Most women are healthy during pregnancy and do not have serious
health concerns. You may have minor physical symptoms throughout your pregnancy
that are considered normal pregnancy changes. It is important for you to be
aware of symptoms that may mean you have a more serious problem. Talk with your
doctor about any concerns you have during your pregnancy so that your health
problems can be checked quickly.
Many minor problems of pregnancy
can be managed at home. Home treatment measures are usually all that is needed
to relieve mild
morning sickness or discomfort from
constipation. There are also home treatment measures
for sleep problems, hip pain,
hemorrhoids, or fatigue. If you develop a problem and
your doctor has given you specific instructions to follow during your
pregnancy, be sure to follow those instructions.
If you have a
family history of diabetes, you may develop a type of diabetes that only occurs
during pregnancy (gestational diabetes). Gestational
diabetes is treated by watching what you eat, exercising, checking blood sugar
levels, and possibly taking oral medicines or insulin shots to keep blood sugar
levels within a target range. Women who have gestational diabetes are likely to have
babies that weigh more than normal. If the mother's blood sugar is not
controlled, this could cause serious problems for the baby before and during
You may also have other common problems, like a cold or
the flu, while you are pregnant that are not caused by your pregnancy. You can
use home treatment measures for these illnesses as well, but make sure to talk
to your doctor if your symptoms become more serious, such as coughing up blood
or not being able to drink enough fluids (dehydrated).
While most problems that occur during pregnancy are minor, you may
develop more serious symptoms that you need to talk to your doctor about. Your
symptoms may be related to:
- Miscarriage. Symptoms may include:
- Vaginal bleeding.
- Tissue that passes through the vagina.
- Premature birth. Symptoms may include:
- Abnormal vaginal discharge or fluid leaking from your vagina.
- Belly, pelvic, or back (flank) pain.
This pain may come and go regularly.
- Preterm labor, which
happens when contractions begin before the 37th week of pregnancy.
- Infection. Symptoms may include:
- Nausea and vomiting or diarrhea.
- Urinary problems,
such as a urinary tract infection or not being able to
- Open skin sores or blisters and itching.
- Changes in your blood pressure that may mean you
preeclampsia. This problem may cause:
- Abnormal swelling, especially in your
face, hands, or feet.
new or different headache.
- Vision problems.
- Pain in
the upper right belly.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Depression. If you are tearful, sad,
anxious, or have big mood swings, talk to your doctor. If you are depressed
during your pregnancy, you may have a hard time bonding with your baby after
delivery. Depression can be treated so that you and your baby will be able to bond.
During the days and weeks after delivery (postpartum period),
you can expect that your body will
change as it returns to its nonpregnant condition. As
with pregnancy changes, postpartum changes are different for every woman. Some
problems, such as high blood pressure, hemorrhoids, or diabetes, may continue
after delivery. You may need to follow up with your doctor about these problems
Check your symptoms to decide if
and when you should see a doctor.
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
Actionsets are designed to help people take an active role in managing a health condition.
- Pregnancy: Dealing With Morning Sickness
- Stress Management: Doing Guided Imagery to Relax
Pregnancy affects almost every part
of a woman's daily life. If you develop problems and your doctor has given you
specific instructions to follow during your pregnancy, be sure to follow those
During your pregnancy, you may have questions about
many of the following common concerns:
For many women, the hardest part of
early pregnancy is
morning sickness. You may be able to use home
treatment to help your nausea or vomiting.
- If nausea is worse when you first wake up, eat
a small snack (such as crackers) before you get out of bed. Rest a few minutes
after eating the snack, then get out of bed slowly.
- Eat regularly.
Do not skip meals or go for long periods without eating. An empty stomach can
make nausea worse. Eat several small meals every day instead of three large
- Drink enough fluids every day. Do not become
dehydrated. Sports drinks, such as Gatorade or
Powerade, may help if you have ongoing vomiting. Ginger tea may help your
nausea as well.
- Eat more protein, such as dairy
- Do not eat foods high in fat.
- Do not take
iron supplements, which can make nausea worse.
- Try to stay away
from smells that trigger morning sickness. Citrus juice, milk, coffee, and
caffeinated tea may make nausea worse.
- Get lots of rest. Morning
sickness may be worse when you are tired.
- Pregnancy: Dealing With Morning Sickness.
Feeling tired (fatigue)
Most women have some fatigue
during pregnancy, especially during the first and third
trimesters. During the first trimester, your body
makes higher levels of the hormone
progesterone, which may make you feel more tired. You
may feel more energy during most of your second trimester. Later in pregnancy,
your growing baby and loss of sleep because you cannot find a comfortable
position can lower your energy level.
To help with fatigue during
- Eat regularly. Do not skip meals or go for long
periods without eating. Choose healthy foods.
- Exercise regularly.
Get outside, take walks, or keep your blood moving with your favorite workout.
If you do not have your usual energy, do not overdo it.
- Try to take
rest breaks often during the day.
- Do only as much as you need to,
and do not take on extra activities or responsibilities.
Sleep problems are
common during pregnancy. These tips may help you get a good night's sleep.
- Keep a regular sleep schedule.
- Keep your naps as short as possible.
- Use your bed only
- Limit your caffeine, such as coffee, tea, cola drinks,
- Try relaxation methods, such as meditation or guided imagery. For more information, see
- Limit what you drink
after 6 p.m. so you do not have to get up to the bathroom during the
- Use extra pillows to raise your head or to help you find a
Using medicine to help relieve discomfort or fever
You may also have other common problems, like a cold, mild
headache, backache, mild fever, or the flu, while you are pregnant that are not
caused by your pregnancy. These minor symptoms generally do not cause problems
or hurt your baby. In general, doctors say it is usually safe to take acetaminophen (Tylenol) for fever and pain.
Acetaminophen dosage: The usual dose is 650 mg. Take every 4 hours, as needed, up to 4 times in a 24-hour period. Do not take more than 4,000 mg in a 24-hour period.
Be sure to follow these nonprescription medicine precautions.
- Use, but do not exceed, the maximum recommended
- Carefully read and follow all labels on the medicine bottle
- Do not use other nonprescription medicines, such as
nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), until
you have talked with your doctor.
Check with your doctor before you take any other types of medicines.
Heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
Most pregnant women have symptoms of
gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), especially
heartburn, at some time during pregnancy. These symptoms are common but do not
usually cause problems or hurt your baby. Most of the time symptoms of
heartburn get better once the baby is born.
You can make changes
to your lifestyle to help relieve your symptoms of GERD. Here are some things
- Change your eating habits.
- It's best to eat several small meals
instead of two or three large meals.
- After you eat, wait 2 to 3
hours before you lie down. Late-night snacks aren't a good
- Chocolate and mint can make GERD worse. They relax the valve
between the esophagus and the stomach.
- Spicy foods, foods that
have a lot of acid (like tomatoes and oranges), and coffee can make GERD
symptoms worse in some people. If your symptoms are worse after you eat a
certain food, you may want to stop eating that food to see if your symptoms get
- Do not smoke or chew tobacco.
- If you
have GERD symptoms at night, raise the head of your bed
6 in. (15 cm) to
8 in. (20 cm) by putting the
frame on blocks or placing a foam wedge under the head of your mattress.
(Adding extra pillows does not work.)
nonprescription antacids for heartburn symptoms. Do
not use antacids that have sodium bicarbonate (such as baking soda) during
pregnancy because they can cause fluid buildup. It is okay to use antacids that
have calcium carbonate (such as Tums).
Constipation and hemorrhoids
Constipation and hemorrhoids are common during pregnancy. To prevent or ease these
- Eat a high-fiber diet with lots of fruits,
vegetables, and whole grains.
- Drink plenty of fluids, especially
- Talk to your doctor about trying a stool softener.
- Do not
strain (push hard) during a bowel movement.
- Get more exercise every
Back, pelvic, and hip discomfort
Many women have
pelvic, or hip discomfort during pregnancy. As the
size and weight of your belly increases, strain is placed on your back. Pelvic
and hip discomfort is a normal sign that your pelvic area is getting ready for
childbirth. To help with your discomfort, follow these tips:
- Try not to stand for long periods of
- Stand with a straight back. Do not stand with your belly
forward and your shoulders back.
- Rest one foot on a small box,
brick, or stool when standing.
- Try heat, such as a hot water bottle
or a heating pad set on low, to painful areas when resting. Do not fall asleep
with a heating pad in place. Place a cloth between your skin and the heating
- Sit with a back support or pillow against your lower back. If
you must sit for a long time, get up and move around every
- Wear a prenatal belt or girdle around your hips but under
your belly to support your hips.
- Sleep on a firm mattress (plywood
under a mattress helps). Lie on your side, with a pillow between your
- Do not lift anything heavy. Lift with your legs by rising
from a squat, keeping your waist and back straight.
- Do not stretch
to reach something on a high shelf or across a table.
acetaminophen, such as Tylenol. Talk to
your doctor if your discomfort does not get better with acetaminophen. Do not
use more than the recommended dosage.
Fetal movement counting
After 18 to 20 weeks, you will notice that your baby moves and kicks more at certain times of the day. For example, when you are active, you may feel less kicking than when you are resting quietly. At your prenatal visits, your doctor may ask you whether the baby is active.
Kick counts. In the last trimester of your pregnancy, your doctor may ask you to keep track of the baby's movement every day. This is often called a "kick count." A common way to do a kick count is to see how much time it takes to feel 10 movements. Ten movements (such as kicks, flutters, or rolls) in 1 hour or less are considered normal. But do not panic if you do not feel 10 movements. Less activity may simply mean the baby is sleeping.
If an hour goes by and you have not recorded 10 movements, have something to eat or drink and count for another hour. If you do not record 10 movements in the 2-hour period, call your doctor right away.
Symptoms to watch for during home treatment
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home
- Abnormal or increased
- Weakness or lightheadedness.
- Pain in your belly.
- Swelling in your face, hands, or feet.
- A severe
- Vomiting that gets worse or continues even with home
- Heartburn that continues even with home
- Symptoms that become more severe or occur more
It is important to make healthy lifestyle
choices to lower your chance for serious problems during pregnancy. Learn about
healthy lifestyle choices before, during, and after your pregnancy.
- Have a healthy pregnancy. Eat well,
exercise regularly, get plenty of rest, avoid hot weather temperatures, and do
not do activities that could lead to a fall or belly injury.
- Pay attention to your nutrition and weight gain during pregnancy. Be sure to
get the right amounts of
folic acid, iron, and
calcium. Try for slow, gradual weight
- Limit your use of caffeine.
- Eat a nutritious diet. Get enough
vitamin D, and zinc. These nutrients are vital to your
baby's growth, development, and weight gain.
- Exercise safely during pregnancy. Try to get 30 minutes of exercise on most, if
not all, days of the week.
- Do pelvic floor (Kegel) exercises to
prevent urine control problems (incontinence) after childbirth.
- Discuss immunizations with your doctor.
Things to avoid when you are pregnant
- Alcohol and illegal drugs
- Smoking or using tobacco
- Misuse of medicines
- Hot tubs and saunas
- Uncooked food and other poisons. This
includes raw (unpasteurized) milk and cheeses made with raw milk; raw meat, poultry, or seafood; unwashed fruits or vegetables; and cat
feces or outdoor soil that cats commonly use.
- Unusual cravings, such as pica, when a woman craves things that are not food.
- Fish that may have mercury. This includes shark, swordfish, king mackerel,
tilefish, more than
6 oz (0.2 kg) of white albacore
tuna a week, or fish caught in local waters that have not tested as safe.
- Hazardous chemicals, certain cosmetic products, or radiation
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your
doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the
- When was your last menstrual period or what is your due date?
- What are your main symptoms?
- How long
have you had your symptoms?
- Have you had this problem before? If
so, do you know what caused the problem at that time? How was it
- What activities make your symptoms better or
- Do you think that activities related to your job or hobbies
caused your symptoms?
- Do you do sports activities?
home treatment measures have you tried? Did they help?
prescription or nonprescription medicines have you taken or used? Did they
- Do you have any
- Abdominal Pain, Age 12 and Older
- Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding
- Domestic Abuse
- Fever or Chills, Age 12 and Older
- Nausea and Vomiting, Age 12 and Older
- Problems After Delivery of Your Baby
- Rectal Problems
- Urinary Problems and Injuries, Age 12 and Older