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Other Pregnancy Discomforts

Many changes can occur during pregnancy. Here are short descriptions and information about some common changes women experience during this time.

Tender Breasts

Your breasts may become tender and uncomfortable starting in the first trimester. This is caused by the normal enlargement of your breasts and hormonal changes in your body. Leaking of breast milk may occur prior to the birth of your baby in the second or third trimester.

Suggestions include:

  • Wear a good support bra
  • Avoid underwire bras
  • Wear a bra at night if it is more comfortable
  • Use nursing pads as needed for leaking

Increased Vaginal Discharge

During pregnancy, increased discharge normally occurs as the result of increased production of mucous by the cervical cells and the changes in the vaginal lining. The discharge produced is usually whitish in color and is acidic. It serves the function of protecting the mother and baby against infection, but can also cause increased growth of infections. This discomfort is most noticeable in the first trimester.

Recommendations include:

  • Bathe frequently; use un-perfumed soap
  • Wear cotton underpants (avoiding nylon, girdles, tight-fitting pants and heat/moisture-trapping fabrics)
  • Use bath powder to maintain dryness and comfort
  • Do not douche or use vaginal hygiene sprays
  • Avoid vaginal sprays, powders, feminine hygiene products, colored and scented toilet tissue

Signs and symptoms you should report to your healthcare provider if not helped by the above measures include:

  • foul odor
  • excessive discharge
  • itching, burning or severe irritation

Any changes in your usual discharge should be reported.

Dizziness and Fainting

Dizziness and fainting are common occurrences during pregnancy and are associated with changes in blood volume and pooling of blood in the lower extremities. They are associated with sudden changes in position. Because these symptoms can also be caused by several disease processes, you should consult your healthcare provider if you experience any dizziness or fainting.

Suggestions include:

  • Avoid prolonged standing or sitting
  • Use support stockings
  • Make position changes slowly, especially from lying down to standing up
  • Increase fluid intake
  • Eat regular meals don’t skip meals and eat frequent, small meals
  • Avoid activities that might put you at risk for injury (i.e.. rock climbing, bicycling)
  • Avoid lying on your back (especially in late pregnancy as this can put pressure on a major blood vessel and decrease blood pressure)
  • Avoid prolonged sun exposure

Stretch Marks

"Stretch marks" of pregnancy usually begin to appear in the 2nd or 3rd trimester. They can appear on the abdomen, breasts, buttocks, or thighs as pink thinning of the skin. They persist after pregnancy, but fade to a lighter coloration. The cause is unknown although stretch and hormonal changes have both been blamed.

Skin Discolorations

Pigmentation change can extend from the perineum to the belly button and also occur in the face, forehead, cheeks, nose, and neck. Increased pigmentation of the nipple and areola can also occur. The cause, although not certain, is believed to be hormonal.

The condition is considered benign, and no therapy is recommended. Avoiding the sun may help as sun exposure aggravates the condition. Fading will occur after pregnancy is over, but the pigmentation may never completely disappear.

Increased Perspiration

The sweat and sebaceous gland secretions are often increased during pregnancy. A hormonal influence is suspected, but has not been verified. Recommendations include frequent cleansing and adequate hygiene.

Itching

Itching called pruritis gravidarum from the accumulation of bile salts can occur during pregnancy. The itching usually occurs on the abdomen and does not form lesions. Jaundice (yellow skin) may accompany the itching. It usually begins during the third trimester, but can present any time after twenty weeks' gestation.

An association between pre-term labor and low birth weight and this condition exists. The condition does not harm the fetus, especially if pre-term labor and low birth weight can be avoided.

Your healthcare provider should be consulted if you experience these symptoms. Other causes of itching, such as scabies and allergies should be ruled out. The condition should go away soon after delivery, but may recur in future pregnancies.

Remedies include:

  • Take oatmeal baths
  • Wear loose fitting clothing
  • Consider medications such as antihistamines only after consulting with your healthcare provider

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