Common problems in pregnancy

Around week 20 you might start to show that so-called pregnancy glow. However, even if you are experiencing a healthy, and trouble-free pregnancy, there are minor things that can affect you. These are often mild and short-lived.

How to cope

Don’t keep your worries to yourself. Your midwife or GP will advise and reassure you about how to deal with most of the less serious discomforts of pregnancy.

Backache

This can get worse as you get further along. There is extra strain on your joints and hips as you put on more weight and get closer to the birth. Gentle exercise and taking care while lifting can make a big difference.

It also helps to:

  • wear flats or shoes with a low heel
  • sit and stand with your back straight and your shoulders relaxed
  • bend at the knees and avoid lifting heavy weights.

Bleeding gums

This can happen when gums become swollen because of plaque deposits. During pregnancy, due to hormonal effects, even a small build-up of plaque can cause irritation to the gums. This is called ‘pregnancy gingivitis’. Brushing twice daily with fluoride toothpaste and regular flossing can help prevent gingivitis. Visit your dentist regularly.

NHS dental care

NHS dental care is safe and free while you are pregnant and for one year after the birth of your baby.
For more information on how to register with a dentist, phone the NHS helpline 0800 224488, or speak to your midwife.

Constipation

Constipation can be a problem in pregnancy due to all the changes taking place in your body and new hormones rushing around. Your diet can be the best way to tackle constipation; eat plenty of fibre-rich food – vegetables, fruit, beans and wholegrain bread – and make sure you are getting enough fluids. Moderate exercise, like swimming or walking, can also help you stay regular.

Continued sickness

If you are suffering from continued sickness these tips may help:

  • Take your time getting out of bed
  • If you tend to feel really sick in the morning, eat a little as soon as you wake up and before getting out of bed
  • Ask your partner to bring the food to you, or prepare a snack the night before and leave it beside your bed.

During the day:

  • Eat little and often, every two or three hours - even if you're not hungry
  • Drink a lot of liquid, preferably 10 to 12 glasses of water, fruit juice or herbal tea each day
  • Avoid food containing a lot of fat or spices
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine
  • Eat dry crackers, toasted bread or rusks
  • Ginger tea or ginger tablets can help reduce nausea
  • Rest several times a day. Lie down with a pillow under your head and legs
  • Move slowly and avoid sudden movements
  • After eating, sit down so that gravity helps to keep the food in your stomach
  • Avoid smells that make you feel sick or throw up
  • Don't brush your teeth immediately after eating because this can cause vomiting
  • Get some fresh air and exercise by going for a little walk every day
  • Avoid smoking. Not only is it harmful for you and your child, it also diminishes your appetite.

Cystitis

This is a urine infection which may cause a burning sensation when you pee and make you feel you need to pass urine all the time – but these symptoms can often be felt in pregnancy anyway. If you have symptoms like this, discuss them with your midwife. You may be given a course of safe antibiotics if there is an infection.

Heartburn

Heartburn (indigestion) is a burning sensation around the breastbone. It is more common in later pregnancy. Strong tea or coffee, pure fruit juice, spicy and fatty foods can make it feel worse. Take your time when you eat.

Piles or haemorrhoids

These are varicose veins of the back passage, or anus. They are sometimes very painful and itchy, and they can be made worse by constipation. Your midwife or GP can advise on treatment.

Swelling

Swelling of the ankles, fingers, face and hands is also called oedema and happens because the body holds more fluid in pregnancy (a certain amount is normal in later pregnancy). More severe cases can indicate pre-eclampsia, if present with other signs.

Sometimes fluid collects in the wrists, producing painful or tingling sensation in the fingers. This is called ‘carpal tunnel syndrome’. If it is very troublesome, speak to your midwife or GP.

Varicose veins

These are swollen veins, usually in the legs, but sometimes in the vulva (vaginal opening) too. They may cause aching and sometimes itching. Support tights can help. Avoid standing for long periods and try to rest with your legs up when you can. Always tell your midwife or GP if you notice any hot, red or painful areas in your legs or vulva.

Certain exercises can help – ask your midwife, an obstetric physiotherapist or your antenatal teacher.

Unwanted advice

Unasked-for advice can be one of the worst irritants of pregnancy! Now that you are really starting to show you may find these tips helpful for handling unwanted advice:

  • try to take it with a grain of salt – advice is usually well-meant and shows that they care
  • trust yourself and your instincts – you know how you feel better than anyone
  • say thank you and carry on!
  • rely on trusted sources of information like your midwife or GP, and ask them if you have questions.
Last Updated: 12 January 2015
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