Most women experience healthy pregnancies with no major complications but it is common for pregnant women to experience minor discomforts or ailments.
Fortunately, these are usually temporary and spontaneously resolve after childbirth. These ailments may occur as a result of higher levels of estrogen, progesterone or prolactin during pregnancy, even though these hormones are necessary to provide a suitable environment to support a baby’s growth.
Why do some ailments occur and can they be managed in order to have a smoother pregnancy? Let’s explore 4 common ailments:
The extra weight that is gained during pregnancy can cause backaches. Furthermore, as the body prepares for childbirth, the ligaments in the body place a strain on the joints in the regions of the lower back and pelvis, resulting in backaches.
How to Manage Backaches?
- Keep your back straight, and well supported when sitting.
- Maternity support pillows and a sufficiently firm mattress to aid sleep.
- Avoid wearing high heels and instead opt for flat footwear to evenly distribute your weight.
Constipation affects 10% to 40% of pregnant women due to hormonal changes, and the consumption of iron supplements during pregnancy may further aggravate this issue.
How to Manage Constipation?
- Stay well hydrated by consuming at least 8 to 12 cups of water every day.
- Consume foods that are high in fibre, such as whole grain bread, vegetables, and fruits.
- Exercises that are recommended during pregnancy.
3. Gastric Reflux/ Heartburn
Heartburn is very common during pregnancy due to increased levels of progesterone in the body. Progesterone relaxes the oesophagal sphincter (bands of muscles at the top and bottom of the muscular tube that passes food and drinks from the mouth to the stomach) and as a result, there is reflux of acid from the stomach to the oesophagus, causing irritation and the sensation of heartburn. In addition, the growing baby presses against the stomach which might also cause heartburn. The symptoms of heartburn are more common beyond 27 weeks of pregnancy.
How to Manage Gastric Reflux/ Heartburn?
- Eat several small meals a day, instead of heavy meals.
- Eat low-fat meals, as fatty food can further relax the oesophagal sphincter.
- Avoid spicy, citrusy or caffeinated food and drinks.
- Do not lie down after your meals.
- Medication that can be used during pregnancy includes antacids that contain aluminium, calcium and magnesium. Avoid antacids that contain bicarbonate or magnesium trisilicate. Alternatively, proton pump inhibitors (PPI) also reduce gastric acid production.
4. Swollen Ankles and Feet
Pregnancy sometimes causes swelling in the ankles and feet due to higher amounts of water retention. This swelling usually occurs after a day of activities and worsens in the late stages of pregnancy. However, if you experience a sudden increase in swelling, you should consult a doctor immediately as it can be a sign of pre-eclampsia.
How to Manage Swollen Ankles and Feet?
- Refrain from standing for prolonged periods as fluid gravitates towards the feet and ankles when standing.
- Elevate the legs on a pillow when sleeping to allow the fluid to flow back towards the rest of the body.
- Simple exercises to improve blood circulation such as bending and stretching the feet 30 times before rotating first in a clockwise direction 8 times and again 8 times in an anticlockwise direction.
Pregnancy is a nine-month-long journey and everyone’s journey is unique. If you are a newly expectant mother, remember that these challenges and changes to the body are normal and can be overcome using the tips shared above.