Signs and Symptoms of Pregnancy (continued)


Shortness of Breath

As the baby grows, your expanding uterus will put pressure on all of your organs, including your lungs. You may notice that you are short of breath or might not be able to catch your breath.

Tips to ease breathing include:

Take deep, long breaths.

Maintain good posture so your lungs have room to expand.

Use an extra pillow and try sleeping on your side to breathe easier at night.


Most women develop mild swelling in the face, hands, or ankles at some point in their pregnancies. As the due date approaches, swelling often becomes more noticeable. If you have rapid, significant weight gain or your hands or feet suddenly get very puffy, call your doctor as soon as possible. It could be a sign of high blood pressure called preeclampsia or toxemia.

To keep swelling to a minimum:

Drink 8 to 10 eight-ounce glasses of fluids (water is best) daily.

Avoid caffeine.

Try to avoid very salty foods.

Rest when you can with your feet elevated.

Ask your doctor about using support hose.

Teeth and Gums Problems

A pregnant woman's teeth and gums need special care. Pregnant women with gum disease are much more likely to have premature babies with low-birth weight. This may result from the transfer of bacteria in the mother's mouth to the baby during pregnancy. The microbes can reach the baby through the placenta (a temporary organ joining the mother and fetus which supplies the fetus with blood and nutrients), through the amniotic fluid (fluid around the fetus), and through the layer of tissues in the mother's stomach.

Every expectant mother should have a complete oral exam prior to or very early in pregnancy. All needed dental work should be managed early, because having urgent treatment during pregnancy can present risks. Interventions can be started to control risks for gum inflammation and disease. This also is the best time to change habits that may affect the health of teeth and gums, and the health of the baby.

Remember to tell your dentist that you are pregnant! You can ease bleeding gums by brushing with a soft-bristled toothbrush and flossing at least twice a day. Get more details on taking care of your teeth and gums during pregnancy.

Varicose Veins

During pregnancy there is a huge increase in the amount of blood in the body. This can cause veins to enlarge. Plus, pressure on the large veins behind the uterus causes the blood to slow in its return to the heart. For these reasons, varicose veins in the legs and anus (hemorrhoids) are more common in pregnancy. Varicose veins look like swollen veins raised above the surface of the skin. They can be twisted or bulging, and are dark purple or blue in color. They are found most often on the backs of the calves or on the inside of the leg.

Try these tips to reduce the chances of varicose veins:

Avoid tight knee-highs or garters.

Sit with your legs and feet raised when possible.


Digestive Difficulties


Many pregnant women complain of constipation. High levels of hormones in your pregnant body slow down digestion and relax muscles in the bowels leaving many women constipated. Plus, the pressure of the expanding uterus on the bowels boosts the chances for constipation.

Try these tips to stay more regular:

Eat fiber-rich foods like fresh or dried fruit, raw vegetables, and whole-grain cereals and breads daily

Drink eight to ten glasses of water everyday.

Avoid caffeinated drinks (coffee, tea, colas, and some other sodas), since caffeine makes your body lose fluid needed for regular bowel movements.

Get moving. Mild exercise like walking may also ease constipation.

Heartburn and Indigestion

Almost every pregnant woman experiences indigestion and heartburn. Hormones and the pressure of the growing uterus cause this discomfort. Pregnancy hormones slow down the muscles of the digestive tract. So food tends to move more slowly and digestion is sluggish. This causes many pregnant women to feel bloated. Hormones also relax the valve that separates the esophagus from the stomach. This allows food and acids to come back up from the stomach to the esophagus. The food and acid causes the burning feeling of heartburn. As your baby gets bigger, the uterus pushes on the stomach making heartburn more common in later pregnancy.

Try these tips to prevent and ease indigestion and heartburn:

Avoid greasy and fried foods.

Eat six to eight small meals instead of three large meals.

Don't gain more than the recommended amount of weight.

Take small sips of milk or eat small pieces of chipped ice to soothe burning.

Eat slowly.

Ask your doctor if you can take an antacid medicine.

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