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Last updated on April 18, 2014 at 17:24 EDT

Dr Miriam: HEALTH FOCUS: TREATING PREGNANCY DISCOMFORT – Pick the Best Way to Bloom

November 25, 2004

A WOMAN’S health may bloom in pregnancy – as model Claudia Schiffer, pictured left, shows. Two weeks ago she gave birth to her second child, Clementine.

Other mums, like Radio 1 DJ Sarah Cox, right, looked less cool and comfortable when they were expecting.

But it’s not surprising that many mums-to-be feel under the weather over nine months’ labour.

Most problems arise from surging levels of pregnancy hormones. This week Dr Miriam advises on common complaints of pregnancy.

MORNING sickness is one of the best-known uncomfortable effects of pregnancy – and it defies its name as it can strike at any time of day.

The cause is almost always low levels of blood sugar, although pregnancy hormones can also directly irritate the stomach.

It’s generally confined to the first three months. So:

Eat little and often so blood sugar remains fairly constant.

Make each small meal pay by eating complex carbohydrates like wholemeal bread, potatoes, pasta, rice and wholegrain cereals.

Avoid coffee and fried foods as these can trigger nausea. Have a glass of milk and a couple of biscuits by the bed for waking-up time, then remain in bed for another 15 minutes.

Keep up fluid intake and include skimmed milk and fruit juice if they can be kept down.

If vomiting happens more than twice a day over three days see the doctor, because depleted fluid level could lead to low blood pressure.

Constipation

CONSTIPATION is due to the relaxing effect of progesterone. Intestinal wall muscles contract less often so food stays in the intestine longer and more water is extracted from it. You should:

Drink lots of water; eat fresh vegetables and fruit, high-fibre cereals and wholemeal bread.

Walk briskly for 20 minutes a day. If you feel you must have a laxative, only take one prescribed by your doctor.

Heartburn

UNDER relaxing effects of high progesterone levels, the muscular stomach valve – which normally closes tightly to contain the stomach’s contents – may allow a reflux of food into the oesophagus (food pipe). The stomach acid causes a burning sensation just behind the breastbone . So:

Ensure the stomach is never really full. Eat four or five small meals a day rather than three substantial ones.

If heartburn is a problem at night, sleep propped up by pillows, and drink a glass of milk before going to bed.

Milk helps to neutralise stomach acid. Don’t take antacid medicines yourself. Your doctor may prescribe one but only in later stages of pregnancy.

Backache

ONE of progesterone’s roles is to soften and stretch ligaments of pelvic joints to allow for passage of the baby at birth. This softening and stretching effect extends to ligaments of the spine, putting extra strain on joints of back and hips. So:

Avoid lifting heavy weights throughout pregnancy. When lifting anything, bend knees and keep the back straight. Then take the pressure of the lift on the thighs by straightening legs.

Watch posture when standing, sitting and walking. Aim to keep the neck and back in a straight line – the temptation is to compensate for tummy weight by arching the back.

Intense backache may strike when rotating your spine and pelvis in opposite directions, like when you turn over in bed. Baby is resting on your sacroiliac joint and this joint opens and closes with rotary motion. When it’s impeded by the baby, pain can be severe.

WASH AWAY YOUR TROUBLES

SORE, tingling breasts may be the first sign of pregnancy and this discomfort will probably remain throughout and may increase in the final days.

Under the influence of hormones, breasts are being prepared for milk production. The milk ducts are being stretched and will eventually be filled with colostrum and then milk. So:

Wear a well-fitting and really supportive bra from early days of pregnancy for comfort and to reduce the chance of sagging.

It’s fine to wear a bra with underwiring as long as it’s flexible and soft-tipped. Many women feel more at ease wearing a bra at night, too, especially if they are normally large breasted.

If nipples feel sore, apply baby lotion or oil daily after gently washing breasts and carefully patting them dry.

EASE THE PRESSURE

AS a baby gains in size and weight he presses down on a pregnant woman’s rectum and impedes the flow of blood through the veins back to the heart.

The blood forms pools, rectal veins swell to accommodate it and may protrude through the anus.

Piles, or haemorrhoids, can result which are be very painful, so aim to avoid them:

Don’t lift weights: doing so increases pressure in the

abdominal area and back pressure on rectal veins, further impeding blood flow.

Coughing produces the same effect, so have any cough treated promptly by the doctor.

Above all, avoid constipation and straining by taking plenty of fluids and high-fibre foods.

Sit it out..

VARICOSE veins are the same as haemorrhoids except they usually occur in the legs, lying just beneath the skin – though they can occur in the vulva.

Don’t stand for long periods and put your feet up whenever you can, as well as wearing pregnancy support tights.

..and relax

IF this page sounds like a litany of pregnancy woe, remember these discomforts and complaints are temporary. Pregnant women are unlikely to experience them all and can follow ways to lessen them or avoid them altogether.

FOR further reading, Conception, Pregnancy & Birth, by Dr Miriam Stoppard, is available from Mirror Direct on 0870 07 03 200, price pounds 13.99 including postage and packing.

(c)Miriam Stoppard