Pregnancy does crazy things to your body. It is also a time filled with some new and unusual concerns. This article address some of those concerns.
Many women experience spotting during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. Typically, spotting without pain or cramping is not cause for alarm. Spotting is common after intercourse and after vaginal exams. However, bleeding as heavy or heavier than a period or bleeding associated with abdominal pain may suggest a problem and should be evaluated.
Nausea and vomiting are very common occurrences in pregnancy. As miserable as you may feel, most of this can be managed on an outpatient basis. If you are unable to keep down solid foods, attempt to keep down water, ginger ale, Gatorade, juice, etc. Try bland foods such as rice, toast, and crackers. Often, prescription medications are needed so don’t hesitate to discuss this with your doctor. If at any time, you are unable to keep anything down, even water, let us know. See our article, Common Ailments of Pregnancy, for additional information.
Round Ligament Pain
Round ligament pain is a very common, sharp, sudden pain in the groin or lower abdomen caused by the enlarging uterus. This pain may be unilateral (one side) or bilateral (both sides) and usually is worse at the end of the day. Unfortunately, there is no cure for round ligament pain, but it may be helped by sitting down and propping up your feet, thus giving the muscles of your pelvis a rest. Any severe, persistent, or cramping pain should be reported to your doctor.
Heartburn & Indigestion
This is an almost universal problem in pregnancy. Normally, the stomach valve stays shut, keeping stomach contents in the stomach. However, the hormones of pregnancy often keep the stomach valve open, which allows acid to rise into the throat. Thus, the most effective medicines for this tend to be of the antacid variety (Turns, Maalox etc). See our article, Common Ailments of Pregnancy, for a more extensive list.
Toxoplasmosis is an infection that can be transmitted to the fetus. Pregnant women should not empty cat litter boxes. Wash your hands thoroughly after handling raw meat. Certain farm animals also carry toxoplasmosis, so let your doctor know if you work in an animal lab or near livestock.
A healthy, balanced diet is crucial during pregnancy. Your prenatal vitamin is an important part of your pregnancy diet. A diet filled with fruits and vegetables will benefit your developing baby more than the fast food or ice cream you are craving (although ice cream is a good source of calcium). Speaking of calcium, pregnant women need a minimum of 1200mg of calcium daily for the development of the bones of the fetus. Your prenatal vitamin contains a small amount of calcium. In addition, your diet should contain calcium-rich foods. Good sources of calcium are dairy products (a glass of milk contains 200mg of calcium), green, leafy vegetables (spinach, broccoli), or calcium supplements (Tums, which you may need for heartburn anyway). Excess mercury in the diet during pregnancy can be harmful. Therefore, avoid raw fish completely during your pregnancy. Limit cooked fish, including canned tuna, to one serving per week. Also stay away from raw or undercooked meats as much as possible. Molded cheese and unpasteurized cheeses (such as some blue and feta cheeses) should also be limited during pregnancy. Save the sushi, rare steak, and feta as a present to yourself after delivery.
Stretch marks are a common result of pregnancy. They tend to be hereditary (if your mother had bad stretch marks, you may as well). There is no product that reliably prevents stretch marks. Cocoa butter is a popular product that may help. If you are going to use any product, use it early in pregnancy, prior to the development of any stretch marks as there is no cure for them once they appear.
Overall, we recommend exercise at all stages of pregnancy and during the postpartum period. During early pregnancy, you must be very careful not to get overheated, as high body temperatures can affect your fetus. As a general rule, you should not exercise to exhaustion or drenching sweat as this is likely overdoing it. Be sure to keep yourself well hydrated during exercise and to wear clothes that will allow you to remain cool.
During your late second and third trimester, your center of gravity will change considerably. Therefore, you should avoid activities that rely on your sense of balance, such as skiing or jogging. Obviously, you should avoid contact activities where you may risk trauma to your belly.
Weight lifting, yoga, and walking are beneficial exercises at all stages of pregnancy. If you are having complications during your pregnancy such as preterm labor, problems with your placenta, or bad asthma, check with us before you exercise, as the rules may change for you.
You will get severely swollen feet at some point during your pregnancy or postpartum period. You may outgrow your regular shoes early in your pregnancy. This is okay. Get some unrestrictive shoes such as flip-flops or sandals that are a size or two larger than you normally wear. You may also want to avoid wearing socks if you can. There is nothing that will take this swelling away, but propping up your feet as often as possible and avoiding salt may help.
Your hands may not begin swelling until late in your pregnancy. When this occurs, you may get some numbness and tingling in your hands. This usually disappears shortly after delivery. If at any time, you experience weakness in your hands or begin dropping items, let us know.
Sciatica (leg pain)
Sciatica is the medical term for a rather severe pain in one or both of your legs originating from your back and radiating down your legs. It commonly occurs in late pregnancy. This pain can make walking difficult. This is caused by the fetal head descending in your pelvis and putting pressure on your lower spinal cord and hip joints. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this except to attempt to move the baby. Occasionally, this can be accomplished by changing your position, drinking something sweet, or placing a loud noise against your belly.
Headaches are common in pregnancy. Any product that Tylenol makes is safe. Take these medications as often as allowed, as indicated on the bottle, as long as your headache persists. Stay away from any products containing ibuprofen, its derivatives, or aspirin. Dehydration is a common cause of headaches, so make sure you are getting a minimum of eight glasses of water per day. Caffeine withdrawal is also a common cause of headaches early in pregnancy so try treating yourself to a dose of caffeine if your headache has not responded to the above suggestions. If you feel like your headache is sinus related, take any of the sinus medications listed in the Common Ailments of Pregnancy. If you have a severe headache that has not responded to hydration or multiple doses of Tylenol, call the office as this may be an indication that your blood pressure is elevated.
Vaginal Discharge/Mucous Plug
Vaginal discharge is common during pregnancy. You may notice some occasional spotting after exams, after heavy exercise, or after intercourse. As long as this spotting is not accompanied with painful or persistent cramping, there is no need to be alarmed. White discharge without itching or vaginal irritation is likely nothing to worry about. Near your due date, you may notice a heavy, mucousy discharge or you may pass a large chunk of mucous. This is called the “mucous plug.” It is not a predictor of impending labor nor does it warrant a special trip to the office. Mention it to your doctor at your next scheduled visit as you may need to have a cervical exam to assess your dilation.
A small amount of caffeine is relatively safe in pregnancy. As a general rule, one caffeinated drink per day is acceptable. A common cause of headaches, early in pregnancy, is caffeine withdrawal.
It goes without saying that absolutely no smoking is allowed during pregnancy. We could fill this entire page listing the bad things that occur in pregnancy that are linked to smoking. If you smoke, you should make every effort to quit as early in pregnancy as possible. Both smokers and non-smokers should also attempt to avoid secondhand smoke. Smoking around a newborn or toddler dramatically increases the chance that the child will develop asthma. It is just not worth it! Stop smoking!
At OB/GYN Associates of Alabama, our goal is to make your pregnancy as healthy and stress free as possible. Our physicians provide comprehensive services ranging from basic ultrasound to high-risk obstetrical care for women with diabetes and hypertension. Contact us to schedule an appointment!