Pregnancy is a long and tedious journey with a lot of ups and downs. The amazing experience of housing another life in the uterus – one’s own offspring is accompanied by numerous challenges. No matter how smooth the pregnancy is, there will always be a certain degree of discomfort or aches the woman has to undergo. Listed below are the most common pregnancy pains a woman will experience with their corresponding management:
Blood volume doubles during pregnancy. This puts more pressure on the cerebral blood vessels, causing moderate to severe headache. The sensation may be described as a steady, bilateral, dull pain at the head or at the nape. Other assumed causes are fatigue, congestive colds, the hormone changes that occur, and any form of stress (emotional and/or physical). This is not a point of concern as headaches are normally occurring pregnancy pains.
Reducing external stimuli that lead to headaches is the most effective way. Preventing eye strain or tension may decrease occurrence of headaches. Sufficient relief may be achieved by placing a cold handkerchief or towel on one’s forehead.
Some women prefer using pharmacologic remedies for relief. This is permitted; however, they should consult a doctor prior to taking any over-the-counter drugs. Some medications may cause harm to the fetus.
Intense or continuous headache may be a sign of preeclampsia (pregnancy-induced high blood pressure), which can be indicated by 3 consecutive readings that are higher than 120/80 mmHg. This should be reported to a physician immediately so that timely intervention can be conducted.
Lower Abdominal Pain
During the 18th to 24th week of pregnancy, the fetus rapidly begins to grow, resulting in the stretching of the ligaments and muscles of the uterus and, subsequently, the abdomen to accommodate it. This may be an uncomfortable and painful sensation for most women.
The management is quite simple. The pregnant woman is advised to avoid quick, sudden movements. Shift positions slowly to avoid discomfort. Have adequate rest periods to prevent fatigue.
Changes in the Breasts
At about 6 weeks into pregnancy, the woman is able to observe subtle changes in her breasts. That is because they are being readied to store and produce milk for the baby. One noticeable change is the gradual increase in size because of the increased deposits of fat tissue and mammary glands in the breasts. This also leads to feelings of fullness, tenderness or a tingling sensation in the breasts which are mostly noticeable upon exposure to cold air.
Choosing a Bra
Since breasts increase by a cup size or so during pregnancy, it is important to buy a new, proper-fitting bra to provide adequate support and prevent discomfort. Wearing a small, tight-fitting bra could result to soreness around the area and unsightly dents on the skin. It will also restrict blood supply toward the area and constrict the surrounding lymph glands, which could lead to possible health concerns.
A good maternity bra has to be soft and comfortable enough to be worn during the day and night. They should be made of natural fibers such as cotton. Bras with underwiring or seams are not recommended for pregnant women as they cause discomfort. Wide straps are recommended for that added support. Gauze pads may be fastened within the cup of the bra once the breasts start producing colostrum. This serves as a sponge that will absorb the fluid and prevent leakage onto the clothes. It is recommended to stock up on a few extra pairs so that they can be changed when they become wet. The breasts should not be left moist for prolonged periods of time as it could lead to cracking or tenderness. If pads are not available, the woman may use a cotton handkerchief instead.
Wash the breasts with warm water every day to rinse off dried colostrum and prevent pregnancy pains caused by infection or cracks. Do not use soap as it can make the skin dry and cause irritation.
Women often experience leg cramps during the last few months of pregnancy. This is mainly due to the additional weight they have to carry during the course of pregnancy. The loosening of ligaments in preparation for childbirth may also contribute to this sensation.
A simple solution to this is by stretching the legs before lying down or going to sleep. Massaging the sore area also proves to be effective. If asymmetric pain and swelling of the legs occur, seek medical help immediately. This may be indicative of a blood clot on the affected leg.
The fetal skeleton begins forming during the 13th week of conception. This causes an increase of the woman’s calcium and phosphorus needs, both of which are necessary for bone development. Additionally, the gradual increase in size of the uterus comes with further progression of pregnancy. This changes the woman’s center of gravity. To deal with this, the expectant mother has to change her posture upon ambulation to allow her to carry both the weight of the fetus and her own weight. This is usually achieved by assuming a position which resembles lordosis wherein the shoulders are further pushed posteriorly and the abdomen is pushed anteriorly even more, resulting in additional curvature of the spine. This is widely known as the “pride of pregnancy.” All of these conditions contribute to the development of backache.
To deal with this, it is recommended for women to skip the high heels and wear comfortable footwear instead. Wearing sneakers, flip flops, or other shoes without heels helps decrease the need to assume the “pride of pregnancy.” Avoid standing for prolonged periods of time and apply warm compress on the affected area to help alleviate backache.
Women are advised to adopt proper body mechanics when moving. When picking up objects, the woman should keep her back straight while squatting instead of bending over. Hold these objects close to the body to decrease back strain. Lifting heavy objects is a bog no-no for pregnant women.
Sleeping on a firm mattress greatly reduces backache. For those who wish to find a more cost-effective way of making the mattress firmer, they may slip a wooden board under the bed – this usually does the trick. It is also recommended to lie down on the side and place a pillow between the legs to reduce discomfort. Sitting on a chair that provides adequate back support is also helpful.
Performing exercises such as pelvic rocking can be quite helpful. This helps alleviate pregnancy pains by increasing the flexibility of the spine. This exercise can be executed in 4 different positions: on all fours, standing, sitting, or in a supine position. To perform, the woman has to arch her back, in an attempt to stretch or lengthen the spinal cord and maintain this position for about 60 seconds or 1 minute, subsequently followed by the hollowing of the back. This procedure should be done for about 5 times a day.