I am into the final stretch of my first pregnancy, and there have been some interesting symptoms along the way. After dealing with morning sickness that lasted into my second trimester (read about beating pregnancy nausea here), these have all felt like a walk in the park in comparison. But here are some of the symptoms I or others close to me have experienced and how they can be handled.
Some of you may have experienced them, too, or might at some point in your pregnancy—so I hope I can give some helpful tips on how to relieve them, or at least give you some warning if this is your first pregnancy, too!
- Posterior Pelvic Pain
Oh man. This hit me hard starting in only my sixth week of pregnancy. Posterior pelvic pain is, simply put, lower back pain caused by the loosening of ligaments and your expanding uterus. I experienced this pain consistently well into my second trimester, and overall it was just a nuisance. By the end of the day my lower back was completely stiff and any slight movement caused sharp pain.
I found that doing yoga to stretch my back helped a lot, as well as my pregnancy pillow—I tried making do with a body pillow and some smaller ones tucked around me, but it just didn’t give me the support I needed in my lower back. So consider investing in a nice pregnancy pillow if you are suffering from pregnancy-induced back pain. I use the Snoogle Total Body Pillow from Motherhood Maternity—I had a 40% off coupon which significantly lowered the price. You can find this pillow here:
- Rib Pain
I started feeling a lot of discomfort around my ribs at about 22 weeks. Being only 5’2” and not having much room for my little one to go in my torso means he got up into my ribs pretty quickly. I cannot sit up without my ribs getting sore and tingly within a few minutes. There isn’t really a way to solve this, but I find relief by sitting in a reclining chair so I can stretch my torso more, lying down, or just staying on my feet.
- Round Ligament Pain
Round ligament pain is again, caused by your growing and stretching uterus. It can feel like cramps or a stabbing pain in your lower belly. I was lucky to only experience this pain for about a week at the beginning of my second trimester—a good friend of mine who just had her cute red-headed baby had this way worse than me, though she had no lower-back pain. You may experience neither or both! The only thing I did to relieve this pain was stretch, but again, I only had to deal with it for a short period of time.
- Stretch Marks
Ah, stretch marks. I have been lucky to not get any so far except around my glutes, which is where I already had some from previous growth. Pregnant women most commonly get stretch marks around their belly, hips, glutes, or breasts, the areas that are mostly growing during pregnancy—though not everyone gets them.
There are some creams and lotions out there that claim to prevent them, but of course they may or may not work. It really boils down to genetics. If your mom or your sister did or didn’t have them, you will have a pretty good idea of whether or not you will get them. If they bother you that badly you can try one of those creams and see if it works for you. Otherwise, just embrace them and know they are a symbol of your achievement as a mother! They will fade with time, though not completely disappear.
- Varicose Veins and Spider Veins
Speaking of genetics—those will contribute largely to whether or not you will have the pleasure of seeing some varicose or spider veins pop up. I had spider veins before getting pregnant, and they have just gotten a bit darker since then (it doesn’t help that it is cold outside and my legs haven’t seen the sun in a while).
These veins are not harmful and there isn’t much you can do about it—but they should go away after giving birth, unless you are like me and genetics gave them to you before getting pregnant anyway.
Ugh. This has probably been one of my least favorite symptoms of my pregnancy. I have always had pretty clear skin, even throughout my teenage years, so getting acne when I am 20 and supposed to be having that “pregnancy-glow” is just lame. But all of those hormones your body is releasing while growing that little one tends to take a toll on your skin.
My acne really hasn’t been that bad. It just feels that way to me because I am not used to having any. If you are experiencing it, be careful about what you use to treat it. Oral acne medications are not safe during pregnancy, and some topical acne treatments are not either. I just use Cetaphil face wash morning and night, and make sure to moisturize afterwards with either aloe vera gel or a light cream.
Also be more conscious about your cell phone being clean before putting it to your face, avoid touching your face, use a clean pillow case, and avoid those greasy foods that you may be craving but that aren’t good for your digestion or your face.
- Increased Heartrate/Lightheadedness
Because you are growing a human being (go you!), your heart has to work a lot harder to get blood throughout your body and to your baby. Because of that, your heartrate is likely to be higher than usual and you may feel lightheaded at times.
My heartrate jumped up before getting into my second trimester, and I started feeling pretty lightheaded starting in my second trimester. I was most shocked when I looked down at my Fitbit and saw that my heartrate had jumped to 150 just from walking up the stairs and brushing my teeth.
If you experience either of these symptoms, just make sure to have a seat and rest for a few minutes until your heartrate gets back to normal and you don’t feel like passing out. I elevate my legs above my heart when I am feeling particularly faint to restore blood flow to my head.
- Pulling Muscles
I learned this the hard way. I have pulled a couple of muscles since getting pregnant doing things that my body is normally okay with doing. During pregnancy your body releases a hormone called relaxin—like it sounds, it relaxes your muscles, joints, and ligaments in preparation for childbirth. Because of this, doing things your body used to be capable of doing easily may actually harm you.
I pulled a shoulder muscle a few weeks ago while reaching for something. Then about a week ago I pulled one of my inner thigh muscles, though I am actually not sure how I did that one. So be careful. Don’t hesitate to ask people for help!
- Overactive Bladder
I am sure you saw that one coming. I am lucky if I can make it one hour without having to use the restroom. I have always been a big water drinker though, so that doesn’t help. I go through about 100 oz. of water a day. That little one of yours is putting pressure on your bladder, and your kidneys are filtering through liquid a lot quicker due to increased blood flow, so make sure you know where the bathrooms are wherever you go.
I didn’t start getting up in the middle of the night to use the restroom until around 24 weeks. Up to this point it has only been once per night, and I hope it doesn’t become more than that. I have found that reducing my liquid-intake for about one-two hours before bed every night helps, and then of course using the restroom several times in those two hours to make sure I am as empty as possible before bed.
I am sure you have all heard of what can happen after giving birth, and possibly even before—so let me emphasize the importance of doing Kegels to strengthen your pelvic floor and prevent any accidents or sneeze-peeing, because no one wants to be that person.
- Weird Dreams
This one isn’t so much of a problem as it is funny. I have just had some of the most bizarre dreams since being pregnant. They most often revolve around food, diaper-changing, or giving birth. Just know that they should subside after giving birth and your focus shifts, and to enjoy the funny ones that come along.
- Hair Growth and Changes
My hair has grown at hyper-speed since getting pregnant, which is pretty awesome. All of those lovely hormones that are contributing to several other symptoms of pregnancy are to thank for those luscious locks of yours. You may also notice some changes in hair texture.
Enjoy it while it lasts, because unfortunately you are likely to shed a lot of that hair after giving birth.
- Heartburn and Acid Reflux
This is a very common one among most pregnant women, myself included. Tums are one of the safe things to take for it, though to be honest it doesn’t help me much—so I just do a couple things that I know helps.
To find relief, avoid spicy foods, avoid eating large portions of food, and avoid lying down right after a meal.
- Swollen Hands and Feet
I haven’t experienced these yet and I am hoping I won’t—the closest I have gotten is a slight swelling in my hands that made me switch to a silicone ring from my wedding band back in my first trimester (make sure you make the switch early on so you don’t end up having to saw your ring off)—but swelling is common in pregnancy and mostly caused by water retention. So kick up those pretty little feet of yours and relax. If your swelling seems excessive, cut back on sodium and make sure you are drinking plenty of fluids—your body is more likely to retain fluids if you are lacking them.
While swelling hasn’t really occurred for me yet, my feet sure are sore by the end of the day. All of that extra weight you are not accustomed to carrying puts extra pressure on your legs and feet, so don’t be alarmed if you can’t stand for long periods of time. Make sure to wear shoes with good support in them, and hopefully your significant other doesn’t have an aversion to feet so they can treat you to a nice foot rub after a long day!
- Belly Button and Linea Nigra
Don’t be surprised if your belly button starts poking out at some point during your pregnancy. That little baby of yours is trying to get every inch of room they can get. At 28 weeks mine is still trying to poke out, but only half of it has succeeded so far.
Also, you may notice a dark line that appears and runs down the center of your belly. Mine started showing up late in the first trimester, and has just gotten a bit darker since then. It is caused by increased melanin, the compound responsible for skin pigmentation. When pregnant your body supposedly releases more of it, hence the darkening of the line down your stomach, and possibly even skin discoloration in the face or other parts of the body. It should go away after giving birth—until then, avoid prolonged exposure to the sun.
- Really hungry.
I am seriously hungry all the time. Eating has become a chore for me. Especially since you should avoid eating large portions when pregnant (heartburn, acid reflux, and just overall less room in your stomach), you may have a hard time feeling full or satisfied after a meal. So here’s how I try to negate this problem:
Eat whole grains—quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat… they are so much more filling than that cheap white stuff.
Eat your fruits and veggies. The fiber that is present in fruits and veggies gives you a much fuller feeling. Be careful not to eat too much fiber though—that full feeling can quickly turn into bloating.
Drink lots of water. Sometimes your stomach feels empty not because there isn’t food in it, but because there isn’t any liquid. Make sure you are drinking plenty of water!
Don’t forget the protein. Protein gives you energy and will help prevent you from reaching for those sugar-loaded foods that you crave when you are tired.
So there you have it! An info-loaded list of some of the things I have experienced during my pregnancy so far and how I have managed them. Just remember, it is temporary and it will be so worth it! How have you ladies handled your pregnancy symptoms?