Pregnancy Day by Day : Common Concerns in Pregnancy (part 3)

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- Foods That Cause Miscarriage
- Signs Proving You Have Boy Pregnancy
Aches and pains

Lower generalized backaches are extremely common during pregnancy, particularly in the third trimester; around two thirds of all pregnant women suffer from backaches.


As pregnancy progresses, the increased weight of your abdomen tends to pull on the lower spine so that it curves inward and your center of gravity shifts forward. As you try to correct this, you may strain the lower back muscles. In addition, pregnancy hormones soften your ligaments, causing them to stretch and provide less support for your back.

What to do

Maintaining good posture and avoiding tilting your pelvis forward helps relieve pressure on your back and helps both prevent and alleviate backaches. Regular, moderate exercise to keep your muscles toned and supple is also beneficial. 

Try to avoid standing in one position for too long and vary your daily tasks, if possible breaking them down into shorter stints. If your work involves standing or sitting for long periods, take regular short breaks, and while sitting, make sure your lower back is supported. Avoid lifting heavy objects.

Massage and warm water can help relieve backaches. If back pain is particularly troublesome, talk to your doctor about wearing a supportive maternity belt.

Pelvic girdle pain (PGP)

Also known as symphysis pubis dysfunction, pelvic girdle pain (PGP) refers to discomfort and pain felt in the pelvic area and groin. The pain may be concentrated in the buttocks or travel down one leg, and for this reason is sometimes mistaken for sciatica. PGP is often worse when doing activities such as walking or going up stairs; it may also be troublesome at night, but this is usually related to activities done during the day. PGP is most common toward the end of pregnancy and may range in severity from mild to serious enough to need a walking aid.


Various factors may contribute to PGP. The pelvis is made up of three bones: the sacrum and the two iliac (hip) bones. The bones are connected at the front by the symphysis pubis joint, and at the back by the sacroiliac joints. The joints are stabilized by ligaments and usually move very little. During pregnancy, however, ligaments soften and stretch more easily so that there is more movement at these joints. This results in instability of the pelvis. In addition, postural changes due to the enlarging abdomen may mean that one joint is more mobile than the other, putting extra strain on the joints. The result is inflammation of the joints and discomfort or pain.

What to do

If there is increased movement in one side of your pelvis, a pelvic support belt may be recommended, which often gives instant relief. You may be referred to a physical therapist who will show you how to modify everyday activities, such as walking and getting up, in order to avoid pain, and may also recommend abdominal and Kegel exercises . Acupuncture can help relieve pain, and prenatal water aerobic classes are helpful. Preventative measures include avoiding activities that cause pain, and avoiding heavy lifting, lying on your back, and sustained periods of activity. It’s also important to get plenty of rest.

Round ligament pain

The two round ligaments run from the top of the uterus on either side and attach to the side walls of the abdomen. As the uterus enlarges, the round ligaments gradually become stretched, which can cause an ache or brief, sharp pain on one or both sides of the lower abdomen or in the groin. Round ligament pain usually starts during the second trimester.

What to do

See your doctor, who will rule out other causes for the abdominal pain. Once you have been reassured, you should find it easier to deal with the pain. When you have an episode, try to rest and relax. Lying on your side and bringing your knees up toward your chest may be helpful, as can taking a warm bath.


This is pain in one or both buttocks that may radiate down one leg. There may also be tingling or numbness in the legs, although this occurs only in a small percentage of women. Sciatica is most likely to occur after the second trimester.


Sciatica is caused by trapping or compression of the sciatic nerve as it runs through the spinal column. The pain is termed referred pain, that is, pain felt in an area away from the problem site. Sciatica is not caused by compression of the nerve by the fetus’s head. The causes of sciatica in pregnancy are the same as in women who are not pregnant and include poor posture, wear and tear on vertebral joints, and poor lifting techniques.

What to do

Specific exercises can help to stretch muscles gently and release pressure on the sciatic nerve. Your doctor may be able to advise you on exercises or may refer you to a physical therapist for help.

Coccygeal pain

The coccyx, or tailbone, is the small bone found at the base of the spine. This bone is usually fairly immobile; however in pregnancy it becomes more mobile, which facilitates the passage of the baby through the birth canal during labor. Pain in this area can make sitting for long periods extremely uncomfortable, particularly at work or during travel. Coccygeal pain can occur throughout pregnancy.


Coccygeal pain may predate pregnancy due to a previous injury to the area; the discomfort may then be exacerbated by the hormonal and mechanical changes of pregnancy. Alternatively, coccygeal pain may arise in pregnancy, since increased movement in the coccyx during this time makes injury more likely. Sometimes the coccyx is injured during labor by the baby’s head, and coccygeal pain therefore develops after the birth.

What to do

Moving around frequently and gently massaging the area can help relieve discomfort. Ask your doctor which analgesics are safe for you to take. The condition usually gets better within 6 weeks of delivery.

Leg cramps

Cramps in the legs, particularly in the calf muscles, are a common problem during pregnancy. These occur most commonly at night, but may sometimes come on when walking, and their frequency can increase as your pregnancy advances.


There is debate as to the cause of leg cramps in pregnancy. They are likely to be caused by a combination of factors including maternal posture, increasing body weight, restriction in the blood flow to the legs, and the pressure of the uterus on the pelvic nerves. Some suggest that leg cramps in pregnancy may be due to a lack of salt in the diet. However, research demonstrates that low levels of salt are healthy in pregnancy, and that it is very unlikely that anyone who is eating a balanced diet will suffer from salt depletion.

What to do

Leg cramps may be relieved by changing position, flexing the toes of the affected leg upward, and massaging the cramped muscle. To avoid leg cramps, massage your legs before bed and avoid sitting or standing in one position for long periods. A warm bath before bed may also help. Stay well hydrated and alternate regular periods of moderate exercise with periods of rest.

If you have persistent pain, redness, or swelling in your calf, this may be a sign of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) , which requires prompt medical attention.

Restless leg syndrome

Restless leg syndrome is an uncomfortable feeling or unpleasant tingling that creates an overwhelming desire to move your legs, or causes legs to jerk uncontrollably, especially during sleep. Sufferers describe the sensation as being like an electric current passing through the legs or like having itchy bones. During pregnancy, the problem is most likely to occur during the third trimester.


Restless legs syndrome is frequently triggered or aggravated by pregnancy. The cause is unknown, but some studies indicate that it might be related to low iron levels. Many sufferers have a family history of the condition.

What to do

If you’re suffering from restless leg syndrome, talk to your doctor about having a blood test to check your iron levels. If levels are low, a simple iron supplement may be prescribed. Some women find it helpful to exercise or stretch their legs, to use hot or cold compresses, or to have a leg massage. If the condition occurs for the first time in pregnancy, there is a very good chance that it will disappear after the baby is born.

Carpal tunnel syndrome

The carpal tunnel is a small tunnel in the wrist through which nerves run from your forearm into your hands and fingers. Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the nerves are compressed, resulting in tingling and pain in the fingers, which is often worse at night. In severe cases, there may be considerable discomfort and a reduced grip. In pregnancy, this is most likely to occur in the second and third trimesters.


Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by pressure on nerves running through the tunnel due to swelling of surrounding tissues. During pregnancy, swelling in the hands and feet is common as a result of the extra fluid and blood volume.

What to do

If you think you may have carpal tunnel syndrome, talk to your doctor. You may be referred to a physical therapist for treatment, who will recommend specific exercises to help relieve the discomfort. You may also be advised to wear a lightweight splint to support your wrists, which can be especially beneficial if the pain is disturbing your sleep. Carpal tunnel syndrome usually disappears after the birth. However, if it persists, a simple surgery can be performed to relieve the pressure on the nerves.

Urinary and vaginal problems
Yeast infections (candidiasis)

During pregnancy, an increased vaginal discharge is normal. However, if the discharge is creamy and thick, and you have some soreness and itching in your vaginal area, you may have yeast, a fungal infection. If you have a vaginal discharge with an odor, you could have trichomoniasis or bacterial vaginosis, which are sexually transmitted infections that can lead to premature delivery if not treated with antibiotics. You are more prone to yeast during pregnancy, particularly during the third trimester.


A yeast infection is caused by a fungus called Candida albicans. The organism exists normally in small numbers in the intestines and vagina, and doesn’t cause problems. However, during pregnancy, the environment in the vagina changes, causing overgrowth of the fungus. If you are under stress, feeling generally unwell, taking antibiotics, or have diabetes, you may be more likely to develop a yeast infection.

What to do

If you think you have a yeast infection, contact doctor, who can take a vaginal swab to confirm the diagnosis. He or she may recommend an over-the-counter vaginal cream. Yeast infections can be harder to control during pregnancy, and may take up to two weeks to go away. To prevent additional infections, wear cotton underwear and always wipe from front to back after a bowel movement.

Stress incontinence

If you have stress incontinence, you pass small amounts of urine unintentionally, particularly when coughing, sneezing, or laughing, and when exercising or lifting heavy objects. Stress incontinence can happen at any time during pregnancy, but is most common in the last trimester.


The pelvic floor muscles are under additional strain during pregnancy and are also affected by hormonal changes. Therefore any increase in abdominal pressure caused by coughing, sneezing, laughing, or other activities that puts these muscles under pressure may result in leakage of a small amount of urine.

What to do

Stress incontinence can be embarrassing and distressing; however, you should mention the problem to your doctor who will be able to advise you on Kegel exercises , which should help reduce the problem if you practice them regularly. It’s important too to empty your bladder whenever you need to. You may want to wear a sanitary pad for additional reassurance.

Urinary tract infections

During pregnancy, you’re more susceptible to urinary tract infections. Most commonly, such infections are confined to the bladder, when they are known as cystitis. Symptoms of cystitis include a frequent, urgent need to urinate and a painful burning sensation when passing urine; there may be some blood in your urine. Occasionally, an infection can travel up from the bladder to the kidneys. In this case you may also have pain in your lower back on one side (over the kidney area), have a high temperature, and may feel nauseous or vomit. Sometimes a urinary tract infection is present but causes no symptoms. Prompt treatment of urinary tract infections is especially important in pregnancy because if an infection reaches the kidneys, it can trigger early labor.


Urinary tract infections are caused by bacteria entering the body through the urethra (the outlet from the bladder) and multiplying. Such infections are probably more common during pregnancy because the effect of hormones on the urinary tract slows the passage of urine.

What to do

If you have any symptoms of a urinary tract infection, see your doctor right away. The doctor will take a mid-stream urine sample and the sample will be sent to a laboratory to identify the type of bacteria that is causing the infection. Your doctor may prescribe a seven to ten day course of antibiotics that are safe for both you and your baby. Symptoms usually improve in a few days after the start of treatment. Because some urinary tract infections are asymptomatic, all pregnant women have urine tests at prenatal doctor’s visits, and if bacteria are found, appropriate antibiotics are prescribed.

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