In the first trimester, many women feel tired; some feel nauseated, and some are frightened," says Nancy Wainer, CPM, certified childbirth educator and author of numerous books on childbirth. "Some may have aversions to certain foods or are concerned about what to eat."
One of the more common complaints for early pregnancy discomfort is morning sickness, the nausea and queasiness which often plagues women in their first trimester. "It's hard to describe morning sickness, because the symptoms are so individual," says Steven Mollov, MD of Women's Health Care in Haverhill and Newburyport. "Almost everyone has some degree of nausea; some in the morning, some all day. Some women get queasy over certain foods and smells." The numerous ways morning sickness can manifest itself mean just as many home remedies and cures: some women use ginger ale or ginger pops to curb nausea; others swear by homeopathic wrist bands and other aids; still others believe in the power of citrus.
As ways of alleviating morning sickness, Wainer recommends "eliminating white flour, white sugar and caffeine, combining protein, whole grains and fresh fruit or vegetables with every meal, eating several times a day, eating outside when nauseated, and having others prepare your meals."
Some over-the-counter vitamins and medications may also help nausea. Dr Mollov recommends 25-50 milligrams of vitamin B-6 along with half of a dose of Unisom, a sleeping pill and antihistamine, taken twice a day. "Talk to your doctor before taking Unisom," advises Dr Mollov. "Also watch out for extensive vomiting, which may lead to a condition called hyperemesis. People have different thresholds." Hydration is the key; when experiencing severe and persistent nausea and vomiting, women should up their fluid intake and check in with their health care providers.
Fatigue is another common complaint early on. While plenty of rest is the only surefire way to overcome tiredness, women may also benefit from a diet rich in whole grains, protein, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Cutting out caffeine, though seemingly tough at first, will ultimately help curb fatigue as well. Moderate exercise may also help, but pregnant women should check with their health care providers before beginning any exercise regimen.
By the second trimester, many women notice that their discomfort and early side effects have subsided. "Most women actually feel pretty good," states Wainer, "they are energetic and eating well and are beginning to focus on the actual birth."
Abdominal pain, however, is a common complaint throughout pregnancy. Collectively known as "round ligament pain," minor abdominal aches in pregnancy are usually the result of uterine growth. "The uterus is like a water balloon; it stretches and can move around," says Dr Mollov. "Some women complain of a pulling sensation, while others are simply uncomfortable and others experience a sharp pain."
Health care providers should first look at surrounding symptoms to rule out more serious reasons for the pain. If no others seem to be the cause, the mom-to-be may choose to alleviate ligament pain with a doctor-recommended painkiller, like Tylenol. Also, "good shoes, a good mattress, massage, and changing the side of the bed you sleep on" may help, says Wainer.
Many women suffer from heartburn while pregnant; in fact, old wives' tales even claim to predict the gender of a baby through the mom-to-be's heartburn or lack thereof. "In late pregnancy, the pressure of the uterus can cause regurgitation of acid," says Dr Mollov. "Heartburn can be cured by over-the-counter medications, like Tums or Mylanta." Wainer doesn't recommend those medications, however, and says, "they can affect the placenta. There are other natural ways to help." Some examples include eating papaya or taking papaya enzymes, switching meals around and eating a larger meal in the morning, not eating and drinking at the same time, avoiding spicy foods and steering clear of citrus, like orange juice and grapefruit juice.
"Good nutrition and exercise are really good for heartburn, especially anything that helps circulation and digestion, like walking and swimming," Wainer says.
A small percentage of pregnant women may also battle constipation. "Occasionally, we have women who are constipated, but they are very few," says Wainer. If constipation is a problem, then increasing water intake, modifying diet to include more fiber, and ceasing to take vitamins may all help the mom-to-be.
Back pain and other body aches may surface in the later stages of pregnancy. To curb back pain, experts recommend comfortable shoes, sleeping on a comfortable mattress, therapeutic prenatal massage, and visiting a chiropractor.
Though pregnancy side effects are unpleasant, it's important for moms-to-be to keep the ultimate reward in mind. As the joke says, nothing cures morning sickness like birth. And when baby's here, those pregnancy symptoms will seem a thing of the past!
One innovative aid for morning sickness involves no pills at all: MorningWell tapes use sound therapy to provide relief for mom-to-be's nausea. The product was recently approved for U.S. use by the FDA and is a non-invasive, easy, and portable way to curb morning sickness.