Common pregnancy discomforts

Not everyone has a difficult pregnancy, but your body still has to make a huge adjustment to accommodate the baby growing inside, so a few aches and irritations are inevitable. Here’s what you need to know about what you’re feeling.

Swelling feet and ankles: Many women, especially if they’re pregnant during hot weather, will experience swollen feet and ankles. It helps to spend some time each day with your feet raised and to stand as little as possible, but if the problem becomes severe, contact your doctor.

Varicose veins: Pregnant women may develop varicose veins— veins that bulge out under the skin—on their legs or even in the vagina or vulva, and these can be uncomfortable. Resting with your feet elevated and avoiding situations where you have to stand (but walking is good, because it encourages your circulation), will help ease the problem. If varicose veins in your legs are very uncomfortable, properly fitted support hose, put on before you get out of bed, can provide relief.

Hemorrhoids: These are varicose veins in the rectum, which are aggravated by constipation and straining, so make sure your diet contains plenty of fibre and fluids. Over-the-counter creams will relieve the discomfort of mild cases, but if you have severe pain or bleeding, see your doctor.

Loose hips: The bones in your pelvis are linked with cartilage and, near the end of your pregnancy, this cartilage softens to make it easier for the baby to pass through. This is what makes women in late pregnancy seem to "waddle" when they walk. Sometimes these changes cause an aching feeling in your hips, or at the pubic bone. In late pregnancy, your uterus expands more than you probably thought was possible. The pressure on your bladder and rectum that you may have felt earlier in your pregnancy returns, but now you may also have pressure against your lungs, so that you quickly become short of breath.

Braxton-Hicks contractions: In preparation for labour, you will probably experience some tightenings of the uterus that may be uncomfortable, but are not usually painful. These tend to start earlier, and feel stronger, with each successive pregnancy. You may also experience cramps, or strong feelings of pressure, in your lower abdomen.

Disrupted sleep: Between the baby kicking, visits to the bathroom, and just plain difficulty getting comfortable, many women find sleep in late pregnancy to be broken at best. Get what extra rest you can with afternoon, evening, or weekend naps, and try to think of this as good preparation for those night feedings after the baby is born!