Common Pregnancy Problems or Discomforts

Every pregnancy is different, but nearly all women experience some of these problems. These are some of the common discomforts and hints to help you feel better.

Nausea and Vomiting (Morning Sickness)

Morning sickness usually occurs during the first half of pregnancy. More than half of all pregnant women have nausea and vomiting during the first trimester. It is caused by hormone changes in the body. Usually resolves by the second trimester.

Relief:  Eat five to six small meals a day. Make sure to eat every 2 hours, and do not leave your stomach empty for too long. Before you get out of bed in the morning, eat some salty carbohydrates, such as a few crackers, dry toast or bread, popcorn, or potato chips. Get up slowly, and avoid sudden movements. Sip liquids between meals. Ginger ale and lime or other ginger drinks seem to help with morning sickness. Ginger chews also can help prevent morning sickness and reduce nausea.


Heartburn is caused by bubbling of stomach contents back into the throat/esophagus, when the pressure of your baby and increasing size of the uterus pushes against the stomach.  Described as a burning sensation, first in the stomach and then rising into the throat. It usually resolves after the baby is born.

Relief: Eat small, frequent meals. Avoid spicy, fatty, gassy foods. Avoid lying down after eating.  Also avoid smoking. Do not take any medications without first without asking your Midwife/physician. You may also take Tums to help with heartburn, but be sure to talk to your provider before using other medication.

Gas (Flatulence)

Flatulence is caused by a slowing of stomach/intestinal activity, which leads to an accumulation of gas. Usually resolves after the baby is born.

Relief: Limit gassy foods like cabbage, fried foods, carbonated beverages, whole grains, sweet desserts, and cheese.


Constipation is caused by a slowing of stomach/intestinal activity and pressure from an enlarging uterus. Symptoms should improve after the baby is born.

Relief: Drink extra fluids, and eat whole-grain cereals, fresh fruits, and raw vegetables. Warm fluids and regular exercise also help to stimulate activity. Do not take any medications without first asking your midwife/physician.

Breast Tenderness

Caused by changes in hormones and the increased size and weight of breasts.

Relief: Wear a well-fitting, supportive bra. Avoid using soap on your breasts and nipples, and keep them dry. You may use Lanolin or other breast lubricants.

Swelling of Feet and Hands

Swelling is caused by pressure of the uterus on veins from the lower part of the body, which interferes with blood flow. Report any unusual swelling in your face, hands, or feet to your midwife/physician.

Relief: Avoid long periods of sitting or standing, and elevate feet several times a day. Lie on your left side to improve circulation. Drink six to eight glasses of water a day, and avoid foods that are high in sugar or salt.

Varicose Veins

Varicose veins are caused by pressure of the uterus on the veins from the lower part of the body.

Relief: Avoid long periods of sitting or standing. Elevate legs above the heart at least twice a day. Comfortable shoes and support hose may help to relieve symptoms.


Hemorrhoids are caused by increased pressure in the veins below the uterus. Constipation and straining with bowel movements also may cause hemorrhoids.

Relief: Drink extra fluids, and eat fruit and vegetables to prevent constipation. Warm sitz baths and witch hazel pads may provide relief. Do not strain with bowel movements.

Shortness of Breath

Shortness of breath is caused by the increased size of the uterus and the baby pressing against the diaphragm. Symptoms will be relieved after the baby is born.

Relief: Sleep with head elevated on extra pillows. Avoid exercise that makes shortness of breath worse. Avoid tight clothing.


Backaches may be due to several factors, such as muscle fatigue, change in center of gravity, pressure of the uterus, and increased breast size.

Relief: Light exercise and good body mechanics may help to relieve symptoms. Avoid long periods of standing. Wearing a supportive bra or maternity support girdle, or using heating pads, may help relieve symptoms.


There are many causes of fatigue, including physical changes, sleep disturbances, and physical discomforts.

Relief: Try to get adequate sleep and rest periods throughout the day. Light exercise may help, but avoid exercise during the 2 hours before sleep. Warm drinks before bed may help, but avoid drinks with caffeine.

Cramps in Legs

Cramps may be caused by several factors, including stretching of muscles, pressure of uterus and calcium imbalance.

Relief: Try calf stretching by leaning towards a wall with your arms against the wall and your feel flat on the floor. You can also try bending your foot in the opposite direction. Take your prenatal vitamin as directed (it has calcium in it).  You may also increase your calcium intake with foods like milk, yogurt or cheese.

Urinary Frequency

Frequent need to urinate is caused by pressure on the bladder from an enlarging uterus. Symptoms should be relieved after the baby is born.

Relief: Drink six to eight glasses of water a day to prevent retention of urine in the bladder, which might lead to an infection. Avoid drinking beverages with alcohol or caffeine. Report to your midwife/physician any blood or burning on urination.

Vaginal Discharge

Vaginal discharge is caused by changes in hormone levels. Discharge may be white and thin, and may increase in the later months of pregnancy. You should report any yellow, green, bloody, or smelly discharge, or itching or burning, to your midwife/physician.

Relief: Wear cotton underwear. Do not douche or use vaginal sprays or powders. Avoid pantyhose or tight fitting clothing.

Emotional Changes

There are many causes of emotional changes during pregnancy, including changes in hormone levels and fears about becoming a mom.

Relief: Take time to rest, and enjoy activities that interest you. Talk to your friends and family about your feelings, and talk to your midwife/physician about any concerns you have.

If you have any problems or questions, please call your clinic:

Family Medicine Clinic — 312.996.2901
Women’s Health Services — 312.413.7500