by Denise Sanchez, RN, Cache Valley Hospital
For many women, pregnancy is one of life’s greatest adventures. Many joyful and memorable milestones happen between a positive pregnancy test and a baby’s birth. While counting the weeks until they first hold their newborns, women can expect some discomfort and inconveniences as their bodies adjust to accommodate their growing baby.
Though they can be slightly uncomfortable, the physical changes many expectant mothers experience are usually completely normal.
Skin, hair and nail changes
During pregnancy, hormones can trigger some wonderful changes. In some women, skin glows, hair becomes thicker and nails grow quicker. Unfortunately, the opposite is true for others: Their skin fluctuates from oily to dry, hair grows in odd places and nails become brittle.
Expectant mothers whose skin becomes oily may want to stay away from cleansers, makeup and moisturizers containing salicylic acid. Unwanted hair can be removed by tweezing, waxing or shaving.
While pregnant, many women produce more blood and other fluids in their bodies. Additionally, the expanding uterus puts pressure on some of the large blood vessels. These changes often cause swelling, particularly in the feet and hands.
By resting on their left side several times a day, and elevating their feet and legs slightly when lying down or sitting, a pregnant woman can reduce swelling. A well-balanced diet and plenty of water helps too, along with avoiding clothing that fits tightly on the legs, thighs, hips and groin. It is important to call the doctor if swelling in the hands, legs or face becomes severe and isn’t relieved by rest and elevation.
As the baby grows, a pregnant woman’s bladder has less room to expand. That means even a small amount of urine in the bladder may trigger the urge to “go now.” With many expecting mothers, a cough, sneeze or laugh can cause a small amount of urine leakage.
To avoid this, plan frequent trips to the bathroom, don’t wait until the urge to go is intense. Practice Kegel exercises to strengthen the muscles supporting the bladder and urethra. Intense urgency, burning, pain or bleeding with urination should be reported to the woman’s physician.
Unfortunately, the “burning sensation” called heartburn is often a part of pregnancy. Heartburn happens when some stomach contents are pushed toward the esophagus by pressure from an enlarging uterus. Digestion can slow down during pregnancy, too.
To avoid this unpleasant side effect, women can try eating more frequent, smaller meals and not eating right before going to bed. Expectant mothers should talk to their physicians before taking any over-the-counter or perscription medication.
Shortness of breath
As the baby continues to grow, there is less room for the lungs to expand, making breathing harder. Many women find that lying on their side versus their back helps, wearing loose, comfortable clothing can ease breathing as well; avoid wearing anything that feels tight around the waist or chest. Of course, it’s important to quickly report any severe or recurring shortness of breath to a doctor.
Pregnancy can be life-changing in many other ways. For more information and tips, visit Birthing the Center of Excellence online at cachevalleyhospital.com/maternity.