Pregnancy-Related Problems (cont.)
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
Check Your Symptoms
Pregnancy affects almost every part of a woman's daily life. If you develop problems and your doctor has given you specific instructions to follow during your pregnancy, be sure to follow those instructions.
During your pregnancy, you may have questions about many of the following common concerns:
For many women, the hardest part of early pregnancy is morning sickness. You may be able to use home treatment to help your nausea or vomiting.
- If nausea is worse when you first wake up, eat a small snack (such as crackers) before you get out of bed. Rest a few minutes after eating the snack, then get out of bed slowly.
- Eat regularly. Do not skip meals or go for long periods without eating. An empty stomach can make nausea worse. Eat several small meals every day instead of three large meals.
- Drink enough fluids every day. Do not become dehydrated. Sports drinks, such as Gatorade or Powerade, may help if you have ongoing vomiting. Ginger tea may help your nausea as well.
- Eat more protein, such as dairy products.
- Do not eat foods high in fat.
- Do not take iron supplements, which can make nausea worse.
- Try to stay away from smells that trigger morning sickness. Citrus juice, milk, coffee, and caffeinated tea may make nausea worse.
- Get lots of rest. Morning sickness may be worse when you are tired.
- Pregnancy: Dealing With Morning Sickness.
Feeling tired (fatigue)
Most women have some fatigue during pregnancy, especially during the first and third trimesters. During the first trimester, your body makes higher levels of the hormone progesterone, which may make you feel more tired. You may feel more energy during most of your second trimester. Later in pregnancy, your growing baby and loss of sleep because you cannot find a comfortable position can lower your energy level.
To help with fatigue during pregnancy:
- Eat regularly. Do not skip meals or go for long periods without eating. Choose healthy foods.
- Exercise regularly. Get outside, take walks, or keep your blood moving with your favorite workout. If you do not have your usual energy, do not overdo it.
- Try to take rest breaks often during the day.
- Do only as much as you need to, and do not take on extra activities or responsibilities.
Sleep problems are common during pregnancy. These tips may help you get a good night's sleep.
- Keep a regular sleep schedule.
- Keep your naps as short as possible.
- Use your bed only for sleep.
- Limit your caffeine, such as coffee, tea, cola drinks, and chocolate.
- Try relaxation methods, such as meditation or guided imagery. For more information, see the topic Stress Management.
- Limit what you drink after 6 p.m. so you do not have to get up to the bathroom during the night.
- Use extra pillows to raise your head or to help you find a comfortable position.
Using medicine to help relieve discomfort or fever
You may also have other common problems, like a cold, mild headache, backache, mild fever, or the flu, while you are pregnant that are not caused by your pregnancy. These minor symptoms generally do not cause problems or hurt your baby. In general, doctors say it is usually safe to take acetaminophen (Tylenol) for fever and pain.
Acetaminophen dosage: The usual dose is 650 mg. Take every 4 hours, as needed, up to 4 times in a 24-hour period. Do not take more than 3,000 mg in a 24-hour period.
Be sure to follow these nonprescription medicine precautions.
- Use, but do not exceed, the maximum recommended doses.
- Carefully read and follow all labels on the medicine bottle and box.
- Do not use other nonprescription medicines, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), until you have talked with your doctor.
Check with your doctor before you take any other types of medicines.
Heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
Most pregnant women have symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), especially heartburn, at some time during pregnancy. These symptoms are common but do not usually cause problems or hurt your baby. Most of the time symptoms of heartburn get better once the baby is born.
You can make changes to your lifestyle to help relieve your symptoms of GERD. Here are some things to try:
- Change your eating habits.
- It's best to eat several small meals instead of two or three large meals.
- After you eat, wait 2 to 3 hours before you lie down. Late-night snacks aren't a good idea.
- Chocolate and mint can make GERD worse. They relax the valve between the esophagus and the stomach.
- Spicy foods, foods that have a lot of acid (like tomatoes and oranges), and coffee can make GERD symptoms worse in some people. If your symptoms are worse after you eat a certain food, you may want to stop eating that food to see if your symptoms get better.
- Do not smoke or chew tobacco.
- If you have GERD symptoms at night, raise the head of your bed 6 in. (15 cm) to 8 in. (20 cm) by putting the frame on blocks or placing a foam wedge under the head of your mattress. (Adding extra pillows does not work.)
- Use nonprescription antacids for heartburn symptoms. Do not use antacids that have sodium bicarbonate (such as baking soda) during pregnancy because they can cause fluid buildup. It is okay to use antacids that have calcium carbonate (such as Tums).
Constipation and hemorrhoids
Constipation and hemorrhoids are common during pregnancy. To prevent or ease these symptoms:
- Eat a high-fiber diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Drink plenty of fluids, especially water.
- Talk to your doctor about trying a stool softener.
- Do not strain (push hard) during a bowel movement.
- Get more exercise every day.
Back, pelvic, and hip discomfort
Many women have back, pelvic, or hip discomfort during pregnancy. As the size and weight of your belly increases, strain is placed on your back. Pelvic and hip discomfort is a normal sign that your pelvic area is getting ready for childbirth. To help with your discomfort, follow these tips:
- Try not to stand for long periods of time.
- Stand with a straight back. Do not stand with your belly forward and your shoulders back.
- Rest one foot on a small box, brick, or stool when standing.
- Try heat, such as a hot water bottle or a heating pad set on low, to painful areas when resting. Do not fall asleep with a heating pad in place. Place a cloth between your skin and the heating pad.
- Sit with a back support or pillow against your lower back. If you must sit for a long time, get up and move around every hour.
- Wear a prenatal belt or girdle around your hips but under your belly to support your hips.
- Sleep on a firm mattress (plywood under a mattress helps). Lie on your side, with a pillow between your knees.
- Do not lift anything heavy. Lift with your legs by rising from a squat, keeping your waist and back straight.
- Do not stretch to reach something on a high shelf or across a table.
- Try acetaminophen, such as Tylenol. Talk to your doctor if your discomfort does not get better with acetaminophen. Do not use more than the recommended dosage.
Fetal movement counting
After 18 to 20 weeks, you will notice that your baby moves and kicks more at certain times of the day. For example, when you are active, you may feel less kicking than when you are resting quietly. At your prenatal visits, your doctor may ask you whether the baby is active.
Kick counts. In the last trimester of your pregnancy, your doctor may ask you to keep track of the baby's movement every day. This is often called a "kick count." A common way to do a kick count is to see how much time it takes to feel 10 movements. Ten movements (such as kicks, flutters, or rolls) in 1 hour or less are considered normal. But do not panic if you do not feel 10 movements. Less activity may simply mean the baby is sleeping.
If an hour goes by and you have not recorded 10 movements, have something to eat or drink and count for another hour. If you do not record 10 movements in the 2-hour period, call your doctor right away.
Symptoms to watch for during home treatment
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:
- Abnormal or increased bleeding.
- Weakness or lightheadedness.
- Pain in your belly.
- Swelling in your face, hands, or feet.
- A severe headache.
- Vomiting that gets worse or continues even with home treatment measures.
- Urinary problems.
- Heartburn that continues even with home treatment measures.
- Symptoms that become more severe or occur more often.