During pregnancy, its normal for a woman to experience physical as well as emotional changes. These changes are caused by the pregnancy hormones in your body in preparation for childbirth and breastfeeding. It is important to understand these changes as it will help you cope with them better. The following are ten such common physical changes in your body which occur during pregnancy. Although there is no such remedy to avoid them altogether, there surely are some steps you can take to alleviate them.

1. Back pain

This is the most common complaint during pregnancy and is caused because of the following reasons.

• Increased strain on your back due to the extra weight you have put on

• Improper posture.

• Weak abdominal muscles

What you can do

This can be overcome by exercising your back muscles as per your doctor’s advice. Also, wearing shoes that cause less strain on your back, maintaining correct posture, bending properly,( i.e.,squat down, bend your knees and get up slowly) while picking up weights, sleeping on a firm mattress, sleeping with a pregnancy pillow or sleeping on your side with a pillow tucked in between your legs helps ease back pain.

2. Breast changes

Many women notice changes in their breasts which could even start early on in the pregnancy. These changes could be

• Swollen or tender breasts

• Tightening of bra

• Darkened nipples and areolas

• Small glands around nipples called montgomery’s tubercles raise and become visible as bumps.

• Breasts start leaking colostrum(which nourishes your baby after birth). For some women this happens early, for some never.

What you can do

Wear a maternity bra that supports your breasts. Some women have flat or inverted nipples (they stay flat even when the breast is squeezed) which may cause issues if you are breastfeeding your baby. So consult your doctor ahead of time to get this corrected.

3. Heartburn,Constipation and Gas

constipation in pregnancyHowever annoying they may be, these pregnancy symptoms are very common and can be experienced from early stages onwards in your journey towards motherhood.

• Heartburn

• Gas or feeling bloated

• Constipation

• Hemorrhoids or piles

What you can do

Though you cannot completely eliminate heartburn, eating in small quantities several times a day, in addition to avoiding foods which are fatty and spicy or foods that worsen your heartburn can minimize the discomfort caused. Avoiding caffeine and having your last meal at least 2-3 hrs before going to bed will also help. Some antacids may also be helpful but it is important to consult your doctor before taking them.

Constipation is another common symptom during pregnancy and it can be minimized by increasing the fluid intake and keeping the body well hydrated.Exercising regularly and eating fibre rich food also helps as it will make your bowel movements loose and more regular.Some medications also help relieve constipation but always consult your doctor before taking any.

For hemorrhoids, drink lots of fluids and eat foods rich in fibre content. You can also apply ice to ease the pain but do consult your doctor if the pain persists.

4. Cramps

You might experience some cramping and pain in different areas of your body. These could be

• Leg cramps

• Abdominal cramps also known as round ligament pain.

What you can do

Flexing and stretching exercises can relax your feet and reduce leg cramps. It also helps to include enough calcium and magnesium in your diet but watch out as too much calcium can cause constipation. Consult your doctor for the adequate dosage.

For the abdominal or round ligament pain, taking a warm bath or or drinking some warm water helps. It is also advisable to change your position slowly while sleeping or rising slowly when getting up from bed or chair or even a bath tub. Take care not to make any abrupt movements. Having said that, any significant pain or discomfort must immediately be reported to your doctor.

5. Fatigue and Insomnia

Fatigue is another common pregnancy malaise which is caused by hormonal changes and sleep disturbances It is very common for a pregnant woman to feel tired and some women may experience insomnia.

What you can do

Try to relax your body by doing breathing exercises or taking a warm shower. Eat smaller meals rich in iron and protein as they will boost your energy levels. Also aim to drink at least 8-10 glasses of water as dehydration is often the reason for fatigue in pregnancy.

Get lots of rest and sleep where possible but keep your daytime naps short in order to avoid sleeplessness at night. Lying in the bed and reading a book till late or till you feel tired can also help you fall asleep.

6. Nausea or morning sickness

nausea in pregnancyEven though the name says morning sickness, it can literally kick in at any time of the day. Usually, nausea subsides by the time you hit your second trimester, but a few woman continue to have this problem even in their final trimester.

What you can do

Eat toasted bread or crackers or any other light dry snack (non-oily and non-fatty) as soon as you wake up and before you get up from the bed. It also helps if you consume small meals every few hours even if you are not hungry and drink lots of fluids like water, juice or even herbal teas. Sit down after a meal and let gravity do its job of keeping your food down in your stomach. Get some fresh air by going out for a walk or keep your windows open if you cannot go out. Also banana, apple, rice and ginger tea are considered to be effective in beating nausea. However, if your vomiting is so severe that you are unable to keep anything down and if you are losing more fluids than you can keep them, then consult your doctor immediately.

7. Skin and hair

Due to hormonal changes, your skin and hair undergo lot of changes throughout your pregnancy. These include

• Acne or skin breaks out.

• Mask of pregnancy: This causes brown marks under eyes, cheeks and nose.

• Linea nigra: pigmentation in the body causes the line from belly button to pubic area to become darker.

• Skin can become dark at some areas like neck.

• Stretch marks around belly and thighs.

• Hair becomes more thick and lustrous.

What you can do

Most of the above things are temporary and will go away after childbirth. For skin breakouts wash your face with lots of water and a fragrance free soap. Also, excess oil and dirt clog the pores of your skin which cause pimples.Cleansing the face two times a day will clear this out. Finish this ritual by applying a good moisturizer. But be careful when using chemicals on your skin as some chemicals might cause birth defects. Cocoa butter is said to fade the stretch marks to some extent but not completely.

8. Swelling or edema

edema in pregnancyThis condition is caused by the extra fluid in your body and it normally occurs in the feet and legs.

What you can do

Avoid standing for long hours as the swelling on your feet could worsen. Put your feet up as often as possible. If your face, hands or feet are badly swollen and if the swelling doesn’t seem to get better within few hours get your blood pressure checked by your doctor.  This could be a dangerous condition.

9. Frequent urination and vaginal discharge

This is due to the extra pressure on the bladder, that you may feel the need to urinate more often. Some women may leak urine upon sneezing or coughing, which is called incontinence. In some cases child birth may worsen the situation. You may also experience an increased discharge from your vagina.

What you can do

Cut down on caffeine but do not reduce your overall fluid intake as it is important to keep the body well hydrated. It helps to consume more liquids during the day time to reduce your night trips to the loo. Kegel exercises strengthen the muscles in the vaginal area thereby,avoiding or reducing leaks during and after pregnancy. Watch out for any change in color or bad odor of the vaginal discharge and consult your doctor immediately if you notice anything.

10. Shortness of breath

Your uterus expands as much as sixty times its normal size which presses your diaphragm towards your lungs. This causes shortness of breath in some pregnant women.

What you can do

Move slowly to put less pressure on your lungs and sit straight so that your lungs have more space to expand while you breath. You can also try sleeping with more pillows under your head to help you breathe easily.

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