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Common concerns and issues

Your body will change during pregnancy. This can cause a range of complaints, from discomfort to pain. This page lists some of the most common complaints and ways to manage them.

If you're worried at any time during pregnancy - talk to your lead maternity carer (LMC).

Common pregnancy concerns

Morning sickness

Many women feel sick or throw up during pregnancy. Although it is called 'morning sickness', it can happen at any time of the day. It is usually worse during the first three months of pregnancy. This is a good sign, as it means your hormone levels are rising and maintaining your pregnancy. Most women start to feel better by 12 to 16 weeks.

The major triggers for morning sickness are thirst, hunger, tiredness, and smells.

 Ways to cope with morning sickness include:

  • Getting plenty of rest.
  • Eating small amounts often - every two hours - can help as hunger makes nausea worse. For example try a dry cracker or plain biscuit before getting up in the morning.
  • Keep hydrated - drink fluids you like. Keep drinking even if you can't eat.
  • Avoid foods that make you feel nauseous.
  • Avoid smells that act as a trigger.
  • Ginger may help. Ginger tea, ginger ale, ginger beer (alcohol free), ginger biscuits.
  • Keep active - regular, gentle exercise helps. Fresh air helps some women.
  • Acupressure wrist bands or acupuncture work for some women.

Talk to your LMC if:

  • You keep vomiting and can't keep any food or water down.
  • You are dizzy, weak or faint when you stand up.
  • You are losing weight.
Tired or feeling faint

Most women feel tired, particularly in the first three months of pregnancy. It is not uncommon for this tiredness to feel unrelenting. As your body adjusts to the enormous changes necessary to grow your baby, the tiredness usually subsides (around 12 to14 weeks of pregnancy), and you feel more energetic.

To cope with feeling tired, you can:

  • Take naps
  • Go to bed earlier
  • Listen to your body and slow down
  • Gentle exercise can make you feel better

Some women feel faint if they stand up quickly after lying down or if they have been lying on their back later in pregnancy. Try getting up slowly or avoid sleeping on your back.

Talk to your LMC if you are persistently tired or dizzy, feel breathless, or have heart palpitations. They will check to make sure that something more serious isn't going on.

Heartburn and indigestion

This is an irritation or burning sensation in the back of the throat and oesophagus caused by the reflux of stomach contents. 

  • Try to eat small frequent meals.
  • Avoid spicy foods or foods that trigger heartburn.
  • Eat two to three hours before bedtime. This allows time for your body to digest your meal.
  • Try drinking milk when you get heartburn.
  • Sleep propped up.

Ask your LMC about medicines to help if the symptoms persist.

Wrist pains - carpal tunnel syndrome

Fluid retention around the wrists puts pressure on the nerves that run from your wrist to your hands. This can cause tingling, weakness or numbness in your hands.

To reduce the symptoms:

  • Raise your arm when sitting.
  • Wiggle your hands and raise them when you wake up.
  • Avoid repetitive wrist and hand movements.
  • Adjust your seat or keyboard height to change the position of your wrists

Talk to your LMC if it persists. They will refer you to a physiotherapist.

Swollen hands, feet and ankles

This is a normal part of pregnancy caused by the extra fluid in your system. 

  • Avoid standing for long periods.
  • Rest with your feet elevated to the level of your heart.
  • Wear comfortable shoes.
  • Wear support tights.
  • Drink water to help flush the body and reduce water retention.

Contact your LMC if the swelling suddenly gets worse.

Abdominal (stomach) pain

Some abdominal pain during pregnancy is normal. It is caused by the ligaments that support your uterus stretching as your baby grows. Women may have a pain in their hip area or abdomen. 

  • Change positions slowly.
  • If you know you are going to sneeze or cough you can bend at your hips which reduces the pull on the ligaments.
  • Put a warm wheat bag on your back.
  • Have a warm bath.

See your LMC if the pain is severe.

Back pain

During pregnancy the hormone relaxin softens your ligaments, the tough tissues that hold your body parts together. This can lead to back pain. To prevent this:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Use a firm mattress
  • Sit up straight
  • Avoid heavy lifting

You'll find strategies to cope with back pain in this video.


Pregnancy can play havoc with your digestive system leading to constipation. 

  • Drink plenty of fluids but avoid tea, coffee and alcohol.
  • Eat high fibre foods - lots of fruit, vegetables, and wholegrain breads.
  • Keep active.
Varicose veins

Varicose veins are common and usually painless and harmless. They are caused by the extra fluid in your body and the pressure on your blood vessels of your uterus and the effect of progesterone (a hormone). After your baby is born they usually shrink.

  • Avoid standing for long periods.
  • Wear support tights.
  • Elevate your legs whenever you can.
  • Get moving - walking, swimming are helpful.
  • Wear comfortable clothes.
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.

Remember, it is important to sleep on your side after 28 weeks pregnant.

Sex in pregnancy

You can have sexual intercourse in pregnancy while you are pregnant unless your pregnancy is high risk and your LMC has advised you otherwise.

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.