Usual Symptoms & FAQ
Morning sickness: nausea and vomiting
This is a classic pregnancy symptom, especially during the 1st trimester. However, some women do not experience sickness or vomiting in the morning but in another time of the day. The symptoms are due to the influence of the β-hCG. In order to reduce the morning sickness you could eat a biscuit or a french toast (whatever you prefer). If you feel sick throughout the day you could eat small portions of food regularly and avoid fat and dairy. Solid food is preferable and fluid intake between meals is essential in order to avoid dehydration. Chamomile, mint or ginger beverages can help with the symptoms.
If you are very sick (more than 3 times daily for 2-3 consecutive days) you could become dehydrated.
You can contact your midwife or doctor for advice.
Tiredness is one of the most common pregnancy symptoms, especially during the 1st and 3rd trimesters. Your body is working hard because of the pregnancy. However, tiredness as a symptom should not be ignored. Listen to your body and adjust to the new reality. You will feel more energetic as the pregnancy progresses. If however you fell always exhausted, inform your midwife or doctor. It is possible that they ask you to check your haematocrit as you might be anaemic.
Constipationisduetothe influence ofhormones (mainlyprogesterone). You should look after your diet and consume fruits, vegetables and food reach in fiber. It is essential that you drink plenty of water. Exercise could also help.
Haemorrhoids are caused by the pressure of the uterus to the pelvic veins. The presence of haemorrhoids is not a cause of concern but it can be annoying and can be aggravated by the constipation. There are specific topical creams that can alleviate the symptoms. Haemorrhoids subside after delivery and in most cases can even disappear.
Burning sensation in the oesophagus
A burning sensation in the oesophagus is due to relaxation of the stomach sphincter caused bythe pregnancy hormones. The relaxation of the sphincter causes for the acid content of the stomach to regurgitate back to the oesophagus.
The burning could continue in the 2nd trimester and could even cause nausea. In order to avoid it we recommend that you eat small portions of food and have your last meal by 8pm at the latest before you go to sleep. In addition, you should avoid spicy and difficult to swallow food. If you experience “burning” during the night, you could use more pillows in order to elevate the upper half of your body. If your symptoms are severe, you might need to take an anti-acid (i.e. Maalox). Anti-acids are completely safe for use in pregnancy.
Headache is not uncommon during pregnancy. If you occasionally suffer from headaches you could take a simple analgesic i.e. paracetamol (Depon). If you experience a strong headache in combination with blurring of vision or “black spots”, you should monitor your blood pressure and contact your midwife or doctor. These symptoms (headache in combination with blurred vision or “black spots”) after the 2nd trimester could be a sign of pre-eclamspia.
Many pregnant women find it difficult to sleep or have a restless, interrupted sleep. This can be due to changes that happen in the body (i.e. the abdomen gets bigger, the breasts are enlarged) and to hormonal influence. Insomnia and nightmares could deteriorate near term. You need to find a comfortable sleep position. It is also recommended that you avoid the midday nap so you could sleep better at night. You should also avoid stimulants like tea or coffee. A warm bath before sleep or a warm glass of milk (if you do not feel sick), could help. Also, you could find useful to put a pillow between your legs or under your abdomen. You could also have a beverage that helps relax i.e. valeriana. Sleeping pills are not allowed.
You might experience dizziness usually at the 2nd trimester and after standing up for a long time. This is mainly due to the poor circulation and return of the blood to the heart. You should avoid standing up for too long and try to walk. You should also avoid standing up suddenly. If you do and then you feel dizzy, you should lie on the left lateral position (and not in a supine position with the legs up). Feeling dizzy could also be a sign of low blood pressure. If it recurs you should contact your midwife or doctor.
Chest pain and breathlessness
It is almost certain that at some point during pregnancy you will complain of breathlessness. The need to take a deep breath is common during pregnancy. However, severe breathlessness could indicate that you are anaemic. If you experience sudden and severe breathlessness you should contact your midwife or doctor. In advanced pregnancy, the uterus puts pressure to the internal organs and that could cause difficulty in breathing. The symptoms are more severe when the fetus is breech or if you carry twins. If you feel breathless follow this steps:
- Reduce your activity and rest
- Eat small meals
- Use pillows under your back when you sleep at night
Leg cramps are due to the poor circulation of blood or to lack of Magnesium (Mg). In order to alleviate the pain try to massage the area. Mg supplements can be useful. You should inform your doctor in order to prescribe you Mg supplements
Ankle, hand and facial swelling
Swelling is common in advanced pregnancy due to the fluid retention and is usually more prominent in the feet and ankles. You should avoid standing up and try to put your feet up when lying down. It is recommended that you remove all rings, as they could cause more swelling and pain at your fingers. Mild exercise like walking or swimming could help. You should also drink plenty of fluids and avoid salt. Do not worry! The swelling will regress after delivery. If however you have severe swelling that does not improve with rest, you should check your blood pressure, as you could suffer from hypertension. In this case you need to contact your doctor.
The pressure of the pregnant uterus causes dilatation of the veins. This will regress after delivery but if you are prone to phlebitis or if you are overweight, it could worsen or become chronic. You should avoid standing up and try to put your feet upwhen lying down. When you sit your feet should not «hang down» but should touch the ground. Thromboembolic deterrent (TED) stockings could help. You should also avoid wearing tight shoes and high heels. If you notice redness, swelling or ankle pain you should contact your doctor as the above signs might indicate thrombophlebitis.
Numbness of the hands (carpal tunnel syndrome)
This is due to fluid retention in the carpal tunnel that puts pressure to the nerves. You should avoid lifting heavy objects and be careful when you are typing. You could try cold or hot patches to relieve the symptoms.
Mild abdominal itching is common because of the stretching of the skin. It could also be due to dry skin or rash. Usually creams containing menthol help relieve the symptoms. If itching is persistent and is localized in the palms of the hands or the soles of the feet, it could be associated with liver pathology. In this case you should contact your doctor because you might need to have some tests done.
Nose bleeds are common in pregnancy. It is advised that you sit down and put your head between your legs. Put some pressure at the nose at the end of the bone, where the skin is soft, until the bleeding stops.
You might experience urinary incontinence after sneezing or laughing. It becomes more common after the 2nd trimester, because of the pressure of the uterus to the bladder. It is recommended that you avoid beverages that increase diuresis (i.e. coffee and tea). Pelvic floor exercises could strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. Your midwife will inform you about these exercises and explain how to do them. If urinary incontinence is associated with abdominal pain, blood in the urine or burning sensation during urination, it could be a sign of cystitis. It is then recommended that you contact your doctor.
Hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause infection and gum bleeding. Some women experience severe symptoms. It is strongly recommended that you visit your dentist. You should follow his/her advice for correct dental hygiene (brushing, use of dental thread etc.) and seek help if your symptoms deteriorate. Pregnant women are more prone to decay due to the pH changes in the mouth. Nutrition rich in vitamin helps with to keep your teeth in good condition. You should also be aware that local anaesthesia at the dentist is safe in pregnancy. However, x-ray during pregnancy should be avoided.
Can I travel?
Travel by car, boat or plane is not contraindicated, as long as some rules are followed. In general, it is recommended that you avoid long distance trips.The 1st trimester is usually a difficult period due for example to the morning sickness. Similarly, during the 3rd trimester travelling becomes more tiring because the abdomen increases in size, the legs get swollen etc. If you are travelling by car, the seat belt needs to be worn below the pregnant abdomen. It is also recommended that you make frequent stops in order to rest. If you are travelling by boat, you should be aware that antisickness tablets containing Dramamine or antisickness chewing gums are allowed. If you are flying by plane, it is important that you remember the following:
- Drink plenty of fluids because the cabin air is dry
- It is likely that your feet are going to get swollen, especially in a long-haul flight because sitting for too long affects the blood circulation.
Put your feet at the footstool of the seat in front of you, take off your shoes and walk as much as you can in the cabin.
Can I have intercourse?
This is a very common question. In the past there was the wrong impression that sexual intercourse is dangerous in pregnancy. This is not true. In general,sexual intercourse is not contraindicated during pregnancy, unless if there is a specific medical reason, such as cervical incompetence or bleeding from the vagina.
Can I swim?
Swimming at the sea is not only allowed but also encouraged during pregnancy. Moving the body in the water is ideal for the pregnant woman: the body, free from its weight, moves without putting strain to the joints, without causing backache and without the danger of trauma. Of course, exercise in the water should be mild and not too strenuous.
It is essential that the seawater is clean (i.e. prefer blue flag beaches) and that the water temperature is not too high or too low. If the water is cold (less than 25oC), then it could trigger uterine contractions. If the pregnant woman feels pain, dizziness, breathlessness or uterine contractions, she should come out of the sea immediately. The above are also recommended for swimming in the pool. Chlorium that is found in the swimming pool does not adversely affect the pregnant woman or the fetus. However, be careful as you enter or leave the pool in order not to fall.
Is exercise safe?
The answer is yes, but you should choose the right type of exercise and adjust it to your capabilities. The most suitable forms of exercise are swimming, walking and yoga or pilates. Intense aerobic exercise and sports that could make you fall or cause trauma to the fetus should be avoided.