Congratulations! You’re pregnant. You are most likely experiencing excitement mixed with many other emotions.
Pregnancy can be the best of times and the worst of times for women.
While being pregnant is an incredible experience, it comes with some very strange conditions for your body. There will never be a time when your body changes more dramatically in such a short span of time.
Don’t Worry. It’s Probably Normal.
It’s no wonder many pregnant women find it difficult to keep up with all the changes. The body you’ve known your whole life can feel like a totally different body during pregnancy. It’s a perpetual guessing game about what’s normal and what isn’t, as many bizarre things are completely normal for a woman to experience during those 40 weeks.
During pregnancy, your hormones are all over the place, and these hormonal changes can cause many different symptoms that can feel a bit unpleasant. Your body may feel strange and pregnancy is intense, so don’t ever hesitate to contact your provider if you have any concerns.
Your Guide to Normal Pregnancy Symptoms
We asked Laci Spengler, a Certified Nurse-Midwife at Breath of Life, to help shed some light on a few things that tend to raise red flags for pregnant women but are usually completely normal. Here are several of the most common symptoms women experience during pregnancy and our recommendations for how to cope:
Acne may not cause you physical discomfort, but it may be alarming for a pregnant woman who typically has a clear complexion. Even if you’ve never had it, you may get acne for the first time during pregnancy. If you’ve had it before pregnancy, it may get worse during pregnancy.
- Wash your face every morning and night with a mild cleanser and warm water.
- Try to keep oily hair and hands away from your face.
- Avoid picking or squeezing acne to prevent scarring.
- Use oil-free makeup.
Pregnancy hormones, a growing belly, and weight gain during pregnancy can cause lower-back pain, especially in the later months. Pressure from the uterus can affect your sciatic nerve, which goes from your lower back, hip and down the back of the leg. Pain along your sciatic nerve is called sciatica.
- Stand up straight and wear comfortable, flat shoes.
- Don’t lift anything over 25 pounds.
- Keep your body moving or take walks every day.
- Try a belly band to provide extra support to the back and belly.
- Sleep on your left side with a pillow between your knees.
- Avoid bending over at the waist. Use your legs!
Your breasts begin to change early in pregnancy as they get ready to make breast milk to feed your baby. It’s normal for them to feel sore during pregnancy. You may also notice that your nipples and areolas get darker.
- Get a maternity bra now that has wide straps and bigger cups.
- Make sure you have plenty of support when you’re active.
- Use moisturizer to keep your skin from getting dry and itchy.
Many women experience some level of nasal congestion during pregnancy. Nosebleeds are also common. These symptoms are caused by increased pregnancy hormones and blood in your body that make the lining of your nose swell, dry out, and bleed.
- Use a humidifier to increase the moisture in the air at home.
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
- Use saline nose drops—but no other kind of nasal spray without talking to your doctor or midwife first.
- Peppermint aromatherapy—put a few drops in the palm of your hands, cup around your nose and mouth and breathe it in.
*Contact your care provider if you show additional signs of cold or flu or if you have a nosebleed lasting longer than 20 minutes.
Let’s save the pushing for labor. Over 70% of women experience this discomfort at some point or another during their pregnancy. There are a few different things that cause constipation during pregnancy, including a slowing in your digestive tract, your expanding uterus, and an increase in iron.
- Eat foods that are high in fiber, like black beans, lentils, almonds, avocados, berries, and oatmeal.
- Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water to keep things moving.
- Take a pregnancy-safe probiotic.
- Go for a walk and get your body moving.
You probably weren’t expecting bleeding gums and tooth pain as a symptom of pregnancy. The most common oral discomfort pregnant women encounter is bleeding gums. This is primarily due to the hormonal changes during pregnancy which make the gums sensitive to the presence of plaque. It’s important to visit your dentist during pregnancy because any infection in the oral cavity can have a negative effect on the health of your baby. Your dentist can give you suggestions on treatment and gentle tooth care.
- Keep your teeth gently but thoroughly brushed and flossed.
- Maintain good nutrition.
- Visit your dentist.
- Take your prenatal vitamins
Another common symptom of pregnancy is how tired you feel, especially during your first and third trimesters. You should feel a burst of energy during your second trimester, so make the most of it. If you’re like most women, you just want to find a quiet place to curl up and take a nap.
- Eat iron-rich foods like red meat, poultry, fish (no more than 2-3 servings per week), dried beans, peas, and prunes.
- Have a cup of coffee or cola (limit yourself to 2 cups per day/200mg of caffeine).
- Take naps or rest whenever possible.
- Go for a walk and get your body moving.
- Go to bed early.
- Avoid drinking 2-3 hours before bedtime to reduce night waking for the bathroom.
- Reduce your stress as much as possible.
Headaches and Migraines
Headaches during pregnancy can be a result of hormonal changes, tension, congestion, constipation, lack of sleep, dehydration, low blood pressure, low blood sugar, and even caffeine withdrawal. If you get a headache that is out of the norm or you’re experiencing extreme symptoms—such as consistent throbbing, blurred vision, seeing spots, swollen hands or face, or pain in the upper right abdomen—you should call your doctor or midwife right away.
- Rest in a room with dim lights.
- Use a cool compress on your head and neck.
- Prenatal massage or neck rub.
- Practice relaxation techniques.
- Eliminate stress wherever possible.
- Eat more frequent meals to keep blood sugar stable.
- Consume a cup of caffeinated beverage—no more than 2 cups per day. Sometimes headaches are caused by caffeine withdrawal.
Especially during the second and third trimesters, half of all pregnant women will experience heartburn. It is not usually a sign of a serious problem, but it can be quite uncomfortable and even painful. Indigestion—feeling full, gassy, or bloated—is also common during pregnancy and can occur with heartburn. As with nausea, it’s important to treat your heartburn, as many times it will cause you not to eat properly, and if you’re not eating well, your baby is not getting the proper nutrition.
- Eating smaller meals throughout the day, as opposed to fewer larger meals.
- Avoid eating too close to bedtime.
- Prop up pillows to elevate your head above your stomach.
- Pay attention to your trigger foods—often high fat, fried, and spicy.
- Try raw apple cider vinegar or fresh lemon in your water.
- Drink ginger tea.
- Take a shot of papaya juice before and after you eat or use Papaya enzyme tablets.
Hemorrhoids often go together with constipation. They are a common issue for pregnant women.
- Adding more fiber to your diet.
- Stay properly hydrated.
- Add a probiotic to your prenatal regimen.
- Use Witch Hazel wipes of Tucks pads for comfort.
If you can’t fall asleep or stay asleep, you’re not alone. According to the National Sleep Foundation’s 1998 Women and Sleep poll, 78% of women report more disturbed sleep during pregnancy than at any other time. Hormonal changes are one of the biggest reasons for both fatigue and sleep issues during pregnancy.
- Plan and prioritize sleep time.
- Get 30 minutes of movement and exercise each day.
- Sleep on your left side to improve blood flow.
- Avoid lying on your back for extended periods.
- Use relaxation techniques.
- Try lavender aromatherapy.
- Dim your lights prior to bedtime.
During pregnancy, certain hormones and your growing baby crowding your belly can slow down digestion and cause you to bloat, burp, and pass gas. Gas can sometimes feel like labor contractions. If you are experiencing the muscles of your uterus tighten and then relax—come and go—in a timed rhythm, you should consult with your pregnancy care provider.
- Avoid foods that cause gas, like fried or fatty food, beans, cabbage, cauliflower, and dairy products.
- Limit carbonated beverages, like soda and mineral water.
- Exercise can help improve digestion, so walk or move your body a little every day.
Leg cramps in your calves and even in your feet are common in the second and third trimesters. They often happen at night and can wake you up. The cause is not clear, but too little magnesium in your body may cause leg cramps.
- Stretch your legs before you go to bed.
- Flex your foot up and down in bed.
- Massage the calf using long, downward strokes.
- Take a hot shower.
- Stay active.
- Eat foods high in magnesium, like whole grain bread and pasta, beans, nuts, seeds, and dried fruit.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Wear comfortable, supportive shoes.
This is common for more than 60% of pregnant women. It shouldn’t be named Morning Sickness, because you may feel nauseous at any time of the day or night. Each woman is different. Some will only feel the urge to vomit, and some will actually vomit. The good news is, this is most often only a first-trimester issue and is often the sign of a healthy pregnancy.
- Eat bland foods rich in protein.
- Ginger is clinically proven to reduce nausea, so try some ginger drops, ginger ale, ginger capsules, or ginger tea.
- A daily dose of Vitamin B6.
- Drink a lot of fluids and stay hydrated.
- Keep crackers by your bed and eat a few first thing in the morning to help soothe the nausea.
- Don’t get out of bed too quickly in the morning.
- Use mint, lemon, and ginger aromatherapy.
Round Ligament Pain
Every woman has ligaments that go around the abdomen and hold the uterus in place. When you are pregnant, those ligaments stretch like a rubber band and you may feel a zinging pain in your belly or side, most often when you cough or sneeze.
- Use a heating pad or take a warm bath.
- Get a pregnancy belt to wear around the belly for support.
- Change positions until you feel more comfortable.
- Try yoga positions such as cat/cow.
Feeling Short of Breath
You may find it a little harder to breathe or feel that you can’t take a good, deep breath later in pregnancy when your baby gets bigger and presses on your diaphragm (the muscle that helps you breathe). Even though you may feel this way, rest assured that your baby is getting oxygen in the womb.
- Change to sitting or standing to give your lungs room to expand.
- Avoid second hand smoke and breathe clean, fresh air.
- Use mint aromatherapy.
*Contact your care provider if you have difficulty breathing and asthma or if your shortness of breath is accompanied by chest pain, lightheadedness, fainting, or other symptoms.
Most all women experience frequent urination, especially early in pregnancy and in the final weeks before your baby is due. As your baby grows, weight pushes down on your bladder. Urine may leak when you cough, laugh, sneeze, or exercise.
- Limit your caffeine intake, as caffeine causes the need to urinate more often.
- Do Kegel exercises to help strengthen the muscles that control the flow of urine. To do them, squeeze the muscles you use to stop yourself from urinating. Hold the muscles tight for 10 seconds and then release. Try doing 3 sets of 10. Kegel exercises also help prepare muscles for labor and birth.
- Don’t wait! Go when you need to go.
- Lean forward when you’re going to the bathroom. It will help you to completely empty your bladder.
- Stop drinking 2-3 hours before bedtime.
- Use a pad or panty liner to catch leaks.
Many pregnant women report an increase in random, lifelike dreams. What’s worse, hormones can make it hard to differentiate in the middle of the night between reality and nightmares. Dreams heighten in the third trimester. There’s not much you can do about them. Maybe write them down or talk them out with your partner for interesting pregnancy memories later?
Stay Calm. Talk to Your Midwife.
There are many more symptoms we could have covered in this article, but these are a sampling of the most common. Although they can be concerning or even bothersome, many of these symptoms are getting you ready for motherhood. Take each one as they come and look for ways to find gratitude for each day of your pregnancy.
If you have questions or concerns about anything you are experiencing, you can always talk to your midwife or care provider. No one wants a pregnant mama feeling stressed out. We’re here for you!
Since 2007, over fifteen hundred Tampa Bay families have chosen Breath of Life Women’s Health and Birth Center for well-woman and prenatal care that is safe, personal, and empowering. Our peaceful birth suites create an intimate experience and the luxurious feel of an upscale hotel. Each suite has a spacious water birth tub and access to an outdoor space for fresh air and sunshine. Whether you want your whole family here for the experience or something more private, your birthing experience will be supported with love, kindness, and respect for your decisions.