Extra kilograms, morning sickness, and fatigue are common during pregnancy.
However, the less well-known symptoms often create concern. Find out why they occur, how to treat them, and when to consult your doctor.
Haemorrhoids in pregnancy
Dr Colin Marais, a gynaecologist at Mediclinic Cape Gate, says although haemorrhoids fall into the category of lesser-known pregnancy symptoms, the condition is very common. This is because it’s the result of two common pregnancy symptoms occurring at the same time. The first is constipation, exacerbated by sitting for prolonged periods. The second is that a pregnant woman’s blood vessels dilate due to the release of the hormone relaxin – and since a haemorrhoid is nothing more than a dilated blood vessel, the stage is set for a condition that can be extremely painful. Your obstetrician may advise you to use ointments like Anusol (over the counter) or Scheriproct (prescription only). But to prevent haemorrhoids in the first place, Dr Marais says it’s important to drink plenty of water, which keeps constipation at bay. If the symptoms have already started, it may also help to fill a rubber glove with water, freeze it, and then break off one of the fingers, using it as an icicle to give the area relief.
Nosebleeds in pregnancy
Dilated vessels are also the cause of the nosebleeds many women experiences. “Because your tissues swell when you’re pregnant, you may start snoring. This dries out tissues in the nose, so blood vessels in this area may break,” Dr Marais explains. Although the volume of blood is often alarming, nosebleeds are not a cause for concern, he assures. The bleeding can be stemmed by pressing down firmly on the area just behind the bridge of the nose for a full five minutes. Using a saline spray to keep nasal tissues moist may also help.
Dark skin marks in pregnancy
Dark patches on the cheekbones, coupled with darkened nipples and a line leading from navel to pubis called the linea nigra are all caused by the stimulation of melanocytes (skin cells that produce melanin) that takes place during pregnancy. Dr Marais says using vitamin E ointments and other creams are unlikely to make a difference, but a quality sunscreen may help. Regardless, the marks will fade once you’ve had your baby.
Headaches in pregnancy
Some women who live with chronic migraines find the condition improves during pregnancy. For most, however, the opposite is true, and severe headaches may occur almost daily. Again, this is caused by dilated vessels. Dehydration, a result of poor eating to avoid nausea, also contributes to the problem. It’s usually nothing to worry about and should resolve during the second trimester. But if your headaches come on during the last weeks of pregnancy, always consult your doctor, Dr Marais warns, as this could be a sign of pre-eclampsia – a potentially dangerous pregnancy complication triggered by high blood pressure. He advises two paracetamol tablets as soon as you feel the onset of pain: “Don’t wait until you have a full-blown headache, by which time painkillers won’t be of much help.”
Swelling in pregnancy
You may find that your feet, throat, and hands swell up during your final trimester. This generally isn’t a problem, unless your face swells, too, in which case you should visit your obstetrician to rule out pre-eclampsia.
Cramps in pregnancy
Cramps in the ankles and feet often strike during the night and can be very painful. This is caused by a lack of calcium because the baby is using up the calcium in your bloodstream. Taking a calcium supplement may help reduce the pains.
How can I support my partner during pregnancy?
Dr Marais says one of the things he always tells the partners of mothers-to-be is that they must be “ready to apologise”. This is because they are about to be blamed every time her body feels vaguely out of whack. “On a more serious note, you can’t predict what pregnancy will feel like – and you especially can’t tell what birth will feel like,” he says. “Nor can she, especially if it’s a first pregnancy, which is why you both may feel scared. The most important thing you can do is to reassure her that you’ll be by her side no matter what happens. It’s the greatest comfort you can offer.”