Over the 9 months of a pregnancy, a woman’s body goes through a more rapid period of change than at any other time in her life. With so much going on and hormones whizzing around, it’s no surprise that most of us experience some side effects during our pregnancies. Some women an experience a whole raft of side effects but we have listed some of the most common ones below.
This is one of the most common side effects of being pregnant, and is most common in the first trimester of pregnancy. Some women start to experience feelings of nausea even before they have missed their first period. The severity of nausea varies hugely between women, with some breezing through their pregnancy without ever feeling sick, to others who spend every morning vomiting almost constantly. Scientists are not sure what causes morning sickness, although it is probably down to the hormonal changes of early pregnancy combined with tiredness. In mild cases of morning sickness, snacking on salty crackers or ginger biscuits may help, but severe cases should be investigated by a doctor.
Headaches are also common in pregnancy and are due to a combination of fatigue and fluctuating hormones. Paracetamol is considered safe by most Doctors to use in pregnancy, and for most women taking a couple of painkillers and lying in a cool, dim room will be sufficient to sort out their headaches. Persistent headaches, especially in the last trimester of pregnancy, should be reported to the doctor or midwife as they can be an indication of high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia.
The overwhelming fatigue of early pregnancy comes as a shock to many women who have previously been active and full of energy. While your body is working overtime creating a new little person’s heart, lungs and other vital organs, energy levels plummet and it’s not unusual for a woman in the first trimester of pregnancy to nap whenever she gets the chance. In the middle of the pregnancy energy levels often pick up, and women begin to “bloom”. Towards the end of the pregnancy, carrying around a large bump, finding sleeping difficult and being generally uncomfortable leads to another drop in energy levels. First time mothers are advised to sleep whenever they feel the need to, although this may be harder for mothers with small children to look after.
Pregnant women and new mothers often talk about “baby brain” and although there is no scientific evidence that the condition exists. Speak to any mother though and she will more than likely have an anecdote about the time she put her credit cards in the fridge or went out wearing mismatched socks. Researchers think that the concept of “baby brain” is a self-fulfilling prophecy in that women are told they will be forgetful and they then conform to that stereotype. In new mothers who are up all night feeding, or have a baby who doesn’t sleep well, a certain degree of forgetfulness can be easily explained.
As many as 75% of pregnant women are said to experience cravings during their pregnancy. The most common food to crave is chocolate, followed by spicy foods and ice cream. Cravings appear to be more common nowadays than they were in previous generations, but this is probably down to the availability of food that we enjoy now. It was previously thought that cravings were the body’s way of balancing out some nutritional deficiency, but there is no scientific evidence for this. Cravings are by and large harmless, although eating vast quantities of chocolate or ice cream will lead to weight gain.
Mouth, Tooth and gum problems
One of the more unusual pregnancy side effects is excess saliva production, leaving a pregnant woman drooling like a teething baby. Excess saliva is harmless but can be embarrassing and inconvenient. Drooling women will be more thirsty, and should drink more to keep up their hydration levels. The excess saliva production generally corrects itself after the baby has been born. Pregnancy can also put extra stress on the teeth and gums, and bleeding from the gums during tooth brushing is common. Pregnant women should continue to see their dentists regularly, and should not scrimp on their brushing and flossing
Click here to see some advice on healthy foods to include in your diet when pregnant