There are a number of health problems that are more common during pregnancy and you may be more likely to experience these as your pregnancy progresses. These conditions can cause various symptoms, but they aren't usually serious and are usually easily treated.
Here is a list of the most common health problems of pregnancy, to help you know what to expect. Availability and use of different treatments may vary from country to country. Ask your doctor for advice on your treatment options.
It's normal to feel tired during pregnancy as your baby grows bigger and heavier. But if you feel extremely tired, dizzy or weak this may mean that you have anaemia. If you're worried about this, mention it to a midwife or doctor. He or she may give you advice on improving your diet so that you include iron, or prescribe iron supplements.
Nausea and sickness
The cause of nausea not known, but some research suggests it may be related to high levels of pregnancy hormones. There are things you can do to try and reduce the nausea and sickness: get plenty of rest, eat little and often, and avoid smells and tastes that make you feel sick. Ginger biscuits or ginger tea help some women feel better, as does acupressure at a particular part of the wrist. (This involves wearing wristbands that you can buy from the pharmacy - ask a doctor or midwife for more advice.) You should see a doctor or midwife if you can't keep any food or fluid down.
Urinary tract infections
Urinary tract infections are among the most common health problems during pregnancy. If you have a urinary tract infection during your pregnancy, you will need early treatment. If it's left untreated, it may lead to premature labour. You may not have any symptoms, so a midwife will ask for urine samples to test at your routine appointments. If you do have any symptoms (such as pain or burning when you urinate), it's important that you get advice from a doctor or midwife.
Lying across the bottom of your pelvis is an important muscle called the pelvic floor, and one of its jobs is to support your bladder. During pregnancy your pelvic floor relaxes slightly. This can lead to stress incontinence where the bladder leaks a small amount of urine when you cough, sneeze, laugh, jump or run. You will be encouraged by your midwife to do pelvic floor exercises both during and after pregnancy to strengthen this muscle and reduce the risk of stress incontinence. Your midwife can give you more information on these exercises.
Piles, or haemorrhoids, are found around your anus. They frequently appear in pregnant women, particularly if you have a low-fibre diet. Piles can be painful and itchy. Increasing the amount of fibre in your diet can help, but a doctor may recommend haemorrhoid cream.
Increasing hormone levels mean that your bowels don't work as well as they normally would to push the food through your body during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. Your digestive system absorbs more water from the food and this makes your faeces harder and more difficult to pass. You should make sure you are drinking enough fluids and eating plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables and high-fibre foods. If you're concerned about constipation, talk to a doctor or midwife as mild laxatives and fibre supplements can help.
Pregnancy hormones have a relaxing effect on the muscle at the end of your oesophagus (the pipe that goes from your mouth to your stomach). It's also thought that pressure from your growing womb and reduced bowel motility can cause heartburn in pregnancy (acid from your stomach passes back up into your oesophagus). Heartburn is very common, and usually gets more severe as the pregnancy goes on.
Eating little and often, avoiding spicy fried foods, and sleeping propped up a little in bed can help with this. Ask a doctor, midwife or pharmacist to recommend an antacid if necessary.
These are swollen veins which are usually found in the legs but occasionally appear around the vulva (the area around the opening to your vagina). They are swollen superficial veins (veins that lie just under your skin) that look lumpy and dark blue or purple through your skin. Varicose veins are thought to occur if your vein walls are weak. This may happen during pregnancy because you have more blood in your body, more pressure in your leg veins due to the growing womb, and higher hormone levels which relax the muscular walls of your blood vessels.
Varicose veins are very common during pregnancy. Compression stockings may help with the symptoms of varicose veins in your legs, including night cramps, numbness, tingling and aching.
Carpal tunnel syndrome
The carpal tunnel is a channel in the palm side of the wrist. A nerve passes through this channel, from your forearm to your hand. This nerve can become squashed (compressed) causing you to have tingling, burning, numbness and pain in your fingers and thumbs, and sometimes it can affect how you use your hands. It's quite common during pregnancy, and it usually goes away shortly after your baby is born.
Pregnancy hormones make your gums much more likely to bleed. It's important that you keep your teeth and gums healthy - make sure you clean your teeth twice a day. If left untreated, gum problems can lead to periodontal disease and tooth loss.