Pregnancy is a wonderful, life changing experience filled with many joys, but also many headaches. A significant amount of these literal and figurative headaches result from uncomfortable, embarrassing, and troublesome side effects. For many of these issues, there are ways to manage, if not prevent them, while others you just have to push through. Here’s a look at how to handle some of the more common and most miserable side effects of pregnancy.
Increased vaginal discharge is very common for pregnant women. Called leukorrhea, it’s an odorless or mildly odorific, whitish discharge that most women experience, pregnant or not. Pregnancy increases estrogen production and blood flow to the vaginal area, which produces more leukorrhea. Unless it becomes foul-smelling, there’s no need for worry. A panty liner can help deal with some of its more visible aspects.
Bloating and Gas
Pregnancy also causes an increase in the hormone progesterone, which relaxes the smooth muscle tissues of the body, including those in the gastrointestinal tract. This relaxation slows the digestive process, which can lead to excessive gas or flatulence, burping, and bloating. Cutting foods known to cause gas, such as beans, carbonated beverages, and some raw vegetables, can help reduce these symptoms. Ask your doctor before trying any over-the-counter gas reduction medication.
Constipation, characterized by infrequent or difficult bowel movements (less than 3 a week), is common in pregnant women -- and often one of the first signs of pregnancy. Again, increased progesterone production is responsible for slowing GI muscles. As pregnancy continues, however, a growing baby can also put pressure on the rectum, compounding the problem. Talk to your doctor if things get serious, and try including extra fiber in your diet, such as those from whole grains. Additionally, make sure to drink plenty of water -- staying hydrated can also minimize this issue.
A hemorrhoid is a varicose vein, or swollen blood vessel, in the rectal area. Hemorrhoids may be mildly itchy or extremely painful, particularly after a bowel movement. Hemorrhoids are common side effects of pregnancy and delivery, especially for women who've experienced them before. Relieving constipation can help these from becoming worse. Over the counter creams may provide some relief, as can Witch Hazel pads.
More than half of pregnant women experience morning sickness during the first trimester, occurring at roughly the same time each day. Some experts suggest this is the result of a healthy fetus, developing normally. Some women also feel sick in response to prenatal vitamins -- taking prenatal vitamins at night with food can help this. Unless your nausea is extreme and prevents you from keeping any food down, you’ll just have to wait it out. Eat light food, like crackers or toast, until the worst has passed -- ginger can be a natural antiemetic. You can also opt for more frequent, smaller meals, rather than 3 large ones.
Edema, or swelling, occurs because of increased water retention during pregnancy. The hands, feet, and ankles are the most likely to swell, especially when sitting or standing for long periods of time. Stay hydrated (although that seems counterproductive) and active. Excessive or very painful swelling can be a sign of complications, so show your doctor any swelling that concerns you.