In a strange coincidence of biology, pregnant women think about visiting the bathroom roughly as often as the average man thinks about sex.
A healthy pregnancy is nothing short of miraculous. Here is your ordinary body literally blooming to accommodate a new life. But with that transformation sometimes comes … well, itchiness. And nausea. Backaches and leg cramps. And let’s not forget hemorrhoids. Or the 3,000 trips you take to the bathroom every night.
These are not necessarily indicators that you are having a “difficult” pregnancy. They’re just your body’s way of coping with the extraordinary task of growing a new life within the boundaries of your existing one. Fortunately, many of pregnancy’s little annoyances can be alleviated — if not eliminated — easily, safely and without medication. Following is our laundry list of nagging pregnancy symptoms, their causes and self-help tips on getting relief.
1. Bladder control
In a strange coincidence of biology, pregnant women think about visiting the bathroom roughly as often as the average man thinks about sex — every 17 seconds. Your circulatory volume is up. Your uterus is crowding your bladder. Ideally, you’re drinking more fluids than normal. The pressure is on. No actual cures here, but a few helpful tips:
- Do Kegel exercises (contract, hold and then relax your pelvic-floor muscles) whenever you think of it to prevent “stress incontinence,” or leakage.
- Don’t decrease your overall fluid intake, but do limit it in the evening if nighttime urination is a problem.
- Empty your bladder completely. Early in pregnancy, do this by leaning forward while urinating. In the third trimester, lift your belly slightly as you urinate.
The severity and duration of “morning sickness” (which defies its name by striking at all hours) varies, but mild to moderate nausea usually tapers off between the 12th and 16th weeks. Its cause remains a mystery, though surging hormones are the leading suspects.
In addition to the more traditional advice below, obstetrician Jeffrey Thurston, M.D., an associate clinical professor of obstetrics at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and author of 1000 Questions About Your Pregnancy (Summit Publishing Group, 1997), recommends the red-hot candies known as Atomic Fireballs. “They probably bombard your brain with signals that your mouth is on fire,” Thurston muses. The upshot: “Your brain doesn’t have time to signal nausea.” Also helpful:
- Wear acupressure wrist bands, available in drugstores.
- Eat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day. If soda crackers and bananas are all you can stomach, they’re better than nothing.
- Drink eight to 10 glasses of water every day. Then refer to pesky problem #1.
- Stop and smell the lemons. Seal a slice or two in a plastic bag for a quick whiff on the run.
- Steep two quarter-size pieces of fresh ginger root in boiling water for five minutes to make a stomach-settling ginger tea. Or learn to love ginger ale and gingersnap cookies.
- Eat a piece of fruit or a few crackers before getting out of bed, and/or have a high-protein snack before bedtime to raise your morning blood-sugar level.
- If your prenatal vitamin is turning your stomach, ask your doctor if you can switch to a folate-only supplement until your nausea subsides.
- Consult your doctor if vomiting becomes severe. In a small percentage of women, it can be a health-threatening medical condition.