Pregnancy Lifestyle Changes

Being pregnant creates major changes for your body. Find out what clothes to wear and how to deal with those bodily aches and pains.

Common Complaints

Your body is going through some major changes. It's no surprise that some of these changes create discomfort. Here are some of the most common pregnancy complaints and ways to deal with them.

Back Pains

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Why it happens: Backaches usually occur later during your pregnancy due to softening of the ligaments, which puts extra strain on the joints of the back and hips, and/or due to your changing center of gravity, which causes you to lean forward to compensate but also puts extra strain on your back.

What to do: Good posture, exercise, massages, and a firm mattress can all help in relieving the pain in your lower back. Good posture will take some strain off your back muscles. Exercise will help you to strengthen those muscles. Massages improve your circulation, soothes muscles, and helps you to relax. The firm mattress will help support your muscles.

Other notes: Avoid wearing high heels as this will put more stress on the back muscles.

Constipation

Why it happens: Certain hormones are released when you become pregnant to help your body relax muscles so they are pliable and will stretch with the growing baby. Unfortunately, when the intestinal muscles relax this slows down your bowl movements, which can make your stool dry and hard, becoming painful to pass.

What to do: First of all, drink lots of water to help keep the stool from drying out and becoming too hard. Exercise also helps your body move things along. Simply walking can help. Also, eat lots of fiber. Fiber is found in all varieties of food.

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Here are some foods that are rich in fiber (most fibrous foods first):

  • Split peas
  • Lentils
  • Black beans
  • Lima beans
  • Artichokes
  • Raspberries
  • Whole wheat cooked spaghetti
  • Barley
  • Bran flakes
  • Pears
  • Broccoli
  • Apples

Other notes: Don’t take any strong laxatives and consult your doctor if the problem persists. Try not to push your bowels too hard or strain them; this could cause hemorrhoids.

Fatigue/Tiredness Refer to the Rest and Relaxation During Pregnancy page.

Frequent Urination

Why it happens: It is in part due to hormonal changes and in part due to the growing uterus putting pressure on your bladder. Later in your pregnancy, this pressure even limits the capacity of your bladder.

What to do: Because this is mostly a problem during the night, try limiting your liquids before you go to bed. You can also try rocking back and forth while urinating; this could help drain your bowels more completely.

Leg Cramps

Why it happens: Experts aren’t conclusive about why leg cramps happen. Some say it is a lack of calcium or potassium or even a lack of salt in your diet (this last one is less common). Others think they occur in response to low circulation, which could explain why they often happen at night when you’re more sedentary.

What to do: Because it can be hard to determine exactly why they happen there are several ideas of treatment. Try eating foods with more calcium and potassium. Stretch you calves before bed. When it does happen, massage the area in pain and flex your foot to stretch it out.

Mood Swings

Why it happens: Your body is coping with many different changes and hormones being released in the body (especially in the first trimester). Not to mention, this is a big part of your life and the feelings associated with being pregnant can create fears, anxieties, etc. It’s normal to feel moody and have a variety of emotions at the drop of a hat.

What to do: These are natural feelings, and they will come and go. Try not to worry; you are not alone. Sometimes going for walk, taking a nap, resting, or taking a few breaths can help.

Morning Sickness

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Why it happens: Not all women experience morning sickness but about half do, and it doesn’t just happen in the mornings. It can happen any time of day; although, many say that it’s worst in the morning. This could be because of low blood sugar or because of pregnancy hormones. Usually, morning sickness is more common in the first trimester, then tapers after that. It’s associated with varying degrees of nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to smells.

What to do: Most agree that eating small amounts of food throughout the day helps, as well as keeping crackers by your bed so you can eat them as soon as you wake. When you start feeling hungry, eat.

Other notes: While most women agree that morning sickness is irritating and uncomfortable, it won’t affect the health of your baby. However, a severe form of morning sickness, hyperemesis gravidarum, does require professional attention. Women who have this are unable to keep any food down and throw up multiple times a day, which leads to dehydrating.

Stretch Marks

Why it happens: Excess weight gain. When you’re pregnant your skin stretches to accommodate the baby growing inside of you. Some women have more elastic skin than others and are less likely to get stretch marks. You’ll usually see stretch marks in the middle to the end of your pregnancy in your abdomen, breasts, upper thighs, buttocks, and inner thighs. Although, you may see them in some places and not others. Everyone is different.

What to do: Unfortunately, if your skin is prone to stretch marks, it’s likely you’ll have them and there’s no way to stop them from coming. However, you can be sure to keep hydrated and eat healthily to keep your skin healthy and more elastic so that your marks are fewer and smaller. Lotions and creams will not work.

Vaginal Discharge

Why it happens: During pregnancy there is a softening and thickening of the mucous membranes that increases the amount of vaginal discharge. This is normal. It’s not bad and should not be an area of concern unless it is discolored, foul smelling, or is accompanied with blood. In this case, consult your doctor.

What to do: Don’t worry. Wear cotton underwear and change often, depending on how much and how uncomfortable it is.

Rest and Relaxation

Pregnancy is a time of many, many bodily changes. These changes take energy and can leave you feeling more tired than usual. Especially in the first three months and the last six weeks, when these changes are most dramatic, your body will need more rest.

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Unfortunately, actually sleeping can be difficult during pregnancy. One reason this is the case is that the baby is constantly growing and developing, no matter the time of day or night. Your body is working to keep up with the baby’s metabolism, which doesn’t slow down at night, and this can keep you up at night.

However, there are ways to help your body relax and coax it to sleep:

  • Take a warm, not hot, bath before bed.
  • Listen to music that relaxes you.
  • Drink warm milk before bed.
  • Try placing a pillow between your knees or under your bump. Also, avoid lying on your back.
  • Use aromatics like chamomile or lavender to calm your senses.
  • Keep cool during the night with a fan or open window and door.
  • Practice breathing deeply.
  • Read before you sleep.

Resting during the day is also important. This doesn’t mean that you have to take naps, but it’s a good idea to sit and relax during the day. This will help your body cope with the changes and help you to stay happy and healthy.

What to Wear

Pregnancy brings on many changes to the body, not the least of these is the change in the clothing you can wear and what feels good. Luckily, maternity clothing has become much more fashionable and accessible with cute options in almost any department store. Once upon a time, it seemed you had to forego comfort is order to wear confident, stylish clothing; however, now you can have the best of both.

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First of all, don’t rush to the store right away to buy new clothes you think will fit your baby bump. If you go buy maternity clothes too soon you may underestimate or overestimate your size, hoping you’ll grow into it. Usually, you can wear your current clothes for awhile before considering new clothes, even through the first two trimesters. Wear clothes that are flowing and flattering, maybe a size bigger than you usually wear. Some women never need to buy maternity clothing because they either wear sizes and styles that leave room for the baby or they borrow and share clothes with family or friends. Most women start wearing maternity clothing around five to six months.

When trying to find the right size in maternity clothes, stick to your original size. Most maternity clothing companies take your size before you’re pregnant and estimate what your size will be while you’re pregnant. So, if you’re a size 10 before pregnancy, look for size 10 while your pregnant. You’ll also want to get clothes that are just bigger than what you are; this will give you more room to grow into them. Look for clothes that can be used for many occasions and can go with a variety of outfits. Some women recommend buying several pairs of maternity pants with a high elastic strap—this helps keep your pants from falling down—before you begin to buy other articles of clothing. It can also be easier to find non-maternity tops that fit your belly than it is to find non-maternity pants that fit and are comfortable.

Getting bras that are comfortable and supportive during pregnancy is extremely important. Because of the changes in your breasts during pregnancy, you’ll need to be sure that your breasts are supported. If they’re not, it’s likely they’ll sag after pregnancy. When looking for a good bra, be sure the straps are thick and there is a wide band beneath the cups. You’ll need to get larger sizes further along in your pregnancy to accommodate your growing breasts, so only buy a couple, expecting to buy more in larger sizes later on.

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Because of the increased circulation of blood in the body, you’ll likely heat up more quickly. Wearing lightweight clothing can help keep you cool, and layering will give you more freedom to adjust depending on how hot or cool you’re feeling. Maxi dresses and skirts are great options for maternity wear—they’re light, they stretch, and can even be worn before and after pregnancy. Dresses and shirts that have an empire waist are more comfortable and allow for more stretch room for your belly.

A note on shoes: Your feet can grow during pregnancy. If your feet feel tight in your normal shoes, try going a half size up and see if it makes a difference. When your belly gets bigger you also may feel more unbalanced. Wear shoes that are comfortable and help you keep balanced.

Ways to Save on Maternity Clothing:

  • Share clothes with family and friends who still have their maternity wear. Many women have maternity clothing that they aren’t currently wearing and would be glad to share.
  • Shop for normal clothes that are a few sizes bigger instead of rushing to the maternity section.
  • Shop at thrift stores. Many of these clothes haven’t been used very much because their previous owner could have only worn them for three to four months.
  • Try the plus-size section of department stores.
  • Wear clothes that have elastic waistbands to better incorporate your growing belly.
  • Try wearing your jeans, but use a rubber band or hair tie to loop through the hole then attach it to the button. This will give you several more inches to grow. Then wear longer shirts that cover it up.
  • Most department stores have maternity sections; shop here instead of going to stores that exclusively sell maternity clothes. Usually, department stores will save you money.


Return to Pregnancy

Resources

Stoppard, Miriam. "Dr. Miriam Stoppard’s New Pregnancy and Birth Book.” Ballantine Books. 2009. Stoppard, Miriam. “Conception Pregnancy and Birth.” DK Publishing. 2008. Stone, Joanne; Eddleman, Keith; Duenwald, Mary. “Pregnancy for Dummies.” Wiley Publishing. 2004. Weiss, Robin Elise. “The About.com Guide to Having a Baby.” F+W Publications, Inc. 2006.