Common pregnancy discomforts

Morning sickness

This is a common problem in early pregnancy. It is caused by changes in hormones during pregnancy. It often disappears after the first trimester, but can occasionally last longer. You may experience nausea or vomiting. If it is severe and you are unable to keep any fluids down you should contact your doctor. What you can do to ameliorate symptoms:

  • Eat small meals often
  • Sips of fluids throughout the day
  • Avoid fatty, spicy foods
  • Ginger
  • Vitamin B6

Backache in pregnancy

This is a very common problem; which up to 70% of pregnant women will experience at some point in their pregnancy. It is caused by the softening and stretching of ligaments in your body due to a hormone called relaxin.

Things to avoid:

  • Lifting heavy weights
  • Bending over
  • High heals
  • Standing or sitting for long periods

Things that may help:

  • Bend at your knees
  • Flat shoes
  • Sit with back straight and well supported
  • Rest
  • Aqua aerobics, pilates, massages, acupuncture
  • Hot packs
  • Pain relief such as Panadol or panadeine


Bladder and bowel problems

A need to frequently pass water often starts in early pregnancy and continues throughout. If you experience any pain with passing water or notice any blood in your urine, you should contact your doctor.
Incontinence is a common problem in pregnancy which is usually temporary and resolves after birth of your baby. You should do pelvic floor exercises to strengthen the pelvic muscles.

Constipation is caused by hormones that relax muscles within the bowel wall which in turn causes a decrease in bowel contractions and a slower stool passage. This then causes more water to be absorbed during the passage which causes hard stools and painful defecation. You should drink more water and eat food with a high fibre content (veggies and fruit, wholegrain bread and pasta), and exercise.

Haemorrhoids or piles are enlarged swollen veins around the lower rectum and anus. They may cause painful defecation, bleeding or itchiness. You should avoid constipation. Your doctor may prescribe ointment with a steroid and anaesthetic to help relieve pain. Very rarely haemorrhoids need to be surgically treated.

Skin changes

Chloasma is a skin disorder with dark skin patches over the face that develop in some pregnant women, or women who use oral combined hormonal contraception. It develops due to the stimulation of pigment producing cells by estrogen hormones. You should use broad-spectrum sunscreen and wear a hat.

Stretchmarks are common in pregnancy, however they can develop at any time. They occur when skin is stretched due to a growing uterus, or if you gain or lose weight. There is no evidence that any cream or ointment can prevent them or remove them, however they will fade over time.


Swollen ankles and hands

Swelling occcurs due to fluid retention during pregnancy. It is a very common complaint in pregnancy. It mostly occurs at the end of the day or after a period of prolonged standing or sitting. Avoid eating salty food and avoid prolonged standing. Light exercise may also improve swelling. Occasionally swelling may be associated with pre-eclampsia, so if you develop it suddenly or experience other symptoms such as nausea, headache or belly pain you should contact your doctor or midwife.

Leg cramps

Leg cramps are involuntary contractions of muscles, most commonly in the calves at night. Magnesium supplementation may help. Other measures that you may take are stretching, regular exercise and drink more water.



Headaches are often caused by hormonal changes that occur in pregnancy, at period time or in menopause. They can be triggered by fatigue or dehydration. They are relieved by simple analgesia. It is advisable to get more rest, hydration and regular physical activity.

Occasionally headaches may be a symptom of a more serious condition, therefore it is important that you report any headache which is not relieved by simple analgesia, to your doctor or midwife.



Most women will experience indigestion in their pregnancy at some point. It develops due to hormonal changes and later in pregnancy due to the weight pressure of the womb on the stomach. Things you can do to help:

  • Eating smaller meals often
  • Avoid certain foods
  • Sleep with an extra pillow
  • Avoid eating before bedtime
  • Medications such as antacids

Occasionally indigestion not relieved by lifestyle modifications may be part of a more serious condition, and you should report that to your doctor or midwife.


Vaginal discharge

Normal vaginal discharge increases in pregnancy. It can be white, clear, and mucous and it usually doesn’t smell bad.

Abnormal vaginal discharge can cause vaginal itch or pain, is foamy, smells bad, has yellow or green colour. It may be caused by vaginal infection.

It is important that vaginal discharge is not mistaken for amniotic fluid leak. You should report any change in vaginal discharge or watery leakage from vagina to your doctor or midwife.


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