This is inflammation of the lining of the stomach and intestines, most commonly due to infection. It causes vomiting and diarrhea that usually come on suddenly. In most cases, the condition clears up on its own and is not a cause for concern. However, if it’s severe, you could become dehydrated, and this can affect blood flow to your baby through the placenta. Infection with listeria bacteria can, rarely, cause late miscarriage.


Gastroenteritis is caused by infection contracted either through contact with an infected person, or by consuming contaminated food or drink (food poisoning). Food poisoning is often the result of poor food hygiene.

What to do

Drink plenty of water, and try to avoid cross infection with other members of the household (see Avoiding gastroenteritis). If you’re unable to retain even small sips of water, or your vomiting and diarrhea have lasted for 24 hours, you should seek medical advice from your doctor. If you can’t reach your doctor, go the nearest hospital emergency room for treatment. If you have a preexisting medical condition such as diabetes, you should seek help immediately. You may be treated with intravenous fluids if you are dehydrated, and fetal monitoring may be done to check the health of your baby. Infection with listeria is treated with antibiotics.

Avoiding gastroenteritis

It is important that you try to avoid gastroenteritis by practicing good food hygiene .

If someone else in your household has gastroenteritis, avoid infection by using separate soap, towels, cutlery, and dishes. If you have more than one toilet, get the infected person to use one separate from the rest of the household. Wipe toilets, sinks, and faucets with a mild bleach solution after each use. Infected individuals should also avoid preparing food for others.

Indigestion and heartburn

Many women start to experience episodes of indigestion and heartburn during the second trimester.


Indigestion results from slower movements of the digestive tract under the influence of pregnancy hormones combined with reduced space in the stomach from the growing baby. The muscular valve at the top of the stomach is also softened by hormones and this can allow stomach acid to flow up into the esophagus, causing heartburn.

What to do

Avoiding large meals, especially late at night, helps prevent indigestion and heartburn. If you suffer from heartburn at night, try sleeping in a propped up position with your head higher than your feet. For relief from heartburn, a liquid antacid preparation can be helpful; ask your doctor for advice on which medications are safe. Some women find that slowly drinking a glass of milk eases the discomfort.


During the second trimester, constipation often becomes a problem.


Under the influence of the softening effect of pregnancy hormones, the digestive tract becomes less active. As a result, fecal matter spends more time in the large intestine, allowing reabsorption of fluids and leaving solids hard and difficult to pass. Not drinking enough fluids increases the likelihood of constipation.

What to do

Dietary fiber in the form of vegetables and whole foods, with an increase in fluid intake usually corrects the problem. Laxatives are not recommended during pregnancy. They can stimulate contractions and lead to dehydration. Talk to your doctor if these steps don’t resolve your constipation.


Hemorrhoids are dilated blood vessels around the inside of, or protruding from, the anus. Their constriction by the anal muscles and sensitivity to the acidic environment leads to a feeling of discomfort in mild episodes and pain in more severe cases. They are more likely to occur during the third trimester.


The hormonal softening of the tissues around the anus increases the risk of developing hemorrhoids. Pressure of the baby’s head on the blood vessels is also a factor, as is constipation.

What to do

Treatment of constipation and avoiding pushing or straining to pass a stool are important in the prevention of hemorrhoids. Ask your doctor which over-the-counter creams for relieving discomfort are safe. If hemorrhoids are protruding and causing great discomfort, it’s often possible for a health professional to “reduce” them by pushing them gently back into place.

Heart & circulation problems
Dizziness and faintness

Throughout pregnancy, occasional dizziness or feelings of faintness can be a problem.


In early pregnancy, feeling faint may occur even when you are sitting down and is likely to be due to low blood sugar. This can happen as a result of not eating enough, a common problem at this stage of pregnancy when many women suffer from morning sickness. In the second trimester, dizziness or faintness that comes on when getting up from a sitting position or as a result of standing for long periods is likely to be caused by low blood pressure. Blood pressure is lowered in pregnancy because the pregnancy hormone progesterone softens blood vessels to enable blood to flow more freely to your baby. When you stand, the low blood pressure may mean that not enough blood reaches your brain, leading to dizziness and faintness.

As pregnancy advances, you may find that you feel dizzy lying on your back. This happens because in this position the heavy uterus puts pressure on the main blood vessels running through the trunk and reduces the blood flow to the brain.

What to do

To help prevent low blood sugar, have small snacks of foods high in complex carbohydrates . Staying well hydrated, taking regular breaks from work, not standing in one position for too long, and getting fresh air are also helpful in preventing faintness. If you start to feel dizzy, sit down and put your head between your legs, which will relieve the unpleasant feeling. Stay seated until you feel completely recovered and then get up slowly. Any time you feel dizzy or faint, call your doctor immediately, especially if you also have stomach pain, vaginal bleeding, blurry vision, headaches, or heart palpitations, or the dizziness is persistent. If you have fainted and bumped your head or injured any part of your body then you should go to the hospital for a checkup.

If you experience dizziness when lying on your back, turning onto your side will quickly help you feel better. Lying on your left side is preferable because this helps to pump blood around the body.


A feeling that your heart is racing, or beating irregularly is common in pregnancy, particularly between 28 and 32 weeks, but can occur at any time.


The reasons for palpitations remain unclear and hypotheses range from the effect that progesterone has on the heart muscle, to the heart coping with the extra blood flow needed to maintain both mother and fetus.

What to do

Palpitations are usually fleeting and nothing to worry about. However, if you have frequent palpitations or they are accompanied by chest pain, dizziness, or breathlessness, you should consult your doctor. If you have a history of heart disease or a heart abnormality, seek advice immediately.


Nosebleeds occur frequently in pregnancy, and although they are a nuisance they are rarely a serious problem.


As with all other blood vessels in the body, those in the nose are softened and expanded during pregnancy. In addition, your body has an increased blood volume in pregnancy, which puts pressure on these delicate structures. You are more likely to have a nosebleed if you have a cold or sinus infection or if your nasal membrane is dry, which can happen in cold weather or air conditioned rooms.

What to do

To manage a nosebleed, sit down, keep your head in a normal position, and apply pressure to the bottom of the nose with your thumb and forefinger. You will need to maintain this pressure constantly for about 10 minutes before checking to see if the bleeding has stopped. Do not be tempted to tip your head back or lie down, since this will cause you to swallow the blood, leading to nausea and possible vomiting. Ice or a cold compress applied to the nose and facial area in conjunction with the nasal pressure can help constrict the blood flow and halt the bleeding. Seek medical advice if the nosebleed results from a head injury or if heavy bleeding continues for more than 20 minutes. Mention frequent small nosebleeds at your prenatal appointment to enable the elimination of more serious conditions.

Bleeding, tender gums

Bleeding from the gums and gum tenderness are both common complaints during pregnancy.


These problems occur as a result of increased blood volume coupled with the softening effect of pregnancy hormones on blood vessels. Allowing plaque to accumulate may exacerbate these symptoms and also makes the start of gum disease more likely.

What to do

Good dental hygiene is vital; don’t be tempted to avoid brushing your teeth if they feel tender, but switch to a softer brush. Brushing your teeth and gums and flossing regularly are particularly important during pregnancy. Also, visit your dentist regularly during pregnancy and the postpartum period.

Varicose veins and vulval varicosities

Varicose veins are enlarged, distorted veins that may develop in the legs or around the vulval area. Varicose veins in or around the anus are known as hemorrhoids. Varicose veins may become troublesome during the later stages of pregnancy, causing discomfort and sometimes itching; they may also be unsightly. Varicosities in the vagina or vulva areas do not inhibit a normal birth and are not at risk of rupture during the birth.


The increased blood flow and softened vessels mean that many women experience varicose veins and vulva varicosities during pregnancy. The growing uterus puts pressure on veins in the pelvis which, in turn, leads to increased pressure in the legs and vulva area.

What to do

Support hose designed for pregnancy can be helpful, Avoid tight clothes that constrict the waist, groin, or legs As with all conditions, varicose veins should be reported to your doctor for assessment and advice. Varicose veins usually improve within three months after the birth of the baby.

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