During your pregnancy, your body will go through a variety of changes to accommodate your new baby.
While it’s exciting to see your baby growing, you may find some of these changes uncomfortable or unpleasant. Some women may experience gastrointestinal symptoms, joint and back pain and other pregnancy related symptoms.
“Every woman is unique, so you may experience some changes, while another woman’s pregnancy will be completely different,” says Scripps OB/GYN Catherine Buerchner, MD.
“Let your doctor know about your discomforts and any concerns you might have.”
Your pregnancy may affect your gastrointestinal system in a number of ways, including:
- Nausea and vomiting
You may have heard plenty of things about morning sickness even before you found out you were pregnant. This is an extremely common discomfort of pregnancy that usually passes in the second trimester.
If you are having prolonged or extreme symptoms of nausea and vomiting, talk to your doctor to avoid dehydration and other complications.
- Hemorrhoids and constipation
As your hormones change and your digestive tract shifts to accommodate your baby, you may experience constipation. This is often accompanied by swollen veins in the rectum called hemorrhoids.
Eating a healthy diet can help stimulate digestion. Talk to your doctor about ways to reduce symptoms, and let him or her know if you have severe abdominal pain.
While you may feel hungrier during your pregnancy, your stomach is actually being compressed by your growing baby. This can push stomach acid back up into your esophagus, causing heartburn.
Try eating smaller, healthy meals that do not include a lot of fat or spices. Avoid taking over-the-counter medications until you talk to your doctor.
Your growing baby isn’t just putting pressure on your stomach; he or she also is adding weight and pressure to your back and joints. This can cause:
- Backache and sciatica
Pregnancy affects your posture and gait, which can wreak havoc on your back. It can even put pressure on the sciatic nerve that runs from your lower back down your leg, causing pain, tingling and numbness.
Practice good posture, sleep in a comfortable position with support as needed, and avoid lifting heavy objects to help reduce the strain on your back.
- Loose and aching joints
Near the end of your pregnancy, your body will release hormones to help soften the ligaments so the pelvis area can expand during labor. This hormonal change combined with the redistribution of your weight can lead to aching joints.
While this is normal, talk to your doctor about any excessive pain and avoid doing any activities that cause further aching.
You may experience other discomforts, including:
Your fatigue may increase in the last trimester when it becomes more difficult to sleep. Listen to your body and get plenty of rest. If you have insomnia, talk to your doctor about ways to improve your sleep, such as adjusting your sleeping posture.
- Breast changes
Your breasts will grow during pregnancy and may become very sensitive. They may even begin to leak fluid in preparation for breastfeeding. To minimize discomfort, try wearing a supportive and comfortable bra that protects your nipples from irritation.
- Skin changes
The fluctuation in hormone levels throughout your pregnancy can cause a variety of changes in your skin, including acne and darkened skin patches on the face called melasma.
You may also notice a dark line along your belly, called the linea nigra. Do not take any oral medications for these skin problems because they could be harmful to your baby. The majority of the time these fade after delivery.
You may also notice that as your skin stretches to accommodate your changing body shape, you’re developing stretch marks along your abdomen, hips and breasts. The color of these will also fade, but may still be visible after delivery. Avoiding excessive weight gain and keeping your skin moisturized can help minimize the appearance of stretch marks.
- Frequent urination
During your third trimester, your growing bundle of joy may be sitting on your bladder, making you feel like you constantly have to urinate.
It’s also common to experience mild to moderate urine leakage, particularly when you cough or sneeze. Performing Kegel exercises can help strengthen your pelvic muscles to prevent leakage.
Particularly toward the end of your pregnancy, you may notice swelling of your face, hands, legs and feet. A small amount of swelling is normal and can be reduced by elevating your feet whenever possible, avoiding tight stockings and getting light exercise throughout the day.
“If swelling is excessive, let your doctor know,” says Dr. Buerchner. “This could be a sign of an underlying condition such as pregnancy-induced hypertension, which requires medical care.”
Other symptoms of preeclampia, or pregnancy-induced hypertension, include headache, visual changes and pain in the right upper quadrant of the abdomen.
Your OB-GYN can help you find the best solutions for comfort during your pregnancy. Keep an open dialogue with your doctor about how you’re feeling and be sure to ask questions about anything that concerns you.