Solutions to common pregnancy discomforting symptoms: A quick guide

“Congratulations! You’re gonna be a mom soon. You must be over the moon!”

“Thanks! I am really excited but just between you and me, I am also pretty scared! I’ve heard how uncomfortable it can get sometimes.”

Pregnancy is perhaps one of the most exciting stages in a woman’s life although at times the associated physical discomforts can get the better of many moms-to-be. Most of these discomforting symptoms are consequences of temporary hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy as well as the extra weight the body has to endure.

We all know that pregnancy is no easy ride (remember to tell your mum how much you love and appreciate her now). Nevertheless, do not let these pregnancy-related discomforts get in the way of your excitement. The following are some quick solutions recommended for different symptoms:

 

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Nausea and vomiting (morning sickness)

  • Avoid food and/or smell that can trigger the condition.
  • Cut down or stay away from oily food and food with high fat content.
  • Consumption of ginger (tea, syrup etc) has been shown by studies to reduce the frequency of morning sickness among pregnant women.
  • Please see your doctor or pharmacist for advice on the appropriate medications for morning sickness.
  • Seek immediate medical attention if condition is persistent (also known as hyperemesis gravidarum) and affecting your food intake.

 

Gastroesophageal acid reflux/heartburn/bloatedness

 

Abdominal pain

  • This is usually caused by the stretching of ligaments that support the uterus and/or constipation.
  • The use of heating pad and maternity support belt/girdle is recommended.
  • Severe and persistent pain will require medical attention.

 

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Back pain

  • Maintain a good posture and wear comfortable shoes (avoid wearing high heels).
  • Stretching, exercising in water and routine back exercise can help build stronger muscles to tolerate more stress.
  • Avoid carrying and/or lifting heavy objects and standing up for too long.
  • Massage therapy can also be considered but make sure to inform your therapist that you are pregnant.
  • The sore may be alleviated by the use of hot or cold pack.
  • Sleep on your sides
  • Do not take pain killers without consulting your doctors or pharmacists.

 

Constipation and haemorrhoids

  • Pressure of womb on the large intestine, high progesterone level and iron-containing prenatal supplements are the common causes.
  • Excessive straining due to constipation can lead to haemorrhoids (piles).
  • Ensure sufficient dietary fibre intake and drink plenty of water.
  • Light exercises can help to improve bowel movement that may ease the process of defecation.
  • A switch of iron-containing supplement to one with different content may sometimes help.
  • Discuss with your doctor or pharmacist before using any laxatives.

 

Incontinence

  • This is caused by the pressure of expanding uterus on the bladder.
  • Regular pelvic exercises during and after pregnancy may help.
  • Do not deliberately reduce your fluid intake.

 

Vaginal discharge

  • Hormonal changes during pregnancy can lead to clear and white vaginal discharge which is considered normal.
  • Please speak to your healthcare providers in the event where there is excessive discharge accompanied by itch and bad odour which could be a sign of infection. Common fungal infection such as candidiasis can be effectively treated using antifungal pessaries.

 

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Varicose veins

  • This is a condition where the veins particularly around the legs are distended.
  • Avoid standing for a long duration of time.
  • Avoid sitting with legs crossed and it is recommended to have your legs up when you are sitting for an extended period.
  • Regular exercise will help improve the blood flow.
  • Compression stockings can improve the symptoms but may not prevent the emergence of varicose veins.

 

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 Stretch marks

  • Watch your weight and avoid higher than normal weight gain during pregnancy.
  • Certain creams or cocoa butter are said to be helpful but clinical evidence remains inconclusive.
  • Some stretch marks may fade over time. For mummies with stretch marks, wear them with pride because they are beautiful stripes of motherhood.

 

Insomnia

  • Anxiety along with the presence of other discomforting symptoms can sometimes affect the sleep quality during pregnancy.
  • A warm cup of milk before bedtime may help with your sleep.
  • Getting the right support and counselling may be required for some psychological factors.
  • Do not take sleeping pills without prior consultation with your healthcare providers.

 

 

References

  • Meyer LC, Peacock JL, Bland JM, & Anderson HR (1994). Symptoms and health problems in pregnancy: their association with social factors, smoking, alcohol, caffeine and attitude to pregnancy. Paediatr Perinat Epidemiol. 8(2): 145-155.
  • Boelig RC, Barton SJ, Saccone G, Kelly AJ, Edwards SJ, Berghella V. Interventions for treating hyperemesis gravidarum. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews2016, Issue 5. Art. No.: CD010607. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD010607.pub2.
  • Nurbhai M, Grimshaw J, Watson M, Bond CM, Mollison JA, Ludbrook A. Oral versus intra-vaginal imidazole and triazole anti-fungal treatment of uncomplicated vulvovaginal candidiasis (thrush). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews2007, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD002845. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD002845.pub2.
  • Jarosz, M., & Taraszewska, A. (2014). Risk factors for gastroesophageal reflux disease: the role of diet. Prz Gastroenterol 9(5): 297–301.
  • Kubo al. (2014). Dietary guideline adherence for gastroesophageal reflux disease. BMC Gastroenterology 14(144).
  • Meng et. al.  (2017). Dietary Sources and Bioactivities of Melatonin. Nutrients 9(4): 367.
  • Peuhkuri, K., Sihvola, N., & Korpela, R. (2012). Diet promotes sleep duration and quality. Nutrition Research 32(5): 309-319.
  • Zeng et. al. (2014). Strategies of Functional Foods Promote Sleep in Human Being. Curr Signal Transduct Ther. 9(3): 148-155.
  • Hartmann, E. (1982). Effects of L-tryptophan on sleepiness and on sleep. J Psychiatr Res. 17(2): 107-113.
  • Thaler E, Huch R, Huch A, Zimmermann R. (2001). Compression stockings prophylaxis of emergent varicose veins in pregnancy: A prospective randomised controlled study. Swiss Medical Weekly 131:659–62.
  • Antenatal Care: Routine Care for the Healthy Pregnant Woman. NICE Clinical Guidelines 2008.

 

 

 

 

 

 

John Tiong
John Tiong

PhD, MPharm, RPh

A pharmacist, pharmacy lecturer and researcher. A critical thinker with fervor for thought sharing.

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