Not feeling on top of the world? Don’t worry, there are plenty of ways you can ease the symptoms of most pregnancy problems, says Dr Carol Cooper.
Your body’s working harder, pumping blood around more quickly, and your metabolic rate rises, so it’s little wonder if you’re exhausted. Rest when you can – an early night and a few pampering treats can work wonders.
Itchy, dry skin
Moisturise regularly using body lotion and bath oil. Stretch marks have the same cause as wrinkles: only luck and genes may prevent them but lotions and creams help to keep skin hydrated. If you have severe generalised itching in the last four months of pregnancy or itching on the palms of your hands or soles of your feet, it could be obstetric cholestasis – a potentially serious liver disorder that can develop in pregnancy – so see your midwife or GP.
Painful cramps at night in late pregnancy could be due to rising oestrogen levels. Massage your calf or stretch the muscle by bending your foot up towards you. Drinking more milk to boost your calcium levels may help.
Swollen feet and ankles
The puffiness is due to fluid retention and distended leg veins. Put your feet up, slip on some flat shoes and, if you do stand about, keep moving so your calves pump blood back up the legs. Steer clear of tight socks, boots and shoes. If you have a sudden swelling of your face, hands or feet, contact your midwife or GP immediately, as it could be pre-eclampsia – which is caused by a rise in blood pressure.
This is another common complaint because progesterone relaxes leg veins, but susceptibility runs in families. Wear maternity support tights and aid blood flow by keeping your legs moving. Varicose veins become less noticeable after pregnancy.
In early pregnancy, they’re probably due to oestrogen and may last for a couple of weeks on and off. A gentle neck massage from your partner can help, or try an ice pack. Avoid aspirin and other painkillers unless they’ve been prescribed for you. Headaches in the second half of pregnancy should be taken seriously as they can be linked with pre-eclampsia. Whatever stage of pregnancy you’re at, visit your GP if you’re worried.
Your breasts can feel fuller and more sensitive than normal – even in the first few weeks after conception they start preparing for breastfeeding. Wear a well-fitting, non-underwired bra that offers support as your body changes. You may need a bigger size quite early on – it’s not unusual to go up several cup sizes during pregnancy.
8. Constipation and piles (haemorrhoids)
Rising progesterone levels and the baby pressing on nearby organs can make your bowels sluggish. Eat lots of fruit and veg and drink plenty of water to avoid constipation. If you develop piles, consult your local Tesco Pharmacy or your GP.
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Caused by pressure from fluid retention on a nerve in the wrist, the resulting tingling and numbness in the fingers tends to worsen as your due date approaches. A wrist splint may help, though most women don’t need one, and the problem goes away after birth.
Heartburn is common in late pregnancy. The hormone progesterone relaxes the valve at the top of your stomach, and this lets a small amount of stomach acid surge upwards into your gullet, causing a painful, burning sensation. Avoid spicy, rich, fatty and fried foods; try to eat your main meal at lunchtime and don’t drink too much liquid when you eat. It may help to sleep propped up on pillows. An antacid or alginate remedy taken after eating could do the trick – speak to a pharmacist to check it’s OK for you.
Your increased blood supply when pregnant can cause the delicate blood vessels in your nose to expand, making them rupture more easily. Nosebleeds are more likely to occur when you have a cold or allergy, or when your nose swells or dries out, such as in cold weather. Always blow your nose gently, drink plenty of water throughout the day and keep your mouth open when you sneeze (into a tissue of course!).
They’re a sign of gingivitis – and in pregnancy this is caused by higher levels of progesterone in the body, making the gums more sensitive to bacteria and plaque in the mouth. Brush your teeth very gently, at least twice a day but ideally after every meal, and see your dentist.