The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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Pregnancy has its perks. Thanks to a surge of hormones, it can make your skin glow, your hair shine and your nails grow strong. But every silver lining has its cloud. Those same hormones also may make your breasts sore, your back ache, your feet and legs swell, your belly itch and your face break out. While keeping fit and eating right can help minimize these problems, sometimes all you want is immediate relief. Here are some common quirks, as well as tips and products to rejuvenate and soothe your aching body, and help you feel like you again.
Possible problems Swelling, throbbing
Feet can become puffy and achy from fluid retention caused by increased estrogen levels. Also, like the rest of you, your feet get bigger during pregnancy.
What to do Put your feet up and massage them frequently to rev up circulation and reduce discomfort. Even better, get someone else to massage your feet for you. Other useful tips: Apply cold compresses, roll the balls of your feet on a rolling pin or soup can to revive them, exercise your feet periodically throughout the day by rotating them in small circles, and cut back on your salt intake to minimize swelling.
Possible problems Puffiness, soreness
“As pregnancy progresses, the growing uterus can put pressure on the veins of the legs and cause blood to accumulate, particularly if you stand in one place for long periods of time,” says Jennifer Niebyl, M.D., head of the obstetrics and gynecology department at the University of Iowa School of Medicine.
What to do “Rather than standing still all the time, walk as much as possible to help muscles pump blood back from your legs to your heart,” Niebyl advises. “When possible, wear support hose to compress legs and keep circulation strong. To stop swelling once it has occurred, lie on your left side with your feet slightly elevated on a pillow,” she says. “This relieves pressure on the vena cava, the major vein that runs along the right side of the body. It also helps reduce pain from varicose veins and hemorrhoids.” Massage can help improve circulation.
If swelling increases or is accompanied by puffiness in your face and hands, notify your doctor. This can be a sign of a potentially dangerous high blood pressure condition known as preeclampsia, which needs to be carefully monitored by your physician.
Possible problem Itching “Hormonal changes during pregnancy, combined with the stretching of the skin, can cause your belly to become very dry and itchy,” says Diane Berson, M.D., an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at New York University Medical School.
Abdominal rashes are also fairly common, particularly in the third trimester. “The most common rash is a hive-like reaction called pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy, or PUPP. It usually starts out around the belly button and spreads out to cover the abdomen,” Berson says.