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Pains In Pregnancy? Find Out What's Happening...

Braxton Hicks - what it feels like

Even the smoothest pregnancy may come with an achy back, heartburn or tender breasts. From an upset stomach to a sore bump, here's our guide to decoding your pregnancy pains.

No matter how much you read about pregnancy or talk to other mums, it can be hard to know whether what you're feeling during your nine months is normal or not. Thankfully, we’re here to help you work out what’s par for the pregnancy course and what’s worth getting checked out.


‘Mild headaches are one of the most common complaints in the first few months of pregnancy,’ says Midwife and author of My Mini Midwife (Vie £8.99) Denyse Kirkby.  ‘Most headache remedies are not practical, or helpful in pregnancy, although you can use peppermint oil sticks on your forehead or area where the pain is most concentrated. These headaches are caused by blood-circulation changes and will usually stop after the first half of your pregnancy. If you notice your headaches are associated with sensitivity to light, excessive nausea or vomiting, fever, blurred or sparkling vision, call your local maternity hospital immediately.’


‘Heartburn is another common complaint in pregnant women,’ says Denyse.  ‘It’s usually indigestion caused by stomach acid, but it can still be an aggravation. It is safe to use some antacid preparations, but before you buy an over-the-counter remedy, ask your midwife, GP or pharmacist which product they recommend.’


Constipation is more common in pregnancy because your body increases it's plasma volume by up to 30%, meaning it needs to absorb more water from the food. Additionally, peristalsis in the bowels can be a bit slower to allow for more water to be absorbed. This will make the stools harder and more difficult to pass. ‘Keeping your fluid intake up is one simple way to avoid constipation when pregnant. Gentle exercise will also help the body process food more efficiently,’ says Denyse. ‘Try all the natural remedies for constipation first, including extra water, dried and fresh fruit and lots of vegetables as part of your daily diet.’ How long a woman should wait before seeing their midwife or GP about constipation will all depend on how frequently, she 'went' before pregnancy - if she hasn't 'been' for a couple of days longer than usual she should seek advice from a medical expert.


‘You may experience backaches due to the added weight gain from your pregnancy,’ advises Denyse.  ‘As your uterus grows, your pelvic bone joints relax, which can also cause pain in your lower back. Comfortable shoes may help, good posture will help too, but regular, gentle exercise may relieve your backache and prevent it coming back, more than anything else. Strong muscles can take more stress before they become strained.'

Abdominal Pain

Pains in or around your bump are more common than you think. ‘Especially during the latter half of pregnancy when the uterus and your baby are growing larger, you may experience lower abdominal discomfort,’ says Denyse. ‘Round ligament pain is described as a sharp pain in either or both groin regions and is caused by stretching and spasms of the round ligaments.  Round ligaments are cord-like structures that originate beneath the groin region and extend to the top of the uterus on both sides.  Round ligament pain is described as a sharp pain in either or both groin regions and is caused by stretching and spasms of the round ligaments.  Sudden movements, like rolling over in bed or walking, may aggravate round ligament pain. Reducing physical activity and applying warm heat or a pregnancy support strap may help.’

Swelling and pressure

Later on in pregnancy, swelling can occur in the joints and cause pain that feels like arthritis. This is especially seen with women who develop leg swelling during the day and notice stiff, sore finger joints after resting overnight. To ease swelling, a  combination of gentle exercise, support tights and resting with your legs elevated should help a little , as will keeping salt in your diet to a minimum . Notify your midwife, GP or obstetrician if swelling increases dramatically or occurs in your face or around your eyes, as this may be an indication of rising blood pressure (also known as pregnancy induced hypertension which can be a precursor to pre-eclampsia) .

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