Bringing a new life into the world is a beautiful and exciting experience, but it also comes with its challenges. As your body undergoes significant changes to nurture and support your growing baby, it's not uncommon to feel tired, worried, or even scared at times. From alterations in body chemistry and function to changes in weight and body shape, pregnancy can cause a variety of physical changes that can be difficult to navigate. Additionally, distinguishing between normal discomforts and potential warning signs can be a daunting task for many expectant mothers.
It's crucial for expectant mothers to be aware of the most common pregnancy symptoms by trimester, as it can help them differentiate between normal discomforts and potential warning signs. In this blog post, we will explore the most common physical changes that occur during pregnancy and provide tips for managing them, so you can focus on enjoying this special time in your life.
How To Cope with Physical Symptoms
As you prepare for your pregnancy, it's important to be aware of the physical changes and sensations that come along with it. While the intensity of these changes varies from person to person and can be influenced by factors such as age, genes, and diet, it's generally true that pregnancy symptoms are manageable. With that in mind, we've compiled a list of practical tips and tricks to help alleviate some of the most common physical symptoms experienced during pregnancy. By implementing these strategies, you can improve your comfort level and enjoy this special time in your life to the fullest.
Nausea & Vomiting
How to deal with nausea and vomiting:
- Eat small, frequent meals every two hours to keep your system nourished.
- Choose protein-rich foods as they are superfoods that can help keep you healthy and active throughout your pregnancy and post-birth. If possible, choose foods that appeal to your taste buds, but make sure they fit within your dietary guidelines. Milk, especially goat milk, is an excellent source of calcium, phosphorus, and riboflavin.
- Drink fluids in small sips throughout the day as it's the best way to stay hydrated. However, avoid cold, tart drinks like fruit juices and lemonade.
- Separate your food and drinks. It's not recommended to consume food and drinks together as this can be detrimental to prenatal health. This includes before and after meals.
- Consider drinking ginger tea or other safe ginger drinks to help alleviate your symptoms and boost your pregnancy power.
- Take frequent breaks and ensure you get enough sleep at night to allow for adequate rest.
- Consider taking short naps during the day to help recharge your body and mind.
- Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day to stay hydrated, and make sure to check the colour of your urine to ensure you're getting enough fluids.
- Maintain a balanced and nutritious diet by eating a variety of foods from different food groups.
Back pain during pregnancy is a common physical symptom, particularly in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters. This is due to the added weight and pressure on the cervix as the baby grows and develops.
While this is a normal part of pregnancy, it can be uncomfortable and sometimes debilitating. Fortunately, there are ways to alleviate the pain such as practising good posture, doing gentle exercises like prenatal yoga or swimming, wearing supportive shoes, and using a pregnancy support belt. It's important to talk to your doctor or midwife about any persistent or severe back pain to rule out any underlying conditions.
How to relieve back pain during pregnancy:
- Maintain proper posture to reduce strain on your back and neck.
- Use a pregnancy pillow while sleeping to support your growing belly and alleviate discomfort.
- Wear comfortable shoes with good support to help prevent foot pain and swelling.
- Consider trying prenatal yoga or gentle stretching exercises to improve flexibility and reduce stress on your joints.
During pregnancy, your body produces approximately 50% more blood and other body fluids to support the growth and development of your baby. This extra fluid can accumulate in your ankles and hands, causing swelling and discomfort. While water retention is normal during pregnancy, it can be uncomfortable and even painful.
How to reduce ankle and hand swelling:
- Stay hydrated by drinking water, milk, or unsweetened fortified plant-based beverages.
- Avoid high-salt foods and elevate your feet to reduce swelling.
- Be active with daily walking or safe exercises.
If you observe rapid weight gain or unusual swelling in your upper arms or face, it is best to discuss this with your healthcare provider. They can offer valuable insights and suggest methods to reduce pregnancy swelling.
Heartburn is a common pregnancy symptom that is caused by the hormones progesterone and relaxin, which relax the muscles in the body including the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), allowing stomach acid to flow back up into the oesophagus. This, combined with the pressure of the growing uterus on the stomach, can result in uncomfortable burning sensations in the chest and throat causing heartburn during pregnancy.
How to prevent heartburn in pregnancy:
- Consume several small meals regularly during the day.
- Refrain from consuming spicy or greasy foods.
- Chew your food slowly and thoroughly.
- Sit upright for a minimum of one hour following meals.
During pregnancy, the body's digestive system undergoes significant changes, which can affect bowel movements. The hormone progesterone, which helps to relax the muscles in the uterus, can also relax the muscles in the intestines, causing them to move more slowly. This can lead to constipation and the feeling of incomplete bowel movements. It's important to maintain a healthy diet, including plenty of fibre-rich foods, to help alleviate constipation during pregnancy.
How to relieve constipation:
- Stay hydrated with at least 2.3 litres of fluids per day, warm fluids may help.
- Increase high-fibre foods gradually to meet the minimum of 28 grams per day, to avoid digestive issues.
- Eat prunes, pears, and apples for their laxative effect.
- Stay active daily, especially by walking, for healthy digestion and pregnancy.
Do not use laxatives without medical advice as this can induce labor contractions.
How To Cope with Emotional Symptoms
Alongside the physical changes, there are also emotional symptoms that may leave you feeling vulnerable, anxious, and overwhelmed. The arrival of a new baby brings significant changes, and even the most excited expectant mothers can face unsettling thoughts and difficult decisions.
It's normal to have a wide range of emotions during pregnancy, as your body undergoes significant physical and hormonal changes. Conflicting feelings and mood swings during early pregnancy are all valid and natural.
The following tips will help you cope better with emotional symptoms such as mood swings, anxiety and sleep disturbances.
- Talk about sensitive topics that bother you - Expressing your thoughts on sensitive topics can be challenging, but it's essential to have open and honest discussions with your loved ones. Regularly share your fears, concerns, and stressors, and allow your support system to provide comfort and aid.
- Don’t let go of hobbies during pregnancy - While pregnancy can be demanding, it's important to make time for activities that bring you joy and relaxation. Don't give up on your hobbies - take breaks and enjoy daily activities like watching a movie, going for walks, or engaging in your favourite pastimes.
- Do stress-relieving activities - Stress can be overwhelming during pregnancy, but there are activities that can help you cope. Explore stress-relieving options that work best for you, like yoga, meditation, or guided imagery.
- Share your feelings - Writing down your worries and sharing them with someone you trust can help you process your emotions. Take the time to determine which fears are significant, and work towards letting go of the small ones.
- Don’t hesitate for frequent counselling - If you feel overwhelmed and need additional support, don't hesitate to seek help from a doctor, midwife, or counsellor. Consider joining a support group for expecting or new mothers to connect with others going through similar experiences. Remember, taking care of your emotional well-being is crucial for a healthy pregnancy.