hair growth will return to normal by the time your baby is around 12 months old.
Skin changes during pregnancy
Some women can develop dark patches on their face (called chloasma). Your nipples, birthmarks, moles, freckles and line down the middle of the stomach (called “linea nigra”) may also darken. This is thought to be due to stimulation of pigment-producing cells by female sex hormones. These changes usually fade over a period of several months after giving birth.
Many women (8 out of 10) develop stretch marks during their pregnancy, usually in the last 3 months. They are not harmful and over time, will shrink and fade into paler scars and become less noticeable.