Aches and Pains

Because your body changes so much during pregnancy, you're likely to experience some discomfort at some point along the way. Remember that these pains are temporary and just another reminder that you have a little person who will soon join your life.

Fatigue

Pregnancy makes you tired. Period. Your body is working hard to grow and support a new life, and that takes a lot of energy. Older mothers may find that they are more fatigued than they expected, and pregnancy does tend to get more tiring the older you are.

You have to listen to what your body is telling you each day of your pregnancy. If you are tired, you need to find a way to rest. This can be difficult, especially if you're trying to stay on top of things at work now to make things easier when you take time off for the birth. Even a ten-minute cat nap at your desk can help you get through the day. Look for ways to make things easier for yourself. Sit whenever possible. Ask your partner to handle the errands or chores you normally do. Take every opportunity you can to ease the burden on yourself.

Getting enough sleep may help shorten your labor and avoid a cesarean section. A study from the University of California at San Francisco showed that women who got less than six hours of sleep in late pregnancy had longer labors and were 4.5 times more likely to have a C-section. Women who got six to seven hours of shuteye were 3.7 times more likely to have a C-section.

Eating well will also help with fatigue. Eating small snacks throughout the day will help keep your energy levels high. Thinking positively and working to avoid fatigue rather than cope with it once it arrives can also help.

Pain and Discomfort

It's pretty outrageous to think that nature has arranged for women to carry a six- or seven-pound baby around inside of them. Sometimes during pregnancy you feel like an overstuffed suitcase. Every pregnant woman experiences some discomfort, but you don't have to be miserable the entire nine months.

Back pain is common in late pregnancy. There are some things you can do to lessen any discomfort you're experiencing. If wearing high heels makes your back hurt, stop wearing them. Comfortable shoes will make your back, feet, and legs feel much happier. Sit in comfortable chairs that give good back support. Avoid sitting or standing in one position for too long. Learn to do some simple exercises to help strengthen your back. (You can ask your health-care provider, try out a pregnancy exercise class or DVD, or, if your pain is severe, see a physical therapist.) Avoid heavy lifting.

During pregnancy, your body produces a hormone called relaxin, which helps relax your pelvic joints so that giving birth will be easier. Unfortunately, this hormone also causes joints in other areas of your body to loosen, causing back pain, groin pain, and other discomfort during pregnancy.

Swelling in the hands, legs, and feet is another common pregnancy problem that is called edema. Mild swelling is normal, especially in the ankles, and is nothing to be concerned about. Swelling occurs when your body retains more water, and the excess fluid collects in your extremities. Call your health-care provider if you notice very sudden or extreme swelling or swelling elsewhere, such as your face, or if you experience rapid weight gain (five pounds per week or more). This could be a sign of preeclampsia. Taking water pills or diuretics will not reduce swelling in pregnancy and is potentially harmful.

Elevate your swollen legs or feet to help make them feel better. Crossing your legs will make the swelling worse, as will tight socks or knee-high or thigh-high stockings. If your hands swell, elevate them on pillows next to you. Frequent movements and stretching can also help reduce swelling as can drinking a lot of water. There is no need to restrict your salt intake during pregnancy through a low-sodium diet; however, excessive intake of salt and salty foods will definitely make the swelling worse.

Nasal congestion is another common pregnancy complaint. As your blood volume increases, it causes your nasal passages to swell. A cool-mist humidifier can help you breathe easier. If part of your congestion is allergy related, your physician may prescribe nasal sprays, some of which contain steroids. These are safe during pregnancy under medical supervision. However, some over-the-counter nasal sprays contain adrenaline-like drugs; these should be avoided as they can have effects on the blood flow to the uterus. You may also experience bloody noses more frequently during pregnancy and bleeding from the gums when you brush your teeth. However, if either of these become excessive or are accompanied by bruising or blood in places such as the urine, you should consult your physician.

Constipation

The pregnancy hormone progesterone slows down your digestive tract and thus is to blame for the constipation that many pregnant women experience. Late in pregnancy, the weight of the uterus can also press on the rectum, causing constipation. Constipation is something you can manage by drinking lots of water, exercising, and eating high fiber foods. If you can't seem to get it under control, talk to your health-care provider about the amount of iron in your prenatal vitamin; too much iron can cause constipation. You may also be able to take an over-the-counter fiber supplement or stool softeners. Laxatives, however, should not be taken.

While pregnancies over age 35 do carry some additional risks, they may actually be healthier than a younger woman's. If a 35-year-old woman eats well, exercises, does not smoke or drink, and gains the recommended amount of weight, she has a much greater chance of having a healthy pregnancy than a 24-year-old who drinks, smokes, gains too little or too much weight, and does not exercise.

If constipation leads to straining to have a bowel movement it can cause or worsen hemorrhoids, which are enlarged varicose veins in the rectal area. Alternating hot and warm packs or water in a bath can help. Ask your health-care provider to recommend an over-the-counter treatment if needed. Rectal bleeding from hemorrhoids is a common complaint. Generally, rectal bleeding of this kind follows a bowel movement, is bright red, and is found on toilet paper after wiping. If the rectal bleeding does not follow this pattern, if you are not sure the blood is coming from the rectum (instead of the vagina), or if you are concerned, you should call your healthcare provider.

Heartburn

The hormone progesterone, again, is responsible for heartburn. This hormone causes the valve between your esophagus and stomach to relax during pregnancy. Stomach acid can bubble up into the esophagus, creating that burning feeling in your throat and chest. For the same reason, women who have pre-existing gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) may experience a worsening of their symptoms during pregnancy. During the third trimester, the enlarging uterus also adds pressure, pushing the stomach upward. Eating smaller meals can help relieve heartburn. You should also avoid greasy and fatty foods. In addition, nicotine, caffeine, and peppermint further relax the esophageal sphincter, worsening the symptoms. Avoid lying down within an hour of eating and try to limit greasy and spicy foods that can aggravate heartburn. If these steps do not alleviate the symptoms, antacids may be helpful. Ask your health-care provider before taking any over-the-counter antacids. Generally, they can be taken thirty minutes after meals and at bedtime.

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