Exploring the most common pregnancy symptoms (and how to overcome them!)

Mama, your body is amazing! You are growing and developing a tiny, perfect human.

During this time of rapid growth, your body undergoes a sea of hormonal changes and may leave you wondering what on earth is going on in there and why is it making you feel this way?

Pregnant mum taking a nap on the sofa

Some people are “lucky” and sail on through the first trimester with minimal symptoms while others can experience the full whack of ailments that pregnancy can bring.

Below are some of the most common pregnancy symptoms and some useful tips on how to relieve them.

Pregnancy Symptom #1: Fatigue

You may feel like you have been hit with an exhaustion stick! Fatigue is common during the first trimester and, for many women, this can be the first symptom of pregnancy.

For some, fatigue can be overwhelming and turn ordinary daily tasks into feeling like you are completing a marathon! Although everyone experiences different levels of pregnancy tiredness most women will feel more tired than usual during the early stages of pregnancy.

It’s no wonder you are feeling so exhausted; your body is starting to produce more blood to help your baby grow and develop and your blood sugar and blood pressure are lower. Progesterone and other pregnancy hormones are surging around your body and contribute to feelings of exhaustion.

So, if you feel like you can’t wait to climb into bed at the end of the day, be assured that as your body begins to cope with the enormous metabolic changes, the fatigue usually subsides. Often women start to bounce back at around 12 -14 weeks of pregnancy.

Tips to help with Pregnancy-Related Fatigue

  • Listen to your body: Getting enough rest is crucial in combatting pregnancy fatigue. Head to bed earlier than usual or if you can, take a quick power nap in the day or when you get home from work. Look at your schedule and put off any unnecessary activities.
  • Take a short walk: Even though you may feel like it is a struggle to get your walking shoes on, studies show that taking a quick 30-minute walk can invigorate you and make you feel more energised. Make time in your day to get some gentle exercise.
  • Stay hydrated: Dehydration can increase the effects of fatigue and make you feel even more tired. Take regular water breaks throughout the day, drink small amounts often. If you feel that you cannot tolerate the taste of water try adding a slice of lemon or ginger into the water or try other drinks such as electrolyte replacement drinks or diluted cordial. Sucking on an icy pole is also a quick and refreshing way to boost your fluid levels.

Pregnancy Symptom #2: Morning Sickness

Nausea – with or without vomiting – may be in full swing by week 10. 3 in 4 women experience some degree of nausea and vomiting of pregnancy (NVP).

Once again, some women can cruise on through and only have very mild symptoms where others experience around the clock symptoms. Nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy are often referred to as “morning sickness” but should be renamed to “all day sickness” because symptoms can continue throughout the day and night and can hit at any time!

The cause of morning sickness is unknown but it is thought that the rise of the hormone Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG) could have something to do with it. hCG is a hormone produced by the placenta after implantation.

The good news is that morning sickness usually lessens after the first trimester so hang in there - you’ve got this Mama! If morning symptoms are severe or you are becoming dehydrated it is important to contact your health practitioner.

Tips to Help with Pregnancy-Related Nausea

  • Eat small amounts of food often, rather than large meals.
  • Avoid having an empty stomach. Snack in between mealtimes, e.g., plain crackers, dried fruit or toast.
  • Early morning nausea may be helped by eating a dry or plain sweet biscuit before getting out of bed or by snacking during the night if you wake up.
  • Frequent meals of plain foods that are high in carbohydrate and low in fat (such as bread, rice, crackers and pasta).
  • Try sucking on a boiled sweet.
  • Avoid fatty, rich or spicy foods like takeaways, curries, hot chips or chocolate.
  • Make the most of your best time of the day – eat healthy and well when you feel at your best or whenever you feel hungry during the day.
  • If the smell of hot food makes you feel ill – try eating cold food instead. If at all possible, avoid cooking but instead ask for help from friends and relatives to get you through these first weeks.
  • Choose simple dishes that are quick and easy to prepare. If you spend too much time preparing food you may not feel like eating.
  • Try acupressure – there's some evidence that putting pressure in a particular spot on your wrist, may help relieve the symptoms.

Pregnancy Symptom #3: Tender breasts

Are your breasts sore and tender? Are you grimacing when you accidentally knock them? Sore, tingly breasts and nipples are extremely common in early pregnancy.

Pregnancy hormones oestrogen and progesterone spike and begin to prepare your breasts for the changes required to breastfeed and nourish your baby after birth. Blood rushes to the breast tissue making them sensitive and sore to touch.

For some women, the tenderness lasts a few weeks but others experience some degree of breast pain throughout their entire pregnancy.

Don’t be alarmed if you aren’t feeling breast tenderness – this doesn’t mean that your breasts are not doing what they should. Some women simply don’t feel breast changes during pregnancy and go on to breastfeed their baby without any problems.

Tips to Help with Pregnancy-Related Breast Soreness

  • Invest in a well-fitting maternity bra - Get measured for the correct fit and for maximum comfort. You may need to do this a few times throughout your pregnancy as your breasts grow and again after your baby is born.
  • Avoid underwire bras – The underwire in a bra can constrict the breast, reduce blood flow, and may lead to pain, discomfort and in rare cases blockages or mastitis.
  • Wear a cotton sleep bra to bed. A non-restrictive but supportive sleeping bra will help your breasts feel comfortable whilst you slumber.
  • Take extra care to avoid knocking your breasts or brushing past things.
  • You may feel like you need to ask your partner to take a hands-free approach to your breasts for a while.

And lastly remember that you are not alone, many newly pregnant women are experiencing some or all of these symptoms at some stage. If you have any concerns about any of the information discussed here today always discuss this with your midwife or doctor for more information specific to your situation.

References

1. Marshall, J.E. and Raynor, M.D. (2020) Myles Textbook for Midwives. 17th ed. London: Elsevier

2. Vomiting and morning sickness https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/related-conditions/common-symptoms/vomiting-and-morning-sickness/