The sudden and dramatic changes that occur during pregnancy may make you feel that your body is alien to you. Your body looks and feels different. Often, these changes are uncomfortable. Carrying 25 extra pounds around inside your abdominal cavity puts a strain on your legs and hips, not to mention the pressure on other organs.
You may experience pain in the lower part of the abdomen, especially on the right-hand side, beginning at about 20 weeks. This is caused by the stretching of the ligaments that support the uterus. You may also have pain in the upper front part of the thigh, caused by the uterus pressing on a nerve that passes over the rim of the pelvic bone. You can sometimes relieve these pains by lying down.
Pain can also occur in the upper part of the abdomen. This pain is often due to heartburn. To relieve the discomfort, sit upright after meals, eat smaller quantities, and take antacids (with your doctor's permission). However, serious complications of pregnancy, such as gallstones, may also cause upper abdominal pain, so let your doctor know about these pains.
You may experience other sorts of discomfort during pregnancy. Hormonal changes in the first trimester may cause morning sickness, with nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite. It may help to eat something bland, such as a cracker, before getting out of bed in the morning. Eating small, frequent meals may also ease the sensation. Vomiting that is severe or that continues throughout pregnancy is more serious and requires treatment.
Constipation can be an uncomfortable side effect of pregnancy. It can lead to hemorrhoids, which may result from straining during a bowel movement. Hemorrhoids may also appear because of increased pressure from the uterus on the pelvic veins. Alterations in diet to increase the amounts of fruit and fiber may help, but you may need a laxative and stool softener. You can also use sitz baths, lubricating creams, and suppositories for hemorrhoids, but check with your doctor before using these or any medications.
The uterus also exerts pressure on the veins to the legs, especially in the third trimester. This causes your legs and varicose veins to swell. Wearing shoes may become difficult. Elevate your legs and wear elastic stockings to relieve the pressure.
Late in pregnancy, you may experience pain in your pelvis or feel as if your pelvis is separating. Hormonally induced loosening of the ligaments is responsible for this. The best remedy is to avoid activities that strain these ligaments.
You may also have backaches. These are due to the change in posture required by the enlarging abdomen. A good exercise program (discuss this with your doctor) to strengthen the abdominal and back muscles may help prevent backaches; rest and a heating pad help relieve them when they occur.
The changes of pregnancy can be uncomfortable. But if you're aware of the potential for pain and take appropriate steps to avoid it or relieve it when it occurs, you'll go through the nine months in relative comfort.
ABOUT THE CONSULTANT:
Dr. Elizabeth Eden, M.D. is a practicing obstetrician with her own private practice in New York City. She serves as an attending physician at the Tisch Hospital of the New York University Medical Center, as well as a Clinical Assistant Professor at the New York University School of Medicine.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles