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Common Pregnancy Complaints

Pregnancy brings some significant changes to your body, which can cause a range of temporary or more persistent complaints. This page offers some suggestions to help reduce their effects.

Remember that every woman’s body responds to pregnancy in different ways, so don’t feel inadequate if you seem to be having a more challenging time than your family or friends did. If you have any concerns, contact your lead maternity carer (LMC).

Varicose veins

The best strategy here is to avoid standing for long periods. You might also need to wear support tights.


Try to eat small frequent meals and avoid spicy foods. To reduce the discomfort of heartburn, drink water or milk.

Back pain

During pregnancy the hormone relaxin softens your ligaments, the tough tissues that connect body parts together. The softening can make you more prone to back pain. To prevent this from happening exercise regularly, use a firm mattress, sit up straight and try to avoid heavy lifting. If you would like some strategies to cope with back pain during pregnancy,  watch this video!

Leg cramps

Cramps can be caused by a lack of the mineral potassium in your diet. Bananas, leafy green vegetables, oranges and milk are all good sources of potassium.

Wrist pains

Fluid retention around wrists puts pressure on the nerves. This can cause a tingling feeling or numbness in your hands known as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. To reduce the effect, raise your arm when sitting. If your hands are tingly when you wake up raise your hands and wiggle your fingers. If it persists your LMC may refer you to a physiotherapist.

Swollen hands, feet and ankles

This is usually caused by the extra fluid in your system. Resting with your feet up to heart level whenever possible and wearing support tights can help. Contact your LMC if this swelling suddenly gets worse.

Abdominal pain

The ligaments which support your uterus are stretching as your body grows. A warm bath or a warm wheatie bag on your back will often help.


If you are getting constipated, make sure you drink plenty of fluids but avoid tea, coffee and alcohol. Eating high-fibre foods and exercising will also help.

Sleep problems

Some women find it hard to get to sleep. Warm baths, milky drinks, and ankle exercises can all have a calming effect to help you sleep.

Morning sickness

Most women feel nauseous during the first trimester of pregnancy. This is a good sign; it means your hormone levels are rising and maintaining your pregnancy. Some women can experience frequent vomiting. Eating little and often can help, for example try a dry cracker or plain biscuit before getting up in the morning. Seabands or acupuncture can work for some women. If you experience ongoing vomiting and are unable to keep any food or water down, please contact your LMC. More information can be found in the Sickness in Pregnancy leaflet.

Sex in pregnancy

You can have sexual intercourse while you’re pregnant, unless your pregnancy is high risk or your LMC has advised you otherwise.

Tired or feeling faint

Most women feel tired, particularly in the first three months of pregnancy. Your body needs rest to help it cope with all the changes that are happening. If you can, take naps during the day and go to bed earlier.

Some women also feel faint if they stand up too quickly from lying down, or after they’ve been lying on their back later in pregnancy. Take your time getting up and avoid sleeping on your back once your pregnancy is visible or has reached around 20 weeks. If you continue to feel light-headed, please contact your LMC to check that your iron levels are adequate.

Mood changes in pregnancy

Pregnancy is a very vulnerable time for most women, as they come to terms with the responsibility of growing a new person inside of them.

The necessary lifestyle changes can be challenging. In some cases this could involve an improved diet, giving up smoking or a new exercise routine, as well as the inevitable challenge of waking in the night.

With all these added responsibilities, anxiety during pregnancy is common. This is particularly true if there is a lack of support or relationship issues arise as you and your partner are faced with becoming parents.

It is important that you take time to care for yourself. Sometimes it is hard to know how to achieve this. Please talk with your LMC about any concerns you may have. It usually pays to talk about difficulties you may be experiencing before they become bigger problems.
National Women's Health
Phone: 09 307 4949
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