No matter how many books you read or how many friends and family members you talk to, nothing can ever prepare you for the journey you go on when you find out that you’re expecting. One of the most unnerving things about pregnancy is that everyone is different. You could chat to a room full of mothers, and you’ll find that every person has a different tale. Some will tell you they loved being pregnant. Others will share horror stories. The reality of the situation is that every pregnancy is unique, but there are often symptoms and signs that are shared by many women. Here are some of the most common side-effects of pregnancy, and some tips to help you cope if you’re struggling.
The name morning sickness is a bit of a mystery. If you talk to pregnant women who endured this common ailment, you’ll quickly discover that it should be named morning, noon, and night sickness. There is a belief that symptoms tend to be worse in the mornings, but most people find that nausea affects them throughout the day. Morning sickness is very common, and almost all pregnant women will experience it during the gestation period. Some have it very mildly, others have a much tougher time. Generally speaking, sickness tends to be worse in the early stages, but some women suffer with it for much longer. If you do have morning sickness, try and avoid triggers that make your symptoms worse, such as rich foods and strong odours, and eat small meals throughout the day. Stay hydrated, and get plenty of rest. If you get to the stage where you can’t keep anything down, even water, see your doctor or contact your midwife.
Some women find that they lose hair during pregnancy. This is most commonly due to the hormonal changes that are taking place in the body. When your hormones levels are changing, this can result in excessive shedding, which is known as telogen effluvium. Hair loss is not usually anything to worry about, but if you have lost a lot of hair, see your doctor. Losing hair during pregnancy cannot be treated in the same way as hair loss for men. Finasteride is a prescription medicine for hair loss, for example, but it is not suitable for women. If you do experience shedding, your doctor may be able to suggest an alternative treatment or give you some tips to manage stress, if this could be a contributing factor. In some cases, hair loss may be linked to poor nutrition, and your doctor can also give you some advice related to healthy eating if they think your diet may be deficient in nutrients.
Do you feel like you spend your life on the loo? If so, you’re not alone. It’s very common for pregnant women to urinate more frequently than normal. This is because the uterus pushes down on the bladder and hormonal changes accelerate the flow of blood to the kidneys, which causes your bladder to fill up more frequently. If you are struggling, try and avoid drinks that make you urinate more regularly, such as coffee and tea. If you find that you’re waking up during the night and this is disturbing your sleep patterns, stop drinking at least an hour before you go to bed.
Do you have days when you don’t seem to have any energy at all? Tiredness is a feature of pregnancy, and it can make life really difficult, especially in the first trimester. Most women find that they feel lethargic and fatigued during the first 12 weeks, and tiredness can also be a problem in the final weeks when it’s increasingly difficult to sleep. If you are tired all the time, make an effort to look after yourself. You need to eat well, rest and stay hydrated. If you’re finding it hard to get through the day at work, see if you can work from home or take a couple of days off to recharge your batteries. When you get to the stage where your bump is making it hard to get comfortable, try sleeping on your side and using a pregnancy pillow.
Fluctuating levels of the hormone progesterone contribute to an elevated risk of constipation during pregnancy. Rising levels cause food to pass through the gut at a slower pace than normal, and this means that you may find it difficult to go to the toilet. If you’re constipated, increase your fibre intake by adding more fruit, vegetables, and whole grains to your diet and make sure you drink water throughout the day. If symptoms persist, see your doctor.
Pregnant women have a higher risk of gum disease. You’ve guessed it. It’s those pesky pregnancy hormones again. The changing levels of hormones in your body make your gums more sensitive to plaque, a substance that forms when saliva combines bacteria with food debris. Look out for symptoms like bleeding gums, swelling, and soreness. If you do notice these signs, book an appointment with your dentist. Even if you don’t have symptoms, it’s a good idea to see your dentist at least once during your pregnancy. If gum disease is left untreated, it can damage the gums permanently, increase the risk of tooth loss and even put your baby at risk. During your pregnancy, take care to brush your teeth twice a day for at least 2 minutes, and floss.
Pregnancy can be a wonderful thing, but it can also be incredibly trying. For nine months, your body is put through the ringer, and there’s also a lot of emotional stress to overcome. It’s very common to experience certain signs and symptoms during pregnancy, so don’t worry if you feel like your body is changing on a daily basis. If you are struggling to cope with symptoms, ask your doctor or midwife for advice. Often, you’ll find that symptoms pass, and if they are getting worse, there are often treatments and remedies that can help.