Wednesday 13 December 2017

Coping with pregnancy ailments

Library Image.
Library Image.

During pregnancy your body goes through loads of changes, not all of which are pleasant. Registered midwife at Mount Carmel Maternity Hospital Grainne McGarrell offers some tips to deal with them

Morning sickness:

This can last up to three months, although some women may suffer from it for a little longer.

It has been known to last throughout the day too.

Eating small meals more often can help, as your stomach is never completely empty or too full, as can eating ginger.

Try keeping some ginger biscuits beside your bed to eat first thing in the morning.

Back pain:

As your baby grows, the weight of your expanding uterus changes your centre of gravity back over your legs. Also in pregnancy, hormones can cause weaknesses in some of the ligaments. Both of these factors lead to back pain.

Try to avoid standing for long periods, as this puts strain on your lower back.

When sitting or lying down, try not to cross your legs.

This can tilt your pelvis too much, leaving you even more uncomfortable.

Correct footwear is essential, so take a break from the heels.

Sitting with your feet elevated can also provide comfort.

Exercise in pregnancy is very important – this can be in the form of pregnancy yoga, swimming or a nice gentle walk.

Stretch marks:

As your baby grows, your tummy will expand. This expansion can cause stretch marks.

Most pregnant women can't get away from them, but you will always know one who didn't get any!

Using oils and creams can help, but the best way of avoiding them is to control weight gain. Stretch marks will fade over time, but will never completely disappear.


Caused by pregnancy and muscle-relaxing hormones that relax the muscle at the top of your stomach, allowing acid to travel back up towards your throat, heartburn is very uncomfortable.

Eating little and often can help, as can avoiding spicy or fatty foods. A lot of women try to have some Rennies or Gaviscon to hand in case of emergencies.

Skin changes:

Your skin will become darker during pregnancy – many women find they tan more easily.

This is due to a raise in pregnancy hormones.

You will notice a marked skin change around your nipples and may also notice a line from your belly button to your bikini line. This called the linea nigra.

Some women may develop what's known as a ' butterfly mask' over their face (also called chloasma).

It should disappear after pregnancy, but has been known to last longer.

Some also develop acne. A healthy diet that includes plenty of water can help this.

Itchiness, especially of your tummy, can be associated with your skin stretching, and should go away when your baby is born.

Restless legs:

Due to pregnancy hormones, you may find you are more prone to muscle cramps and 'jittery legs'.

These complaints can depend on your level of fitness.

Taking a calcium supplement (present in most prenatal preparations) can help.

Also, a hot water bottle applied to the site of a muscle cramp can help ease the pain.

Painful breasts:

For some women, sore and tender breasts can be an early sign of pregnancy.

During the first trimester, pregnancy hormones cause blood supply to the breasts to increase.

From around 16 weeks, your breasts can start to produce milk, which is held there in preparation for your baby's birth.

Don't be alarmed if you leak breast milk – this is normal.

Wearing a good supportive bra can help, so make sure you are wearing one that fits well and is comfortable. Many stores offer a fitting service, so avail of this.


Also called oedema, swelling of your hands, ankles and feet is common, albeit uncomfortable.

Most women suffer from it during pregnancy.

It can be aggravated by weight gain, salty foods, not drinking enough water, hot weather and standing for long periods.

Therefore, by exercising regularly, cutting out salt from your diet, drinking more water and relaxing in the shade, you may be more at ease.

When you are resting, try elevating your feet higher by putting a cushion underneath them. Also you can try rotating your feet.

Your partner can help you by giving you a nice long foot massage!


Pregnancy hormones can cause the bowel muscles to relax, leaving you more prone to constipation.

Iron supplements have been known to cause constipation, but this is not a reason to stop taking supplements.

A high-fibre diet with plenty of water can help, as can drinking orange juice with the iron tablets.

Varicose veins and haemorrhoids:

As your baby grows, the increased weight can cause varicose veins.

As your pregnancy progresses, blood flow (especially in your legs) can become sluggish, allowing these veins to develop in your legs, and sometimes around the vulva.

Haemorrhoids may also develop.

Exercising regularly, taking plenty of rest with your feet up, and drinking lots of fluids can control these symptoms.

With haemorrhoids, it is important to drink plenty of fluids to avoid constipation.

Vaginal discharge:

Vaginal discharge increases during pregnancy, and may look white and thick at times; it may also have a greenish tinge.

This discharge helps stop infection travelling up the vagina towards the uterus.

If the discharge becomes watery or bloodstained you will need to contact your midwife/doctor.

This list is in no way complete. If you think you have a problem that is more severe, painful, uncomfortable or worrisome than those mentioned above, contact your midwife/ doctor/ maternity unit.

Grainne Mcgarrell (RGN, RM) is a staff midwife at Mount Carmel Maternity Hospital, Churchtown, Dublin 14. For more information about maternity packages at Mount Carmel, contact Bairbre Keane or Sally-anne Doddy, t: 01 4063401 or e:

Mother & Babies

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