Pregnancy Information Symptoms Other Symptoms

Heartburn, sciatica and back pain are common symptoms that can occur during pregnancy.

While symptoms such as heartburn, dizziness and constipation are relatively harmless complications, any and all symptoms experienced during pregnancy should be reported to your doctor.

Pregnancy and Heartburn

Heartburn is one of the most common symptoms of pregnancy. Heartburn occurs when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus. Pregnancy causes heartburn when the uterus expands, pushing the stomach away from its usual position. Food stays in the stomach longer, increasing the risk of reflux and heartburn.

Heartburn triggers: A number of substances increase the risk of heartburn. Avoiding these during pregnancy will reduce heartburn symptoms:

  • caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee
  • caffeinated drinks
  • chocolate
  • fatty foods
  • fried foods
  • garlic
  • onions
  • peppermint.

Alcohol and nicotine also cause heartburn symptoms, and should be completely avoided during pregnancy as these substances may also damage the fetus.

Preventing heartburn: In addition to avoiding heartburn triggers, other strategies may reduce heartburn symptoms during pregnancy. Eating smaller meals throughout the day and eating slowly may help reduce heartburn symptoms.

Heartburn symptoms often occur at night, so avoid eating two or three hours before bedtime. Raising the head off the bed four to six inches higher than the foot can also offer nighttime heartburn relief. Check with your doctor before taking any over-the- counter heartburn remedies.

Constipation

Pregnancy can cause constipation. During pregnancy, bowel movement (peristalsis) slows. Increased water absorption through the bowel can also cause constipation. The iron supplements taken during pregnancy may worse constipation symptoms.

To combat constipation, increase fiber consumption and drink up to fifteen glasses of water a day. Laxative use during pregnancy is controversial. While laxatives treat constipation, their use has been linked to pre-term labor.

If you have not had a bowel movement for several days talk with your doctor about using a stool softener.

Back Pain and Sciatica

Back pain is common in the last stages of pregnancy. In fact, fifty percent of women experience back pain in the third trimester. Back pain results from both added weight and the shift in the body’s center of gravity during pregnancy.

Gentle stretching and maintaining a pregnancy exercise program may alleviate back pain. Whenever possible, avoid lifting or straining the back. A lightweight back support girdle may help reduce back pain.

If back pain is sharp and shooting, or if pain occurs in the leg or buttocks, the sciatic nerve may be pinched. Sciatica usually causes pain only on one side of the body. Sciatica can occur early in pregnancy, but symptoms more commonly develop in the second or third trimesters of pregnancy.

Heat or cold packs provide some relief from sciatica pain. Like back pain, sciatica may be avoided by regular exercise and maintaining correct posture (a challenge during pregnancy!).

Dizziness During Pregnancy

Dizziness often occurs early in a pregnancy. Dizziness is usually due to low blood sugar or low blood pressure.

Drinking juice and eating carbohydrates can overcome dizziness due to low blood sugar.

Prevent dizziness due to low blood pressure by rising slowly, avoiding hot showers and other temperature extremes, and drinking plenty of water (which also helps prevent constipation).

If dizziness persists, or more serious symptoms such as fainting develop, report the symptoms to your doctor.

Resources

Beers, M. H.