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Midwifery at WHA: Pregnancy discomforts explained

Posted November 20, 2013

Editor's Note: Midwifery at Women's Health Alliance, the sponsor of our Go Ask Mom Cutest Baby Contest, is offering some health information this month. Check the box for more posts from Midwifery at WHA.

Pregnancy is an exciting time. Even in the first few weeks, the physiologic changes in the mom-to-be’s body are amazing. Many of the common discomforts women experience are due to these changes. However, women may wonder if what they feel is “normal.” They want to know that their baby is OK, and that they are too. Understanding the “why” behind common discomforts can be very reassuring.

Fatigue: The hormones of pregnancy, progesterone and relaxin, may cause sleepiness and fatigue. Some women didn’t “know they could be so tired.” This is normal. Growing another human being takes a lot of energy! Add in a job, a household, and perhaps even other children and Mom can feel completely drained. Nap when you can, add or continue with moderate exercise, and know that energy will improve in the second trimester.

Nausea, vomiting, and food aversions: Hormones play a role here also, but are not the whole picture. This discomfort may be responsible for making sure the mom doesn’t ingest anything that may harm the developing baby. Be assured that the baby will get what it needs! Don’t worry too much about nutrition if you are struggling just to eat and drink. Prioritize fluids, and eat what you can. Once symptoms improve you can focus on nutrition.

Constipation: Blame those hormones again. They relax the uterus to allow the baby to grow, and they relax the intestines to improve absorption of nutrients. Simple dietary measures like increasing fluids and fiber can help with this discomfort.

Headaches: Yep, the hormones again. They relax your blood vessels, which can cause “vascular expansion headaches.” They can be very uncomfortable, but are fairly common until about 20 weeks. Tell your provider if the headache is severe, or you have any neurological symptoms like numbness, weakness, or difficulty speaking.

Dizziness and feeling faint: Guess what? You got it! Hormones are at work again. As with the headaches, the relaxed blood vessels in your body are making way for more blood volume. Extra blood volume is needed to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the growing uterus and baby. Drink lots of fluids to keep your blood vessels “full.” Watch concentrated sweets and increase your dietary protein so that low blood sugar doesn’t make you feel worse. Change your position slowly so your body has time to adjust, and this will usually pass.

If you experience these common early discomforts, be sure to discuss them with your health care provider for more tips on relief. Be assured that despite the discomfort, your body is working to grow and nourish your baby, and these are temporary symptoms that mean everything is working as it should.


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