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Pregnancy Discomforts: Common Causes

What are pregnancy discomforts causes?

Pregnant woman laying down with her hand on her belly.
A rare cause of pregnancy discomforts is pica, which is craving dirt, chalk, or coal.

Hormonal changes are the main cause for pregnancy discomforts such as morning sickness (nausea and vomiting), constipation, frequent urination early in pregnancy, skin color changes (mask of pregnancy or chloasma), yeast infections, mood swings, insomnia, headaches and migraines, and nasal congestion.

  1. Breast swelling and pain may be a result of increasing breast size and milk ducts expanding.
  2. Fatigue is often a result of the growing baby’s energy requirements. In some cases, fatigue is due to anemia (low blood iron), which is common during pregnancy.
  3. Hemorrhoids may occur during pregnancy as pressure on the rectum from the growing baby combines with an increased blood volume.
  4. In addition to hormones, constipation is due the growing baby putting pressure on the intestines, and increased iron intake from prenatal vitamins.
  5. The growing baby and expanding uterus also put pressure on the stomach and intestines, which can cause contents to reflux (come back up into the esophagus).
  6. Varicose veins in the legs and around the vaginal opening may be caused by increased pressure on the legs and the pelvic veins and increased blood volume.
  7. Swelling/bloating/fluid retention is caused by pressure from the growing uterus on the blood vessels carrying blood from the lower body.
  8. Frequent urination later in pregnancy is caused by pressure from the growing baby on the bladder.
  9. Abdominal pain may be due to stretching ligaments that run from the uterus to the groin (round ligament pain), gas, constipation, and Braxton Hicks contractions (also referred to as “practice contractions”).
  10. Stretch marks are usually a result of rapid weight gain during pregnancy.
  11. In addition to hormones, yeast infections may be a result of increased vaginal discharge during pregnancy.
  12. Mood swings are also caused by hormones, as well as stress and fatigue.
  13. Backache is a result of weight gain and the woman’s center of gravity being pulled forward, causing back strain.
  14. Aside from hormones, insomnia during pregnancy is also caused by increased urge to urinate during the night, nausea, heartburn, and difficulty finding a comfortable sleep position.
  15. During middle to late pregnancy there are several possible causes of dizziness, including low blood sugar, low blood pressure, low iron, dehydration, or standing up too quickly.
  16. Headaches and migraines can be caused by hormones, as well as inadequate sleep, low blood sugar, low blood pressure, and stress.
  17. Increased blood flow during pregnancy may result in gums becoming spongier which causes them to bleed easily.
  18. Pica is a rare craving for non-food substances that may be caused by nutritional deficiencies.

What causes pregnancy discomfort symptoms?

Uncomfortable symptoms of pregnancy are common, and most women will experience some discomfort during their pregnancy.

Symptoms of pregnancy discomfort include:

  • Morning sickness (nausea and vomiting): Nausea affects about 80% of women during pregnancy, and about 50% experience both nausea and vomiting. Severe vomiting is called hyperemesis gravidarum. It typically occurs in the first trimester, but for some women it may last throughout their pregnancy.
  • Breast swelling and pain: The milk ducts expand and the breasts fill, which can cause sharp pains. Hormonal changes may cause tenderness.
  • Fatigue: More than half of women experience fatigue during pregnancy, typically during the first and third trimesters.
  • Hemorrhoids: The growing baby combined with an increased blood volume puts pressure on the rectum and perineum and can lead to hemorrhoids, especially in the third trimester.
  • Constipation: Hormones cause the digestive tract to slow down, the growing baby puts pressure on the intestines, and the increased iron from prenatal vitamins can all lead to constipation.
  • Heartburn/indigestion/reflux: Once again, the expanding uterus puts pressure on the stomach and intestines, which can cause contents to reflux (come back up into the esophagus).
  • Varicose veins: Later in pregnancy, varicose veins may develop in the legs and around the vaginal opening, typically due to increased pressure on the legs and the pelvic veins and increased blood volume.
  • Swelling, bloating, and fluid retention: Fluid retention and swelling is common during pregnancy. Severe swelling that persists may be a sign of preeclampsia (high blood pressure and protein in the urine).
  • Frequent urination: Hormonal changes can cause the urge to urinate more frequently early in pregnancy. Later in pregnancy the growing baby puts pressure on the uterus and causes more frequent urination.
  • Abdominal pain: Pain in the upper stomach or abdomen often occurs during the third trimester.
  • Stretch marks: The rapid weight gain during pregnancy may result in stretch marks appearing on the skin of the stomach, breasts, thighs, or buttocks.
  • Skin color changes (mask of pregnancy or chloasma): During the first trimester, hormonal changes may result in brown, blotchy patches on the face, forehead, and/or cheeks. Other skin changes include darkening freckles, moles increasing in size, increased pigmentation in the areola (the area of skin surrounding the nipples), and the appearance of a dark line down the middle of the stomach.
  • Yeast infections: Hormonal changes and increased vaginal discharge make pregnant women more susceptible to vaginal yeast infections.
  • Mood swings: Changes in mood and feelings of stress are often worst during the first trimester. They may lessen in the second trimester and return again near the end of the pregnancy.
  • Backache: During pregnancy a woman gains weight, and her center of gravity is pulled forward, causing back strain.
  • Insomnia: Hormonal changes can cause problems with sleep. Three may be an increased urge to urinate during the night, nausea, heartburn, and other pregnancy-related stressors that all can interfere with sleep.
  • Dizziness: During pregnancy there are several possible causes of dizziness, including low blood sugar, low blood pressure, low iron, dehydration, or standing up too quickly.
  • Headaches and migraines: Hormonal changes, constipation, inadequate sleep, low blood sugar, low blood pressure, and stress may cause or worsen headaches or migraines during pregnancy. Headaches are most common during the first trimester. Strong headaches in the second or third trimester may be a sign of preeclampsia.
  • Bleeding gums and tooth pain: Increased blood flow during pregnancy may result in gums becoming spongier, which causes them to bleed easily. Toothache and tooth sensitivity are also common.
  • Congested or bloody nose: Increased blood flow means the lining of the respiratory tract receives more blood, which can result in congestion. This congestion can also cause a stuffy nose or nosebleeds.
  • Flu-like body aches: Muscular changes, vomiting and dehydration may lead to “all over” body aches.
  • Pica: Pica is a rare craving to eat substances other than food, such as dirt, chalk, clay, or coal. It may be due to a nutritional deficiency.

QUESTION

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Reviewed on 11/18/2019
References
7 Common Discomforts of Pregnancy. American Pregnancy Association. Updated: Octo 25, 2019.
<https://americanpregnancy.org/your-pregnancy/7-common-discomforts-preg>
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