Most women are healthy during pregnancy and do not have serious health concerns. You may have minor physical symptoms throughout your pregnancy that are considered normal pregnancy changes. It is important for you to be aware of symptoms that may mean you have a more serious problem. Talk with your doctor about any concerns you have during your pregnancy so that your health problems can be checked quickly.
Many minor problems of pregnancy can be managed at home. Home treatment measures are usually all that is needed to relieve mild morning sickness or discomfort from heartburn or constipation. There are also home treatment measures for sleep problems, hip pain, hemorrhoids, or fatigue. If you develop a problem and your doctor has given you specific instructions to follow during your pregnancy, be sure to follow those instructions.
If you have a family history of diabetes, you may develop a type of diabetes that only occurs during pregnancy (gestational diabetes). Gestational diabetes is treated by watching what you eat, exercising, checking blood sugar levels, and possibly taking oral medicines or insulin shots to keep blood sugar levels within a safe range. Women with gestational diabetes are likely to have babies that weigh more than normal. If the mother's blood sugar is not controlled, this could cause serious problems for the baby before and during delivery.
You may also have other common problems, like a cold or the flu, while you are pregnant that are not caused by your pregnancy. You can use home treatment measures for these illnesses as well, but make sure to talk to your doctor if your symptoms become more serious, such as coughing up blood or not being able to drink enough fluids (dehydrated).
While most problems that occur during pregnancy are minor, you may develop more serious symptoms that you need to talk to your doctor about. Your symptoms may be related to:
- Miscarriage . Symptoms may include:
- Premature birth. Symptoms may include:
- Abnormal vaginal discharge or fluid leaking from your vagina.
- Belly, pelvic, or back (flank) pain. This pain may come and go regularly.
- Preterm labor, which happens when contractions begin before the 37th week of pregnancy.
- Infection. Symptoms may include:
- Changes in your blood pressure that may mean you have preeclampsia. This problem may cause:
- Depression . If you are tearful, sad, anxious, or have big mood swings, talk to your doctor. If you are depressed during your pregnancy, you may have a hard time bonding with your baby after delivery. Depression can be treated so that you and your baby will be able to bond.
During the days and weeks after delivery (postpartum period), you can expect that your body will change as it returns to its nonpregnant condition. As with pregnancy changes, postpartum changes are different for every woman. Some problems, such as high blood pressure, hemorrhoids, or diabetes, may continue after delivery. You may need to follow up with your doctor about this problem after delivery.
Use the Check Your Symptoms section to decide if and when you should see a doctor.
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|Pregnancy: Dealing with morning sickness|
Pregnancy affects almost every part of a woman's daily life. If you develop problems and your doctor has given you specific instructions to follow during your pregnancy, be sure to follow those instructions.
During your pregnancy, you may have questions about many of the following common concerns:
For many women, the hardest part of early pregnancy is morning sickness. You may be able to use home treatment to help your nausea or vomiting.
- If nausea is worse when you first wake up, eat a small snack (such as crackers) before you get out of bed. Rest a few minutes after eating the snack, then get out of bed slowly.
- Eat regularly. Do not skip meals or go for long periods without eating. An empty stomach can make nausea worse. Eat several small meals every day instead of three large meals.
- Drink enough fluids every day. Do not become dehydrated. Sports drinks, such as Gatorade or Powerade, may help if you have ongoing vomiting. Ginger tea may help your nausea as well.
- Eat more protein, such as dairy products.
- Do not eat foods high in fat.
- Do not take iron supplements, which can make nausea worse.
- Try to stay away from smells that trigger morning sickness. Citrus juice, milk, coffee, and caffeinated tea may make nausea worse.
- Get lots of rest. Morning sickness may be worse when you are tired.
For more information, see:
Feeling tired (fatigue)
Most women have some fatigue during pregnancy, especially during the first and third trimesters. During the first trimester, your body makes higher levels of the hormone progesterone, which may make you feel more tired. You may feel more energy during most of your second trimester. Later in pregnancy, your growing baby and loss of sleep because you cannot find a comfortable position can lower your energy level.
To help with fatigue during pregnancy:
- Eat regularly. Do not skip meals or go for long periods without eating. Choose healthy foods.
- Exercise regularly. Get outside, take walks, or keep your blood moving with your favorite workout. If you do not have your usual energy, do not overdo it.
- Try to take rest breaks often during the day.
- Do only as much as you need to, and do not take on extra activities or responsibilities.
Sleep problems are common during pregnancy. These tips may help you get a good night's sleep.
- Keep a regular sleep schedule.
- Keep your naps as short as possible.
- Use your bed only for sleep.
- Limit your caffeine, such as coffee, tea, cola drinks, and chocolate.
- Try relaxation methods. For more information, see the topic Stress Management.
- Limit what you drink after 6 p.m. so you do not have to get up to the bathroom during the night.
- Use extra pillows to raise your head or to help you find a comfortable position.
Nonprescription medicine to help relieve discomfort or fever
You may also have other common problems, like a cold, mild headache, backache, mild fever, or the flu, while you are pregnant that are not caused by your pregnancy. These minor symptoms generally do not cause problems or hurt your baby. It is safe to use acetaminophen, such as Tylenol or Panadol, during pregnancy to help relieve discomfort but call your doctor if you develop a fever.
- Acetaminophen dosage: The usual dose is 650 mg; recommended doses may range from 500 mg to 1,000 mg. You can take 650 mg every 4 hours or 1,000 mg every 6 hours in a 24-hour period. Do not take more than the maximum adult dose of 4,000 mg in a 24-hour period.
Be sure to follow these nonprescription medicine precautions.
- Use, but do not take more than the maximum recommended doses.
- Carefully read and follow all labels on the medicine bottle and box.
- Do not use other nonprescription medicines, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) (ibuprofen, naproxen) until you have talked with your doctor.
Heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
Most pregnant women have symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), especially heartburn, at some time during pregnancy. These symptoms are common but do not usually cause problems or hurt your baby. Most of the time symptoms of heartburn get better once the baby is born.
You can make changes to your lifestyle to help relieve your symptoms of GERD. Here are some things to try:
- Change your eating habits.
- It’s best to eat several small meals instead of two or three large meals.
- After you eat, wait 2 to 3 hours before you lie down. Late-night snacks aren't a good idea.
- Chocolate and mint can make GERD worse. They relax the valve between the esophagus and the stomach.
- Spicy foods, foods that have a lot of acid (like tomatoes and oranges), and coffee can make GERD symptoms worse in some people. If your symptoms are worse after you eat a certain food, you may want to stop eating that food to see if your symptoms get better.
- Do not smoke or chew tobacco.
- If you have GERD symptoms at night, raise the head of your bed 6 in. (15 cm) to 8 in. (20 cm) by putting the frame on blocks or placing a foam wedge under the head of your mattress. (Adding extra pillows does not work.)
- Use nonprescription antacids for heartburn symptoms. Do not use antacids that have sodium bicarbonate (such as baking soda) during pregnancy because they can cause fluid buildup. It is okay to use antacids that have calcium carbonate (such as Tums).
Constipation and hemorrhoids
Constipation and hemorrhoids are common during pregnancy. To prevent or ease these symptoms:
- Eat a high-fiber diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Drink plenty of fluids, especially water.
- Talk to your doctor about trying a stool softener.
- Do not strain (push hard) during a bowel movement.
- Get more exercise every day.
Back, pelvic, and hip discomfort
Many women have back, pelvic, or hip discomfort during pregnancy. As the size and weight of your belly increases, strain is placed on your back. Pelvic and hip discomfort is a normal sign that your pelvic area is getting ready for childbirth. To help with your discomfort, follow these tips:
- Try not to stand for long periods of time.
- Stand with a straight back. Do not stand with your belly forward and your shoulders back.
- Rest one foot on a small box, brick, or stool when standing.
- Try heat, such as a hot water bottle or a heating pad set on low, to painful areas when resting. Do not fall asleep with a heating pad in place. Place a cloth between your skin and the heating pad.
- Sit with a back support or pillow against your lower back. If you must sit for a long time, get up and move around every hour.
- Wear a prenatal belt or girdle around your hips but under your belly to support your hips.
- Sleep on a firm mattress (plywood under a mattress helps). Lay on your side, with a pillow between your knees.
- Do not lift anything heavy. Lift with your legs by rising from a squat, keeping your waist and back straight.
- Do not stretch to reach something on a high shelf or across a table.
- Try acetaminophen, such as Tylenol or Panadol. Talk to your doctor if your discomfort does not get better with acetaminophen. Do not use more than the recommended dosage.
Fetal movement counting
Your baby probably moves and kicks more at certain times of the day. For example, when you are active, your baby may kick less than when you are resting quietly. At your prenatal visits, your doctor will ask you whether your baby is active. Studies show that a pregnant woman's awareness of her baby's movement is linked to how well the baby is doing.
In the last trimester of your pregnancy, your doctor may ask you to keep track of your baby's movement every day. You can check your baby movements, while you are lying on your side resting quietly, by counting the number of movements you feel over a 1-hour period. Ten or more movements (such as kicks, flutters, or rolls) in 1 hour are a good average, but do not worry if you do not feel 10 movements. Fewer movements may simply mean that your baby is sleeping. If you do not feel 10 movements in an hour, keep counting for a second hour. You can drink or eat something to see if the baby starts moving. Call your doctor if you have fewer than 10 movements over a 2-hour period.1
Symptoms to Watch For During Home Treatment
Use the Check Your Symptoms section to evaluate your symptoms if any of the following occur during home treatment:
- Abnormal or increased bleeding
- Weakness or lightheadedness
- Pain in your lower belly
- Swelling in your face, hands, or feet
- A severe headache
- Vomiting that gets worse or continues even with home treatment measures
- Urinary problems
- Heartburn that continues even with home treatment measures
- Symptoms that become more severe or occur more often
It is important to make healthy lifestyle choices to lower your chance for serious problems during pregnancy. Learn about healthy lifestyle choices before, during, and after your pregnancy.
- Have a healthy pregnancy. Eat well, exercise regularly, get plenty of rest, avoid hot weather temperatures, and do not do activities that could lead to a fall or belly injury.
- Pay attention to your nutrition and weight gain during pregnancy. Be sure to get the right amounts of folic acid, iron, and calcium. Try for slow, gradual weight gain.
- Limit your use of caffeine.
- Eat a nutritious diet. Get enough protein, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and zinc. These nutrients are vital to your baby's growth, development, and weight gain.
- Exercise safely during pregnancy. Try to get 30 minutes of exercise on most, if not all, days of the week.
- Do pelvic floor (Kegel) exercises to prevent urine control problems (incontinence) after childbirth.
Things to avoid when you are pregnant
- Smoke or use tobacco
- Illegal drugs or misuse of medicines
- Hot tubs and saunas
- Things that cause toxoplasmosis. This includes raw meat, poultry, or seafood; unwashed fruits or vegetables; and cat feces or outdoor soil that cats commonly use.
- Fish that may have mercury. This includes shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish, more than 6 oz (0.2 kg) of white albacore tuna a week, or fish caught in local waters that have not tested as safe.
- Hazardous chemicals, certain cosmetic products, or radiation
Preparing For Your Appointment
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:
- What are your main symptoms?
- How long have you had your symptoms?
- Have you had this problem before? If so, do you know what caused the problem at that time? How was it treated?
- What activities make your symptoms better or worse?
- Do you think that activities related to your job or hobbies caused your symptoms?
- Do you do sports activities?
- What home treatment measures have you tried? Did they help?
- What prescription or nonprescription medicines have you taken or used? Did they help?
- Do you have any health risks?
|Author||Jan Nissl, RN, BS|
|Editor||Susan Van Houten, RN, BSN, MBA|
|Associate Editor||Tracy Landauer|
|Primary Medical Reviewer||Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine|
|Primary Medical Reviewer||Martin Gabica, MD - Family Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||Deborah A. Penava, BA, MD, FRCSC, MPH - Obstetrics and Gynecology|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine|
|Last Updated||August 6, 2008|
Last Updated: August 6, 2008