September 19, 2016

Discomfort During Pregnancy: What’s Normal and What’s Not

Shutterstock Pregnancy DiscomfortMargaret Sullivan, MD, MPH, of McDowell OB/GYN in Marion offers insight into what type of discomfort can be expected during pregnancy, as seen in the latest edition of WNC Parent.


Pregnancy is a time full of excitement but can also produce anxiety about what is normal versus problematic. Pregnancy produces both physical and hormonal changes. You will most likely have some concerns and discomforts as your body changes with each month. When I was pregnant, even as an OB/GYN who knew what to expect, I was still surprised at the reality of the changes in my body and also at how downright uncomfortable (and even miserable!) certain aspects of pregnancy were.

The discomforts can change from month to month and even pregnancy to pregnancy. It is important to know that every pregnancy is unique.

Common discomforts

Bleeding gums. Caused from increased blood volume and congested mucus membranes. Use a soft bristle toothbrush, eat more foods with vitamin C and floss daily.

Nose bleeds. Use humidifier in your bedroom at night, and apply Vaseline inside nostrils.

Constipation. Hormone changes slow your bowels. Try eating more fiber and add foods like apples, salads, whole grain breads and cereals to your diet. Drink plenty of water.

Heartburn. Caused when your enlarged uterus pushes up on your stomach, but also from the hormones of pregnancy relaxing the esophageal sphincter muscle. Avoid large meals; eat frequent small meals. Sleep in a reclined position. May take antacids such as Tums, Rolaids, and Maalox, or even prescription medications from your provider.

Headaches. Headaches are often caused by blood volume increase, hormonal changes, and fatigue. Cut back on caffeine intake, practice relaxation techniques and get more rest. If your headaches persist or are severe call your physician or health care provider. If you are being treated for high blood pressure and experience severe headaches call your provider immediately.

Leg cramps. Sudden, painful cramps in your calf that may wake you in the middle of the night. Helpful treatments include: avoid long periods of standing or sitting at work, elevate legs often, stretch legs and ankles, and wear supportive stockings.

Round ligament pain. Feels like sharp twinges/muscle pull usually on the right or left side of the lower uterus. Support your abdomen with pillows when lying on your side.

Nausea/vomiting. Morning sickness is experienced by about half of all pregnant women in the first trimester. Some women may have nausea and vomiting during the entire pregnancy.  To reduce the symptoms try to eat small meals and a diet high in complex carbohydrates (such as whole wheat bread, pasta, bananas). Call your provider if you are having constant or severe nausea and vomiting as this may indicate a condition called hyperemesis gravidarium.

Finally, you may feel overwhelmed by all the information you are receiving and trying to navigate. It is hard to know what advice you are getting is correct and what advice is a myth. The best source of information is your physician or health care provider. Most importantly, for one in seven women, anxiety and depression can arise during pregnancy, often as a result of the hormonal changes.  Please don’t try to cope alone and be sure to seek help from your provider if you are struggling with these feelings during or after your pregnancy.

Best wishes as you navigate the changes in your pregnancy, and remember that you and your body are doing great work — growing a brand new human being inside your body is an amazing feat!


Margaret Sullivan, MD, MPH, practices with McDowell OB/GYN in Marion. 828-659-3621.


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