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From morning sickness to mood swings, here’s our expert advice on dealing with your changing body when expecting
Some of the physical changes you may experience during pregnancy can come as a bit of a surprise. Here we cover off some of the most common issues encountered during pregnancy – and our experts give smart tips on how to cope with them.
How to deal with common pregnancy problems
The blurry outline of your baby at the first scan, those fluttery early kicks… it’s fair to say that pregnancy brings an abundance of wonderful moments. But some rather weird things can happen to your body, too. Check out our Boots experts’ advice and, remember, it’s all perfectly normal!
Managing morning sickness
Sorry ladies; sickness in pregnancy is very common. Most likely caused by fast-rising levels of hormones and less efficient digestion, 7 out of 10 women will experience some form of sickness. "Most pregnancy nausea resolves itself by 12 to 14 weeks but if it doesn’t, speak to your GP or midwife as there may be treatments that can help," says Boots Parenting Club midwife Emma Mills. If you are being sick, stay well hydrated and help keep your blood sugar levels stable by eating regularly. And make sure you always know where the loos are!
How to deal with nausea at night (& all day)
‘Morning sickness’ is a bit of a strange phrase as nausea can strike morning, noon or night. Evening sickness is especially unpleasant as it can stop you from getting the sleep you need. Try having a bedtime snack, keep some snacks by your bed if you wake up feeling queasy, and get lots of rest.
Vomiting throughout pregnancy? Some unlucky women experience extreme nausea and vomiting and may be unable to keep any food or drink down. Called hyperemesis gravidarum (also called HG, for short), this often needs medication or hospital treatment as you’re at risk from severe dehydration and malnutrition. And HG can affect anyone – even royalty – so if you’re being sick frequently and can’t keep food down, see your GP. If treated properly, HG is very unlikely to harm your baby – it’s just you that is likely to be feeling dreadful.
Caring for swollen ankles
Nothing like puffy ankles to make you feel gorgeous – not! "Some women experience gradual swelling in the feet and ankles due to the extra weight they’re carrying," says Boots Parenting Club health visitor Angela Davy. "But if the swelling is excessive, see your doctor." If your ankles are swollen, it can help to put them up at the end of the day (or any time you can), ideally above the level of your heart. A foot massage with a soothing foot cream will feel good while a gentle walk or a swim can help, too. "Exercising keeps fluid moving rather than stagnating in lower limbs," says Angela. And don’t fret – this kind of swelling will go after baby comes.
Now this is a drag. Some women will also go up a shoe size when pregnant as loosening ligaments cause the bones in their feet to spread. And, unlike swollen ankles, if your feet grow due to the ligaments loosening, you’ll remain a bigger size even after birth. Frustrating, but also a very valid excuse to buy new shoes!
What to do if you have indigestion
Can’t stop burping? You’re pardoned. "As your baby grows, your organs get squashed," says Boots pharmacist Angela Chalmers. "And pregnancy hormones relax the ring of muscle at the top of your stomach to release the natural gas produced as you digest." To reduce indigestion, heartburn and burping, eat small, regular meals and chew your food well so it produces less gas. "If you get that burning feeling, a pregnancy-friendly antacid may help calm it. Speak to your pharmacist about suitable products. A gentle walk after eating also helps," says Angela.
Enjoying thicker hair (& coping with hair in new places!)
One of the unexpectedly brilliant things about being pregnant for many women is suddenly acquiring a shiny, voluminous mane… until you discover some less welcome growth: a single witchy one on your chin! "You can thank the hormone androgen for your new-found thick, glossy hair," says Boots pharmacist Angela Chalmers. "But you can also blame it for growth in other places!" Areas where you may find new strays are the stomach, chin and breasts.
Tackling unwanted hair in pregnancy
"The safest methods of removing unwanted hair in pregnancy are shaving, tweezing, waxing and epilating," says Angela. "Pregnancy hormones mean your skin is sensitive, so avoid depilatory creams."
Sorting out bladder problems
Leaking when you laugh? The indignity. But rest assured, it’s not just you. "Leaking urine – or stress incontinence – is experienced by many. It’s usually worse in your last trimester as the weight of the baby pushes down and is again caused by hormones that relax the pelvic floor," explains Boots Parenting Club health visitor Angela Davy.
What can you do to help embarrassing leaks? The key to curbing the leaks is to strengthen the muscles that support your bladder and bowel – sorry, but you can’t ignore your pelvic floors! You can feel your pelvic floor muscles if you try to stop your wee mid-flow – although it’s not recommended to do this regularly. Sit comfortably and squeeze those muscles 10 to 15 times in a row. Do this regularly, and when you get used to them, try to hold the squeeze for a few seconds. It’s also a good idea to carry maternity pads and some spare underwear, just in case. If it’s causing you problems or it’s getting worse, have a chat with your GP or midwife.
Easing back pain in pregnancy
"Many women experience backache due to hormonal changes and your growing baby," says Boots Parenting Club midwife Emma Mills. As the hormones cause the ligaments in your body to soften and stretch (ultimately preparing you for labour), this can put a strain on the joints of your back and pelvis, causing pain.
How to handle back pain in pregnancy
Paracetamol can be usually be taken for back pain during pregnancy, but always check with your GP, pharmacist or midwife first. As with any medicine taken during pregnancy, always use it at the lowest effective dose for the shortest possible time. "Good fitness and posture can also help by strengthening core muscles so consider pregnancy yoga or swimming," says Emma Mills. "For short-term relief, try warm baths and use a maternity pillow under your tummy while asleep." And if your backache is very painful, speak to your GP or midwife.
A waddle when you walk
To complement your puffy ankles and chin hair, you may also develop a waddle in later pregnancy as the pelvis widens to accommodate the baby. Marvellous! "I wouldn’t expect a waddle before 28 weeks though, so if you are having trouble walking or it’s painful to walk, speak to your GP," says Boots Parenting Club midwife Emma Mills: "Pain in the back and pelvic area could be symphysis pubis dysfunction – a condition caused by inflammation of the pelvic joints."
Loss of balance
The softening of ligaments affects the hips, knees and ankles too so it’s no wonder you feel a bit wobbly. "You also have an altered centre of gravity, particularly as your bump gets bigger," says Boots Parenting Club health visitor Angela Davy. Take your time moving around and sitting down, and if you do fall and are concerned contact your GP. That said, it’s better to remain active so you’re more aware of your changing shape when you move – yoga is also good for balance.
Easing pregnancy piles
Piles – or haemorrhoids – are never on anyone’s body wish list but get set to wince as they’re sadly very common in pregnancy. "Hormonal changes make veins relax and this will lead to piles in around a third of all pregnant women," says Boots pharmacist Angela Chalmers. You know you’ve got piles when it stings or slightly bleeds when you’re passing a stool.
Pain relief for piles
"To soothe, soak a clean flannel in cold water, wring it out and apply gently against the area. Warm baths also help, and your local pharmacist can advise on over-the-counter creams or gels suitable in pregnancy," says Angela. Whatever you do, don’t suffer in silence, and hang on in there as piles will usually clear up on their own within a few weeks of giving birth.
Coping with constipation
"Pregnancy hormones can put your digestive system on a go-slow so constipation is also common, especially in early pregnancy," says Boots pharmacist Angela Chalmers. And when you’re constipated, straining to go to the loo can cause piles or make existing piles worse. The solution is to keep your bowel movements soft and regular. "To perk up a sluggish digestive system, eat plenty of fibre, drink lots of water, avoid supplements containing iron (unless prescribed) and do some gentle exercise." Peppermint tea can also relax the digestive system, as well as help with that feeling of bloating that some women experience in pregnancy.
Managing mood swings in pregnancy
Bit more weepy these days? You bet. "Your hormones are raging, so it’s normal to burst into tears if you can’t find a parking space," says Boots Parenting Club midwife Emma Mills. Emma recommends talking to friends and colleagues – so if you do randomly burst into tears in a meeting, your boss won’t be horrified.
Yes, you’re emotional but there is a big difference between sobbing through a nature documentary and feeling down all the time. "Speak to your midwife – you could have antenatal depression, which affects 10 to 15 percent of women," Emma explains. "Get the right help now and you’ll reduce the risk of postnatal depression too."
Dealing with dry eyes in pregnancy
Blimey, these pregnancy hormones have a lot to answer for – they can even affect your eyes. "Changes in the hormones that control tear production may make eyes feel especially dry," says Boots optometrist Samantha Watson. Dry eyes can get very itchy and if you rub them too much, they may become irritated and sore. Ask your pharmacist about suitable eye drops to help soothe dry eyes. Dry eyes can be particularly problematic if you wear contact lenses. "If so, ask for contact lens-suitable artificial tears to help top up moisture levels," adds Samantha. "It’s also good to give your eyes a rest by wearing glasses more often." As with most of these niggles, your eyes should return to normal once you’ve given birth.