Feeling nauseous or sick during the early stages of pregnancy is extremely common, affecting about 80 per cent of women. Morning sickness usually occurs during the first three months of pregnancy, although for some women it may last longer.
Although it is known as morning sickness, the symptoms can last throughout the day.
Symptoms can vary - most sufferers will feel nauseous but may not be sick, while other women find they are unable to keep any food down. Morning sickness is caused by hormones which are helping in the development of the baby and placenta. Although the symptoms are unpleasant, they won’t harm the developing baby.
You can help counter morning sickness by:
- eating small, frequent meals
- eating dry, carbohydrate snacks and nibbles throughout the day
- taking your time getting out of bed in the morning
- taking rests throughout the day
- keeping well hydrated with water or juices - avoid alcohol and caffeine
Constipation is one of the most common complaints in pregnancy, affecting around half of pregnant women. The growing uterus puts pressure on the lower bowel (rectum) and the hormones of pregnancy slow down digestion. This means that food takes longer to travel through the body.
A diet of high fibre foods including fresh fruit and vegetables, cereals and wholegrain bread can help prevent constipation.
Drinking plenty of water and regular exercise is recommended to stimulate the bowel and aid digestion.
Pain management during pregnancy
Pregnant women can suffer from mild headaches and other aches and pains. However, not all painkillers can be used during pregnancy.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Ibuprofen are not safe to use in pregnancy. They may cause miscarriage in the early stages, or induce early labour, and may interfere with kidney function.
Aspirin is not recommended for pain relief as it can increase the risk of bleeding. Codeine-based analgesia can cause breathing problems for the baby in the later stages of pregnancy and should only be taken in the early stages under a doctor's supervision.
Paracetamol is safe, but should be taken only if necessary in pregnancy and for the shortest possible time.
Your local pharmacist will be able to advise on what is suitable.
Coughs and colds
If you come down with a cold during your pregnancy, be sure to check with your pharmacist before taking any over-the-counter medication. Many will contain antihistamines or Codeine, which are not advised in pregnancy.
You can try alternative therapies such as gently inhaling a salt water steam preparation to reduce congestion, or taking linctus for persistent coughs.
Paracetamol will help to relieve headaches.
Skin changes and rashes
Many women will experience changes in their skin during pregnancy - most of these changes are termed 'physiological' which means they are entirely normal and associated with being pregnant.
- hyperpigmentation - or darkening of the nipples and genital area
- Linea Nigra - a dark, sometimes hairy, line which runs from the belly button to the pubic area
- Striae Gravidarum - stretch marks around the abdomen as it expands, usually starting off pink and becoming white or shiny after delivery
- varicose veins on the legs
Pregnant women can also be affected by rashes such as eczema and psoriasis. Your doctor will advise you on whether using steroid or other cream or lotion is advisable and safe.
There are also:
- rashes specific to pregnancy, called specific dermatoses (skin disorders) of pregnancy
- non-specific rashes that could occur at any time
- itching without rash
These disorders can cause harm to mother and baby so seek medical advice if you spot any skin changes that seem abnormal. Itching without rash can be normal or abnormal in pregnancy. Advice should be sought if itching occurs especially if it keeps getting worse
If you have any unusual rashes or skin changes it is always best to seek medical attention.
Teeth and gums
Dental treatment is free during your pregnancy and for a year after your baby's birth, so you should make sure you go to your dentist for a check-up. Always tell your dentist that you are pregnant as this may affect your treatment.
During pregnancy, hormonal changes in your body can cause plaque to make your gums more inflamed and they may become swollen and bleed more easily. When your baby is born, your gums should return to normal.
Ask your dentist if any new or replacement fillings should be delayed until after the baby is born.