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9 Common Discomforts of Pregnancy


It's the best of times, but it can also be the most annoying of times: there are so many discomforts of pregnancy, and just so much you can do about them! Following are a list of the top 9, with some suggestions for relief:

1. Heartburn

Caused by the extra pressure on your stomach and intestines, heartburn can make meal time a literal pain. Try eating several small meals throughout the day, and do not lie down after eating.

2. Nausea/Vomiting

Commonly known as "morning sickness," nausea can occur during any  trimester, and can occur at any time of day. Eating small meals throughout the day helps, as does increasing your intake of complex carbohydrates.

3. Back Aches

Back aches arise as your weight changes, and with it, your center of gravity and posture. It might help to wear a pregnancy support garment, which helps to correct your posture and alleviate some of the strain on your back. Sleeping on a body pillow also helps eliminate back pain at night.

4. Headaches

Headaches are caused by hormonal fluctuations, and taking OTC medications to relieve the pain is generally not recommended. The best thing you can do is rest, take a lot of fluids and eat regularly.

5. Mood Swings

Mood swings are common in pregnancy as your body adjusts hormonally to the new life it is creating, and as you emotionally adjust to the realities of pregnancy and parenthood. The physical discomforts of pregnancy don't help your mood, either.

Regular exercise (and the resulting kick of endorphins) is helpful in balancing your mood. Consult with your doctor before beginning an exercise regimen, and do not engage in heavy activity if you did not do so prior to the pregnancy. Having someone you can talk to--be it your spouse, a friend, or a family member--will also do wonders for changing your mood.

6. Fatigue

The best remedy for fatigue is rest, but if your fatigue becomes profound, check with your doctor or midwife. A simple blood test can determine if you have anemia, a common complaint during pregnancy, and one that really saps your energy.

7. Congestion

Nobody can really explain why this one happens, but pregnancy can really give you a stuffy nose. Most OTC remedies are not recommended. However, a neti pot can help relieve congestion: it helps you irrigate your nasal passages with salt water, clearing out mucous and avoiding infection. Neti pots are easily found at drug stores and health food stores.

8. Constipation/Hemorrhoids

One usually leads to the other, and neither is fun. To avoid constipation (and straining, which causes hemorrhoids), eat a diet rich in fiber. Drink plenty of fluids and keep up a regular exercise regimen. You may want to see your doctor or midwife, as OTC remedies are not generally recommended.

9. Swelling/Fluid Retention

Swelling is normal in pregnancy, and can  be relieved by elevating your legs. You can also try lying on your left side, and wearing comfortable shoes. Support hose are also available and may provide relief if you must stand for long periods of time. Severe swelling can also indicate a rare condition called preeclampsia, so check in with your doctor or midwife.

The best way to stay in good health and avoid these common discomforts is to exercise and eat well. Taking care of yourself during pregnancy will help you feel better and handle the demands of motherhood with more energy!

Sarah Baker is a documentary filmmaker and writer currently living in New Bern, NC. Her first book, Lucky Stars: Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell, will be published December 2009. Read more about her.

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