Pregnancy Body Changes and Discomforts

Introduction

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Everyone expects pregnancy to bring an expanding waistline. But many women are surprised by the other body changes that pop up. Get the low-down on stretch marks, weight gain, heartburn and other "joys" of pregnancy. Find out what you can do to feel better.

Body aches

As your uterus expands, you may feel aches and pains in the back, abdomen, groin area, and thighs. Many women also have backaches and aching near the pelvic bone due the pressure of the baby's head, increased weight, and loosening joints. Some pregnant women complain of pain that runs from the lower back, down the back of one leg, to the knee or foot. This is called sciatica (SYE-AT-ick-uh). It is thought to occur when the uterus puts pressure on the sciatic nerve.

What might help:

  • Lie down
  • Rest
  • Apply heat

Call the doctor if the pain does not get better.

Breast changes

A woman's breasts increase in size and fullness during pregnancy. As the due date approaches, hormone changes will cause your breasts to get even bigger to prepare for breastfeeding. Your breasts may feel full, heavy, or tender.

In the third trimester, some pregnant women begin to leak colostrum (coh-LOSS-truhm) from their breasts. Colostrum is the first milk that your breasts produce for the baby. It is a thick, yellowish fluid containing antibodies that protect newborns from infection.

What might help:

  • Wear a maternity bra with good support.
  • Put pads in your bra to absorb leakage.

Tell your doctor if you feel a lump or have nipple changes or discharge (that is not colostrum) or skin changes.

Constipation

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Many pregnant women complain of constipation. Signs of constipation include having hard, dry stools; fewer than three bowel movements per week; and painful bowel movements.

Higher levels of hormones due to pregnancy slow down digestion and relax muscles in the bowels leaving many women constipated. Plus, the pressure of the expanding uterus on the bowels can contribute to constipation.

What might help:

  • Drink eight to 10 glasses of water daily.
  • Don't drink caffeine.
  • Eat fiber-rich foods such as fresh or dried fruit, raw vegetables, and whole-grain cereals and breads.
  • Try mild physical activity.

Tell your doctor if constipation does not go away.


Patient Comments

Viewers share their comments

Pregnancy Body Changes and Discomforts - Experience Question: Please describe your experience with pregnancy body changes.
Pregnancy Body Changes and Discomforts - Morning Sickness Question: Please describe your experience with morning sickness during pregnancy.
Pregnancy Body Changes and Discomforts - Constipation Question: Discuss the diet or exercise changes you made to relieve constipation during your pregnancy.
Pregnancy Body Changes and Discomforts - Sleep Issues Question: What changes did you make in your sleeping environment or routine while you were pregnant?
Pregnancy Body Changes and Discomforts - Skin Question: Did you get stretch marks or other changes in your skin while pregnant? Please share your experience, including treatments.
Pregnancy Body Changes and Discomforts - Numb Hands Question: If you developed carpal tunnel syndrome during pregnancy, how did you relieve the symptoms? Do you still have it?
Pregnancy Body Changes and Discomforts - Incontinence Question: Did you have urinary problems while pregnant? What did you do to relieve the symptoms? Do you still have issues?

Exercise and Pregnancy

Which types of exercise are safe during pregnancy?

Author: Richard Weil, MEd, CDE
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

Viewer Question: What are some safe exercises for me to participate in while I'm pregnant?

Doctor's Response: n general, aerobic, resistance, and flexibility exercises are safe during pregnancy. Walking, swimming, water aerobics, dancing, stationary biking, weight lifting, and stretching or yoga are some of the activities that are safe for pregnant women. However, each pregnancy, and each woman, is different. So, exercise programs are individualized to assure safety. Always ask your doctor for advice before beginning any exercise program when you are pregnant. Here are some of the precautions that you should follow.

Previously sedentary: The rule of thumb used to be that it was not a good time to start exercising if you were pregnant and had been previously sedentary. That stance has changed. The American College of Gynecology now states, "If you are active, pregnancy need not cause you to alter your fitness routine," and "If you have not been active, now is a good time to start." Of course, this doesn't mean throw caution to the wind and be reckless, but it does send the strong message that exercise during pregnancy is okay for most women.

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