10 min read
BY MONIQUE MAITLAND | Registered Midwife & Nurse
Pregnancy Mysteries Unraveled. We asked Clinical midwife Monique Maitland your burning questions about Body Changes Beyond the Bump - Aches, Pains, Glowing Skin, and More!
Q1: During pregnancy, why do I experience aches and pains in areas like the back, abdomen, and thighs? Is there anything that can help?
As your pregnancy progresses the pressure placed on your body increases to accommodate your growing baby’s needs. You may experience aches and pains in the back, abdomen, and thighs for a few reasons:
- Hormonal Changes: Relaxin is a hormone produced during pregnancy which relaxes everything to help prepare your body to carry and birth your baby. The hormone Relaxin loosens ligaments, tendons, joints, and blood vessels, which can also strain muscles and supporting structures and lead to back pain and swelling in the legs.
- Balance Shifts: As your belly grows, your center of gravity shifts, altering your posture and putting extra stress on muscles, especially in the lower back.
To prevent and manage these discomforts:
- Wear Compression Clothing: Graduated compression garments like TheRY leggings and socks can improve blood flow, reduce swelling, and support your circulatory system. I recommend TheRY because the graduated compression technology used in their maternity leggings and socks is 15-20mmHg medical grade compression and listed by the TGA. Graduated compression is extremely beneficial during pregnancy when your blood volume dramatically increases, it helps to promote blood flow around the body and back to the heart which supports mamas’ circulatory system. Additionally, it can help improve maternal blood flow to the placenta where the baby receives important nutrients for development.
- Regular Exercise: Safe, pregnancy-friendly exercises strengthen muscles, improve posture, and relieve discomfort. Consult a women's health physio for guidance.
- Use a Pregnancy Pillow: Using a maternity pillow for support when sleeping can be beneficial to alleviate discomfort but also helps support optimal posture which can prevent pain.
Remember, while some discomfort is normal, always consult a medical professional if you experience persistent or severe pain during pregnancy.
Q2: What causes constipation during pregnancy and what strategies can help relieve it?
Constipation is a common gastrointestinal symptom in pregnancy most commonly in the first trimester. Causes can include:
- Hormones: Elevated progesterone levels can slow down the passage of gastric contents (digestion) during pregnancy.
- Expanding uterus: As your baby grows, it can compress your organs in your body such as the stomach and intestines, further hindering bowel movements.
- Dietary fiber: Insufficient fiber intake in your diet can be a contributing factor to constipation during pregnancy.
- Supplements: Some common supplements taken during pregnancy, especially iron, can also lead to constipation.
Consult your healthcare provider: Seek advice from your doctor or healthcare provider to determine the cause and get tailored advice on how you can best manage it.
Stool Softener/Laxative: Your provider might suggest a stool softener / laxative as needed.
Adjust Supplements: Consider adjusting your pregnancy supplement if they are contributing to your constipation.
Increase Fiber: Include more fiber-rich foods in your diet like fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, and legumes.
- Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water throughout the day to help soften your stools.
Q3: Why do I feel dizzy and lightheaded at times during my pregnancy, and what steps can I take to manage these sensations?
Some dizziness & lightheadedness can be normal in pregnancy. However, it is important to note that if these symptoms persist or worsen that you consult your healthcare provider for further investigations.
One of the most common reasons for experiencing these sensations is if you have been supine (flat on your back) for too long. There is a major blood vessel known as the inferior vena cava which runs along your spine. As your baby grows their weight can compress this major blood vessel and therefore prevent blood flow back to the heart which then can drop your blood pressure. Leaving you with feelings of lightheadedness.
Managing Dizziness and Lightheadedness:
Sleep Position: Avoid lying flat on your back, especially as your pregnancy progresses. We promote side sleeping from 28 weeks of pregnancy, preferably the left side, to improve blood flow.
Pregnancy Pillow: Investing in a supportive pregnancy pillow to prevent back sleeping and maintain a comfortable side-sleeping position is encouraged.
- Stay Hydrated: As always, make sure you are drinking plenty of water throughout the day to ensure you are hydrated.
While some dizziness is normal in pregnancy, persistent or worsening symptoms should be discussed with your healthcare provider for further evaluation.
Q4: I'm having trouble with fatigue, sleep problems, and leg cramps during my pregnancy. What are the causes and are there any tips to help improve my sleep quality and reduce these issues?
Experiencing fatigue, sleep disturbances and leg cramps during pregnancy is very common. It is a byproduct of pregnancy that comes from changes to your hormones, increased stress on your body, and circulation adjustments.
Fatigue: Growing a baby takes A LOT of energy that is going to leave you feeling exhausted. Although fatigue in pregnancy is ‘normal’ if you are feeling extremely exhausted it is better to consult a health professional to assess if there are any other contributing factors to this lack of energy.
Sleep Problems: Sleep disturbances are extremely common and often result from the physical discomfort of growing a belly, hormonal changes, the inability to get comfortable and the need to pee every couple of hours.
- Leg Cramps: Leg cramps can occur due to changes in circulation and increased pressure on the leg muscles.
Tips to improve sleep quality and reduce these issues:
- Eat a balanced diet with enough nutrients.
- Stay hydrated.
- Take short, frequent breaks to rest.
- Consult a healthcare provider if fatigue is severe
- Invest in a supportive pregnancy pillow for better sleep positions.
- Maintain a consistent sleep schedule.
- Limit caffeine intake, especially in the afternoon and evening.
- Use relaxation techniques before bedtime.
- Stretch your legs regularly.
- Wear compression socks at night to encourage adequate blood flow.
- Stay hydrated and ensure proper nutrition (adequate potassium and magnesium intake).
- Consult your healthcare provider for personalised guidance if problems persist.
Q5: Why do breasts leak colostrum during the third trimester? How can I alleviate breast discomfort and leaking during this time?
Before your mature milk transitions in, your breasts will produce colostrum aka liquid gold. Colostrum is rich in nutrients and vital for the baby’s health, it is the first ‘breast milk’ your baby will consume once they are born. Breasts can leak colostrum during the third trimester. It is yellow in appearance, thick and sticky. It is your body’s way of preparing for breastfeeding. It’s not uncommon for women in their third trimester to notice that their bras are looking a little damp or crusty. Don’t be alarmed, this is completely normal.
To alleviate breast discomfort and leaking during this time:
- Don't Stimulate or Express: Avoid trying to express colostrum until around 37 weeks of gestation or until cleared by your healthcare provider. Stimulating the breast can release oxytocin, which may cause uterine activity and premature labor.
- Supportive Bra: Invest in a supportive maternity bra to manage leakage (some newer maternity bras have inbuilt breast pads).
- Breast Pads: Use breast pads to keep dry and prevent stains.
Warmth: Warmth, such as a hot shower or bath, can be very soothing and provide relief from breast discomfort.
Written by Monique Maitland
Midwife, Nurse and Childbirth Educator
Founder of The Middee Society
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