The 5 Most Common Pregnancy Problems & Their Solutions
Pregnancy is usually a time of excitement and joy for most expecting families. The antenatal classes can take you so far with your preparations, but the big mystery and source of joy is wondering who that person that you're growing is going to be. Whether you've never had a baby before or you have given birth multiple times, the process of pregnancy, labour and birth is a miracle that can bring both a thrill of anticipation and a shiver of concern about the unknown.
Photo by Alicia Petresc from Unsplash
You might be feeling nervous about what's to come, especially if it's your first baby. You don't know what to expect or how it will affect you mentally, emotionally or physically.
It's natural to be a little apprehensive about what pregnancy and birth will bring, after all every baby is different, every body is individual, and every experience is unique. So no one can tell you what will come.
But there are some common problems that can frequently appear in the antenatal period and through giving birth; some of them you might need medical intervention for, some you will be able to treat yourself and some others can be treated or avoided altogether with a physiotherapy Pregnancy MOT.
If you're wondering what to do about some issues you may be facing, have a look at our list of the five most frequent pregnancy complications and their solutions.
1. Morning Sickness
The telltale nausea and vomiting of early pregnancy is the most classic symptom of the first trimester. It can be triggered by numerous things, such as certain flavours or odours, or when you're feeling tired or unduly stressed. It may be surprising to learn that no one actually knows why women have morning sickness when they are expecting! But it's thought to be caused by increased hormone levels. So-called 'morning' sickness commonly occurs first thing in the morning, but it can happen at any time of the day. It can be very mild or really quite severe, with the most extreme version, hyperemesis gravidarum, making day-to-day tasks difficult or impossible.
Treatment for morning sickness:
Regular morning sickness can best be managed by snacking often, getting plenty of rest and fresh air, drinking lots of water to keep hydrated and avoiding triggers. Many women find bland, dry snacks such as crackers, dry cereal or pretzels helpful, while others may get relief from cold treats like fruit-flavoured ice lollies. If you suspect you might have hyperemesis gravidarum, you will probably need medical help, so seek advice from your doctor if you're unable to eat or drink, are getting dehydrated or if you have lost more than 5% of your body weight.
Back pain in pregnancy is very common, particularly early on. Being pregnant causes your ligaments to soften in preparation for your body to grow and accommodate your baby as well as for labour. Furthermore, you will gain weight and grow heavier as your pregnancy develops, and your posture will adjust to accommodate. These changes can create strain on your joints and on your lower back which is what causes the familiar backache.
Pelvic girdle pain is another type of pain that many women experience when they are carrying a baby. When the joints move unevenly it can cause the pelvis to become unstable, and unfortunately it can be triggered by a number of commonplace actions such as walking, going up and down stairs, dressing up or rolling over in bed.
Treatment for pain in pregnancy:
One of the best actions you can take to treat – or even prevent – pregnancy-related pain is to do exercises to strengthen your back and core muscles. Ideal activities are those that focus on the abdominals, the back muscles and the pelvic floor muscles such as Pilates or pregnancy yoga. Swimming is a perfect pregnancy exercise for all-round fitness that supports the joints and spine. You can also get some relief from a women's health physiotherapist who will be able to perform manual therapy to ensure your pelvis, hips and spine are all functioning normally together.
3. Constipation and Haemorrhoids
Haemorrhoids are inflamed blood vessels around your anus that are caused by pressure within your pelvis. That explains why it frequently occurs during pregnancy as your baby grows and takes up more space; and it normally occurs in the second and third trimester. Haemorrhoids can be very uncomfortable, causing itchiness and even bleeding, and are often caused or exacerbated by straining due to constipation. Feeling constipated and unable to empty your bowels properly is a regular complaint for pregnant women. Although unpleasant, these problems are not dangerous to you or your baby, although straining can cause other more serious problems.
Treatment for constipation:
Drinking plenty of water and eating a diet high in fibre with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables are the best ways to treat or prevent constipation. Exercise will also help, and if you can avoid getting constipated, then you have a much better chance of pregnancy haemorrhoids not developing as well. It’s important to ensure you learn and maintain a good toileting position as well, as most of us are not taught to do so properly. If you use a small step stool to prop up your feet, keeping your knees higher than your hips, it will help with good toileting posture.
4. Leg Cramps
If you haven't experienced cramp in your life, then be grateful! It's a sudden sharp pain caused by the uncontrollable contraction of a muscle. It can happen anywhere in your body; but it most commonly occurs in the calf muscles, particularly in pregnant women. Because it often happens at night, it can also be disruptive to your sleeping patterns.
Treatment for leg cramps during pregnancy:
As with so many of the standard pregnancy complaints, cramp is best managed by exercise. Throughout the day, but particularly after exercising or even just walking, you should perform some simple leg stretches to keep the calf muscles supple. Improving the circulation in your legs can help, too, so try regular ankle and leg movements such as flexions and rotations. Key nutrients to stop cramp are potassium, sodium, calcium and magnesium. They’re called electrolytes, and they are abundant in bananas, sweet potatoes, avocados and nuts. Keeping hydrated is important throughout your pregnancy for many reasons, and it's especially useful for warding off cramp, so keep your water bottle handy and refill it often. If you get cramp, try stretching or massaging your muscles to ease it.
5. Urinary Incontinence
Additional pressure on the pelvic floor muscles, organs and, particularly, the bladder means that pregnant women frequently suffer from incontinence that can range from an almost insignificant leak of urine to an embarrassing complete loss of bladder control. As it's most likely to happen when you're sneezing, laughing or coughing, it's also known as stress incontinence. Although it's nothing to worry about unduly, pregnancy-related incontinence can continue after you have given birth, so seeking treatment early is important.
Treatment for incontinence:
Many women find that urinary incontinence is triggered or worsened by carbonated drinks and caffeine, so it's generally advisable to avoid too much tea or coffee and skip the fizzy drinks altogether. Keeping a bladder diary can be a useful management tool because it will help you to track when you're most likely to experience a leak so that you can plan your day. While those techniques will help you manage incontinence, the most effective way to avoid it completely is by doing pelvic floor exercises to strengthen the muscles that support your bladder, bowel and uterus. These exercises are also valuable in preparing for giving birth and preventing postnatal pelvic problems.
Supporting the Body Through Pregnancy
You probably won't be surprised to know that it's always better to prevent antenatal problems than to try and cure them later. Not only that, but the minor complaints that come up during pregnancy can cause more serious problems during and after giving birth. Therefore, all pregnant women should take advantage of the opportunity to do what they can as early as possible.
A Pregnancy MOT with a women's pelvic physiotherapist will teach you how to do all the exercises that you need, will diagnosis any problems that you might not be aware are developing and will give you effective strategies to prepare your body for giving birth. Not only that, but the Pregnancy MOT will also set you up for a better, quicker postpartum recovery too.
PelviCare Women's Health Physiotherapy is offering women 20% off a Pregnancy MOT through the month of October, so it's easy to treat yourself to the antenatal check you deserve.
For more information about the Pregnancy MOT or treatments for other women's health issues, call Magdalena on 07877 017 936 or drop PelviCare an email. Alternatively, you can book an appointment online.
PelviCare Women's Health Physiotherapy is located in Greenwich, London, serving women across South London, East London, Essex, Kent and beyond.