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Yep, the Side Effects of Pregnancy Suck. Here Are Some Things That Might Help

October 9, 2023
Image Credit: Yan Krukov

Before you officially realize that you’re pregnant, your body may already be giving you the signs. While the “positive” effect of becoming pregnant is the child that is growing, there are some unpleasant side effects that come along with becoming a parent. Fortunately, there are ways to help the severity of these side effects and even prevent them as well. Below, we discuss the major changes you may experience while pregnant and how to alleviate some of the unpleasantness.  

The Side Effect: Morning Sickness

The most common side effect you’ve likely heard of, and the most ghastly. Morning sickness is frequently caused by the hormone levels that increase during the first few months of pregnancy. However, morning sickness can be exacerbated due to having multiples, travelling, and stress.

How to Help: If your nausea and vomiting is unbearable, you may be able to receive medications or supplements from your doctor. These could include antihistamines or antacids, ginger-based products, prenatal vitamins, and B-6 supplements. While these could help after the start of morning sickness, you can also try to prevent any severe sickness by drinking lots and lots of water, taking naps, avoiding fatty and spicy foods, eating small meals, and avoiding scents that could prompt any nausea, including cigarette smoke.

The Side Effect: Frequent Urination

The increased amount of blood in your body while pregnant forces the kidneys to work just a bit harder, which results in the need to use the restroom more often. Although this might be frustrating, this is a very common symptom that may start around six to eight weeks into your pregnancy.

How to Help: Frequent urination may be inevitable--especially if you are drinking lots of fluids for your health and to prevent morning sickness. However, there are ways that may offer assistance while you go. Leaning forward while you pee will ensure that you properly and fully empty your bladder. Avoiding beverages that contain caffeine may help as these types of drinks may cause you to urinate more often. Also, practicing kegel exercises can strengthen your pelvic muscles that may prevent leakage.

The Side Effect: Vaginal Discharge and Yeast Infections

Vaginal discharge is one of those things that just happens...all.the.time. During pregnancy, it just happens more often. Yeast infections are also more common during pregnancy due to higher estrogen levels. You are also more likely to get a yeast infection during pregnancy if you douche often, are sexually active, use an estrogen-based birth control, and have a weakened immune system.

How to Help: In the case of vaginal discharge, there’s not much you can do. However, you can wear panty liners if the discharge is too much. Making sure your vaginal area stays clean and healthy can help with both vaginal discharge and yeast infections. To help with both side effects, be sure you always wipe from front to back, change out of any sweaty clothes right after you finish a workout, avoid clothing that is too tight and wear breathable, cotton clothing, and don’t use any products in that area that contain scents.

The Side Effect: Sadness and Irritability

It’s no wonder your emotions may be all over the place while you’re pregnant--your hormones are changing and increasing a lot. It is normal, and may be more common during the first trimester.

How to Help: Changing emotions and irritability are normal, even in everyday life. Whether you’re preparing to be pregnant, pregnant, or postpartum, make sure to take care of yourself first. This means taking time to do the activities that help you relax, but also making sure you eat a regular, healthy diet and exercise. Also, be sure to tell those around you about how you’re feeling, you don’t want tension to rise over something you can’t necessarily control--communication will be key.

The Side Effect: Gas and Bloating

Unfortunately, due to the increased levels of progesterone in your body that relaxes the smooth muscle tissue in your uterus and gastrointestinal tract, you may experience a surge of gas and bloating. As progesterone relaxes your muscles, the digestive processes in your body are slowed which leads to this amplification of our not-so-friendly bodily functions.

How to Help: Eating many small meals throughout the day, slowly chewing and swallowing bites, and avoiding carbonated beverages are a few ways to minimize gas and bloating. Alongside this, make sure you get enough exercise, like a long walk or prenatal yoga, as this can help your body digest food. If the gas you’re experiencing is unbearable, you can change your diet to help. This would include avoiding foods like beans, whole grain foods, fiber-rich foods, and dairy products. However, it is important to maintain a healthy consumption of food groups, so you may not want to fully avoid these foods to keep you and your growing baby happy.

The Side Effect: Bleeding Gums and Extra Saliva

During your first trimester, the increase of hormones and the fact that you may experience morning sickness may lead to an increase of saliva in your mouth. Your gums may also swell and bleed when brushing and flossing due to hormones as well. This is known as pregnancy gingivitis. While these side effects won’t affect your baby, it is important to keep an eye on them as oral health impacts your overall health.

How to Help: To alleviate these pregnancy effects, the first step is to ensure that you are practicing the best oral hygiene. This means brushing your teeth twice a day and after meals, flossing regularly, using a mouth rinse, and limiting any harsh sugars. With these things you can do yourself, be sure to see your dentist as well as they can make your teeth and gums squeaky clean as well as check on anything that may be of concern. While 60 to 75 percent of pregnant women experience swollen, bleeding gums, this can also be a sign of other ailments, so be sure to not wait to schedule that appointment.

The Side Effect: Constipation and Hemorrhoids

Constipation and hemorrhoids are no fun. With constipation, the pressure from your growing uterus, an increase in progesterone, and decreased activity levels are the main culprits. Hemorrhoids, which are swollen veins in your rectum, may also occur due to your enlarged uterus, progesterone, and constipation itself. Hemorrhoids are very common in the third trimester.

How to Help: Drinking plenty of water, eating high-fiber foods, exercising, and taking a stool softener, prenatal vitamins or magnesium are ways to help with constipation. Funnily enough, the best way to reduce or prevent hemorrhoids is by reducing constipation. This can be done by eating a fiber-filled diet, staying hydrated, and exercising regularly. You can also prevent hemorrhoids by going to the bathroom when you have to go, not sitting on the toilet for too long, doing kegel exercises to strengthen the area, and not sitting for long periods of time.

The Side Effect: Itchy Skin

Your belly and breasts are growing throughout your pregnancy, and as such, you may experience an itching sensation in these areas as they begin to stretch.

How to Help: To prevent itchy skin, take lukewarm showers and baths as hot water can cause further itching. Overheating, wearing tight clothing, and stress can also cause an increase in dry skin and the itching sensation. Moisturizing daily and after bathing will also aid in any unwanted sensations.

The Side Effect: Fatigue

Increased progesterone and hGC, the hormone produced by your placenta, can cause much exhaustion during pregnancy. While the escalation of these hormones can cause many side effects, they ensure that you are having a healthy pregnancy.

How to Help: Exercise may seem like the last thing you would want to do if you’re feeling fatigued, however it is the best thing to help you move out of your sleepiness. Taking a long walk, a swim, or yoga will help you feel much better. Furthermore, it is important to not let your mind wander when doing other things--when you’re at work, do your work; when you’re at home, focus on the things you need to get ready for you and your baby.

The Side Effect: Swollen Extremities

Swollen feet and ankles during pregnancy, also known as edema, results from a flooding of fluid in body tissue. Commonly, swelling increases as your due day comes nearer.

How to Help: To help with edema, wearing compression maternity socks, regularly exercising, wading in a cool pool, drinking plenty of water, treating yourself to a massage, stretching your legs, sleeping on your left side, propping up your feet, and wearing comfortable shoes can all help.

Pregnancy side effects are inevitable, but they don’t have to be as bad as the movies portray them to be! By following these self-help tips, practicing good hygiene, and maintaining good health, your pregnancy journey should be one more than to remember.

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