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Some mothers-to-be experience a few physical inconveniences during pregnancy. In this section we take a look at some of the problems you might experience and provide you with some practical tips to reduce the burden and keep you glowing.
I sometimes get heartburn
Heartburn during pregnancy may be caused by:
- The hormones your body produces early in pregnancy to relax smooth muscles – including the muscles around your gastrointestinal tract. Relaxed muscles around your gastrointestinal tract mean there is a greater chance of food and gastric acids sneaking out of your stomach, up into your throat, burning the inner lining and causing discomfort.
- The pressure that your growing foetus places on your stomach. This pressure can cause the acidic contents of your stomach to move up into your throat, causing a painful burning sensation in the chest.
- Heartburn may also be triggered by other causes unrelated to pregnancy.
Some tips to reduce heartburn:
- Have five or six small meals a day, rather than three large ones.
- Take small mouthfuls, chew your food well and eat slowly.
- Limit your intake of fatty, fried or spicy foods.
- Drink fluids between meals rather than with your meals.
- Avoid carbonated drinks and alcohol (which pregnant women are advised to avoid anyway).
- Wear clothes that are loose at the waist.
- Stay upright for at least an hour after eating, because laying down can trigger heartburn.
- Sleep with your head and shoulders propped up by several pillows.
I suffer from irregular bowel habits
Are your bowel habits less regular now than before you were pregnant? This is a common problem for pregnant women. The sharp rise in hormone levels during pregnancy has the side effect of relaxing the muscles around the intestine and slowing down your bowel movements. During the last few weeks of pregnancy, the pressure of the growing foetus on your intestines may add to the problem. Some types of iron supplements can also affect your bowel habits. If you are taking an iron supplement and have noticed a change in your bowel habits since taking it, you may wish to speak to your doctor. You might have better luck with another form of iron supplement, or your doctor may refer you to an accredited practising dietitian (APD) for advice on how to eat a diet rich in both iron and dietary fibre.
Some tips to help you maintain regular bowel habits:
- Eat a diet high in dietary fibre – foods that act as a natural laxative. Fibre-rich foods include wholegrain breads, high fibre breakfast cereals, fresh fruit, dried fruit (e.g. prunes), vegetables, legumes (i.e. baked beans, kidney beans, split peas, lentils, chick peas) and nuts. If your body is not used to a high fibre diet, introduce fibre-rich foods gradually to prevent gas and bloating.
- Drink plenty of fluids, preferably water. A low intake of fluid can result in hard stools that are difficult to pass. So carry a water bottle with you and aim to drink around ten glasses of water daily.
- Do some gentle exercise. Exercise stimulates the bowel, which leads to improved digestion. Gentle exercises like walking and swimming for about 20 to 30 minutes, most days of the week, will help to keep your bowel habits regular. Steer clear of using laxatives while you’re pregnant unless your doctor advises otherwise. And skip the old wives’ remedy of castor oil because it can interfere with the absorption of essential vitamins and minerals.
I often get morning sickness
As soon as you fall pregnant, your body starts producing pregnancy hormones. This sharp rise in hormones can cause nausea (a feeling of queasiness) in some women, commonly known as ‘morning sickness’. Morning sickness can in fact occur at any time of the day and can occur with or without vomiting. However, it does tend to be more prevalent in the morning and it usually improves throughout the day.
There is no quick fix for morning sickness, but there are some things you can try to minimise the nausea.
- Keep some bland snacks like dry crackers by your bedside. Nibble on a few crackers first thing when you wake up and then rest for 20-30 minutes before getting out of bed.
- Switch to smaller, more frequent meals rather than having three large meals a day.
- Avoid rich, spicy or deep fried foods as well as foods with aromas that bother you.
- Try not to allow your stomach to get too empty as this can trigger nausea.
- Try eating dry crackers or other bland foods when you feel sick or queasy.
- Eat a variety of fruits and high carbohydrate foods such as potatoes, bread, crackers, rice and pasta. These foods tend to be better tolerated by sensitive stomachs.
- Drink fluids between meals rather than with meals.
- Take your prenatal vitamins later in the day, along with food - not on an empty stomach.
I get tired easily
Do you often yawn? Do you have trouble keeping your eyes open? There´s a reason for feeling tired. Your baby is growing and developing each day. This requires some extra energy and demands from your body.
Among other things, your body has to produce more blood, forcing your heart to be slightly more active. Feeling queasy may add a further burden. There are some things you can do to help put that spring back into your step.
Listed here are some strategies you can try.
- Get a good night’s sleep.
- Slip a 15 minute cat-nap into your day. If you’re at home, just lie down for a little while and if you’re at work, take a 15-minute break. If you have access to an office lounge and a door you can close, try to schedule a time that you can stretch out and close your eyes. You may need to negotiate this with your boss.
- Go for a gentle walk after dinner – it will help you sleep better at night.
- Eat small, frequent meals to help keep your energy levels up. Include a variety of iron-rich foods like lean red meat and legumes in your diet to prevent low body iron stores, which can cause tiredness and lethargy.
- Have nutritious snacks like fresh fruit, yogurt or enriched cereals to replenish your on-board fuel supplies between meals.
- Keep the fluids up by drinking at regular intervals throughout the day. Try carrying a water bottle with you everywhere that you go.