Symptoms and discomforts of pregnancy

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Symptoms and discomforts of pregnancy are those presentations and conditions that result from pregnancy but do not significantly interfere with activities of daily living or pose any significant threat to the health of the mother or baby, in contrast to pregnancy complications. Still, there is often no clear separation between symptoms versus discomforts versus complications, and in some cases the same basic feature can manifest as either a discomfort or a complication depending on the severity. For example, mild nausea may merely be a discomfort (morning sickness), but if severe and with vomiting causing water-electrolyte imbalance it can be classified as a pregnancy complication (hyperemesis gravidarum).


Nausea (morning sickness)[edit]

Main article: Morning sickness

Morning sickness occurs in about seventy percent of all pregnant women, and typically improves after the first trimester.[1] Although described as "morning sickness", women can experience this nausea during afternoon, evening, and throughout the entire day.

Back pain[edit]

Back pain is common in pregnancy, can be very debilitating and can worsen in later pregnancy.[2][3] Estimates of prevalence ranging from 35% to 61% have been reported, with half or more beginning from the fifth month.[3] It is believed to be caused by changing posture and can be worse in the evening.[3] Trials have shown benefit from exercising in water, massage therapy, and back care classes.[3] Support from pillows while sleeping might be able to help.[2] Back care classes for pregnancy include a variety of exercises and guidance. General exercise that is not tailored to strengthen the back may not prevent or reduce back pain, but more research is needed to be sure.[4][5] Maternity support belts have not been shown to reduce low back pain in pregnancy.[6] They may have some adverse effects, including pain and skin irritation for the mother, and potential effects on the fetus.[6]

Pelvic girdle pain[edit]

Main article: Pelvic girdle pain

Pelvic girdle pain is complex and multi-factorial and likely to be represented by a series of sub-groups with different underlying pain drivers from peripheral or central nervous system,[7] altered laxity/stiffness of muscles,[8] laxity to injury of tendinous/ligamentous structures[9] to 'mal-adaptive' body mechanics.[7] Musculo-Skeletal Mechanics involved in gait and weightbearing activities can be mild to grossly impaired. PGP can begin peri or postpartum. There is pain, instability or dysfunction in the symphysis pubis and/or sacroiliac joints.

Carpal tunnel syndrome[edit]

Occurs in between an estimated 21% to 62% of cases, possibly due to edema.[10]

Leg cramps[edit]

Leg cramps (spasms in the calves) can be very painful, and possibly affect almost half of all pregnant women.[11] Leg cramps usually occur at night, lasting from seconds to minutes.[12] Although a variety of interventions such as compression stockings, salt, calcium and magnesium are sometimes used, it is not known whether any are both effective at reducing leg cramps and safe for the fetus.[12]


Constipation is believed to be caused by decreased bowel mobility secondary to elevated progesterone (normal in pregnancy), which can lead to greater absorption of water, but it can also be caused or worsened by iron supplementation.[3] It causes the "smooth muscle" along the walls of the intestines to relax. Thus, making sure that the future mother will absorb as much nutrients from her diet as possible in order to nourish the fetus and herself. As a side effect the feces can get extremely dehydrated and hard to pass.[13] Constipation can decrease as pregnancy progresses, with a rate as high as 39% at 14 weeks of gestation reducing to 20% at 36 weeks in one study at a time when iron supplementation was common.[3]

Dietary modification with more fiber or fiber supplementat. Also, increased PO fluids, stool softeners, bulking agents and eating fruit and fiber enriched foods often help.

A woman experiencing sudden defecation should report this to her practitioner.


Occasional, irregular, painless contractions that occur several times per day are normal and are known as Braxton Hicks contractions. Can be aggravated by dehydration which will respond to increased fluid intake. Regular contractions (every 10–15 min) are a sign of preterm labor and should be assessed by cervical exam.


Caused by expanded intravascular space and increased Third spacing of fluids. Complications include uterine contractions, which may occur because dehydration causes body release of ADH, which is similar to oxytocin in structure. Oxytocin itself can cause uterine contractions and thus ADH can cross-react with oxytocin receptors and also cause contractions.


Compression of the inferior vena cava (IVC) and pelvic veins by the uterus leads to increased hydrostatic pressure in lower extremities. Treatment includes raising legs above the heart, advising patient to sleep on her side to prevent the uterus from impinging on the inferior vena cava & compression stockings.

Regurgitation and heartburn[edit]

Regurgitation and heartburn in pregnancy are caused by relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) and increased transit time in the stomach (normal in pregnancy), as well as by increased intraabdominal pressure, caused by the enlarging uterus.

Regurgitation and heartburn in pregnancy can be at least alleviated by eating multiple small meals a day, avoiding eating within three hours of going to bed, and sitting up straight when eating.[14]

If diet and lifestyle changes are not enough, antacids and alginates may be required to control indigestion, particularly if the symptoms are mild.[14] If these, in turn, are not enough, proton pump inhibitors may be used.[14]

If more severe, it may be diagnosed as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Varicose veins[edit]

Dilation of veins in legs caused by relaxation of smooth muscle and increased intravascular pressure due to fluid volume increase. Treatment involves elevation of the legs and pressure stockings to relieve swelling along with warm sitz baths to decrease pain. Risk factors include obesity, lengthy standing or sitting, constrictive clothing and constipation and bearing down with bowel movements


Haemorrhoids (piles) are swollen veins at or inside the anal area, resulting from impaired venous return, straining associated with constipation, or increased intra-abdominal pressure in later pregnancy.[15] They are more common in pregnant than non-pregnant women.[15] Most pregnant women in countries where the diet is not heavily fiber-based may develop hemorrhoids,[16] although they will usually be asymptomatic.[15] Hemorrhoids can cause bleeding, itching, soiling or pain, and they can become strangulated.[15] Symptoms may resolve spontaneously after pregnancy, although hemorrhoids are also common in the days after childbirth.[15] Conservative treatments for hemorrhoids in pregnancy include dietary modification, local treatments, bowel stimulants or depressants, or phlebotonics (to strengthen capillaries and improve microcirculation).[16] Treatment with oral hydroxyethylrutosides may help improve first and second degree hemorrhoids, but more information on safety in pregnancy is needed.[16] Other treatments and approaches have not been evaluated in pregnant women.[16]


Pica is a craving for nonedible items such as dirt or clay. Caused by iron deficiency which is normal during pregnancy and can be overcome with iron in the form of prenatal vitamins or if severe enough parenteral iron

Round Ligament or Lower abdominal pain[edit]

Caused by rapid expansion of the uterus and stretching of ligaments such as the round ligament. This pain is typically treated with paracetamol (acetaminophen).

Increased urinary frequency[edit]

Caused by increased intravascular volume, elevated GFR (glomerular filtration rate), and compression of the bladder by the expanding uterus. It may appear rather suddenly by head engagement of the fetus into cephalic presentation. Patients are advised to continue fluid intake despite this. Urinalysis and culture should be ordered to rule out infection, which can also cause increased urinary frequency but typically is accompanied by dysuria (pain when urinating).

Diastasis recti or abdominal separation[edit]

During pregnancy, many women experience a separation of their stomach muscles, known as diastasis recti. It affects the rectus abdominis muscle.

The rectus abdominis muscle is divided down the middle by the tendinous line called the linea alba.[17] It is kept in line by the transverse abdominal and oblique abdominal muscles. During pregnancy, the growth of the fetus exerts pressure on abdominal cavity muscles, in particular the rectus abdominis. In pregnancies that experience rapid fetus growth or women with particularly weak abdominal muscles, this pressure can sometimes causes the rectus abdominis muscle to separate along the linea alba, creating a split between the left and right sides of the rectus abdominis.[18]

About one-third of all pregnant women experience diastasis recti at some point in their pregnancy, however it is much more likely to occur during the second trimester or third trimester of pregnancy. However, separation also frequently occurs during labor and delivery, or with women carrying more than one baby.[19] Many cases of diastasis recti correct themselves after birth, but some do not. In cases where it persists, exercise may help improve the condition, and sometimes surgery is needed to correct the problem to prevent pain and future complications.[20][21]

Striae gravidarum[edit]

Main article: Striae gravidarum

Striae gravidarum (pregnancy-related stretch marks) occur in 50% to 90% of women,[22] and are caused both by the skin stretching and by the effects of hormonal changes on fibers in the skin.[23] They are more common in younger women, women of color, women having larger babies and women who are overweight or obese, and they sometimes run in families.[23] Stretch marks generally begin as red or purple stripes (striae rubra), fading to pale or flesh-color (striae alba) after pregnancy that will generally be permanent.[22][23][24] They appear most commonly on the abdomen, breasts, buttocks, thighs, and arms, and may cause itching and discomfort.[22][23] Although several kinds of multi-component creams are marketed and used, along with vitamin E cream, cocoa butter, almond oil and olive oil, none have been shown to prevent or reduce stretch marks in pregnancy.[22][23] The safety for use in pregnancy of one herbal ingredient used in some products, Centella asiatica, has been questioned.[23] Some treatments used to reduce scarring, such as topical tretinoin lasers,[24] are sometimes used on stretch marks, but evidence on them is limited.[23] Topical tretinoin has been shown to cause malformations in animals, without adequate human studies on safety in human pregnancies.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Early pregnancy symptoms: Morning sickness, fatigue and other common symptoms". Retrieved 14 November 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Pennick, VE; Young, G (2007-04-18). "Interventions for preventing and treating pelvic and back pain in pregnancy". Cochrane database of systematic reviews (Online) (2): CD001139. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD001139.pub2. PMID 17443503. Retrieved 14 November 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f National Collaborating Centre for Women's and Children's Health (UK) (March 2008). "Antenatal care: routine care for the healthy pregnant woman". NICE Clinical Guidelines, No. 62. RCOG Press. Retrieved 14 November 2013. 
  4. ^ Thangaratinam, S; Rogozińska, E; Jolly, K; Glinkowski, S; Duda, W; Borowiack, E; Roseboom, T; Tomlinson, J; Walczak, J; Kunz, R; Mol, BW; Coomarasamy, A; Khan, KS (July 2012). "Interventions to reduce or prevent obesity in pregnant women: a systematic review.". Health technology assessment (Winchester, England) 16 (31): iii–iv, 1–191. doi:10.3310/hta16310. PMID 22814301. 
  5. ^ Eggen, MH; Stuge, B; Mowinckel, P; Jensen, KS; Hagen, KB (June 2012). "Can supervised group exercises including ergonomic advice reduce the prevalence and severity of low back pain and pelvic girdle pain in pregnancy? A randomized controlled trial". Physical therapy 92 (6): 781–90. doi:10.2522/ptj.20110119. PMID 22282770. 
  6. ^ a b Ho, SS; Yu, WW; Lao, TT; Chow, DH; Chung, JW; Li, Y (June 2009). "Effectiveness of maternity support belts in reducing low back pain during pregnancy: a review". Journal of clinical nursing 18 (11): 152332. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2702.2008.02749.x. PMID 19490291. 
  7. ^ a b O'Sullivan, Peter B.; Beales, Darren J. (May 2007). "Diagnosis and classification of pelvic girdle pain disorders—Part 1: A mechanism based approach within a biopsychosocial framework". Manual Therapy 12 (2): 86–97. doi:10.1016/j.math.2007.02.001. PMID 17449432. 
  8. ^ European guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of pelvic girdle pain.Eur Spine J. 2008 Feb 8 Vleeming A, Albert HB, Ostgaard HC, Sturesson B, Stuge B.
  9. ^ Possible role of the long dorsal sacroiliac ligament in women with peripartum pelvic pain. Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica Volume 81 Issue 5 Page 430-436, May 2002, Andry Vleeming, Haitze J. de Vries, Jan MA Mens, Jan-Paul van Wingerden
  10. ^ Mondelli M, Rossi S, Monti E, et al. (September 2007). "Long term follow-up of carpal tunnel syndrome during pregnancy: a cohort study and review of the literature". Electromyogr Clin Neurophysiol 47 (6): 259–71. PMID 17918501. 
  11. ^ Enkin, Murray; with the editorial assistance of Eleanor; Keirse, MJNC; Renfrew, M; Neilson, JP (1995). A guide to effective care in pregnancy and childbirth (2. ed. ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-262326-5. 
  12. ^ a b Young, G (March 26, 2009). "Leg cramps". Clinical evidence 2009. PMC 2907778. PMID 19445755. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ a b c Treatments for indigestion and heartburn in pregnancy from National Health Service in the United Kingdom. Page last reviewed: 19/11/2012
  15. ^ a b c d e Vazquez, JC (August 3, 2010). "Constipation, haemorrhoids, and heartburn in pregnancy". Clinical evidence 2010. PMC 3217736. PMID 21418682. 
  16. ^ a b c d Quijano, CE; Abalos, E (2012). "Conservative management of symptomatic and/or complicated haemorrhoids in pregnancy and the puerperium". Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (3): CD004077. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD004077.pub2. PMID 16034920. 
  17. ^ Saladin, Kenneth S. (2012). Anatomy & Physiology: the Unity of Form and Function (6th ed.). New York NY: McGraw-Hill. 
  18. ^ "Separated Muscles". Pregnancy Info: Birth, Baby, and Maternity Advice. 2011. 
  19. ^ Rohmann, Riana (11 August 2011). "Exercises To Correct Abdominal Separation After Pregnancy". LIVESTRONG.COM. 
  20. ^ "Diastasis Recti". The New York Times; Health Guide. 17 June 2011. Retrieved 14 November 2013. 
  21. ^ Pictures from: Mayo Clinic and GymCompany
  22. ^ a b c d Brennan, M; Young, G; Devane, D (November 14, 2012). "Topical preparations for preventing stretch marks in pregnancy". The Cochrane database of systematic reviews 11: CD000066. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD000066.pub2. PMID 23152199. 
  23. ^ a b c d e f g Tunzi, M; Gray, GR (January 15, 2007). "Common skin conditions during pregnancy". American family physician 75 (2): 211–18. PMID 17263216. 
  24. ^ a b Alexiades-Armenakas, MR; Bernstein, LJ; Friedman, PM; Geronemus, RG (August 2004). "The safety and efficacy of the 308-nm excimer laser for pigment correction of hypopigmented scars and striae alba". Archives of dermatology 140 (8): 955–60. doi:10.1001/archderm.140.8.955. PMID 15313811. 
  25. ^ "Renova (tretinoin) cream". DailyMed. FDA and National Library of Medicine.