Pregnancy is a period of great physiological stress for a woman as she is nurturing a growing foetus in her body. Sometimes these changes are welcome and should be accepted positively, while at other times they can get irritable. We list below some common problems/discomforts faced by a woman during pregnancy.
Nausea and vomiting
It is commonly known as “morning sickness” and occurs mainly in early pregnancy. At least 50 per cent of pregnant women in their first pregnancy experience this condition.
There are a number of factors that give rise to morning sickness. Some are physiological like excessive hormone production in early pregnancy disturbs the biochemical balances which lead to gastro-intestinal disturbances. This results in loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting. Sometimes, tension or anxiety can also cause this.
To minimise morning sickness, women should have solid carbohydrate foods like biscuits, rusks, khakras, bread or fruits. At the same time avoid rich, fried, strong flavoured and spicy foods. Have liquids and solid foods every half hour. Keep munching on salty snacks. If dairy products become difficult to tolerate, try some that are easier to digest such as yogurt, cottage cheese and cheddar cheese. During the first trimester of pregnancy, you should also be cautious of herbal teas; the composition and safety of many of them are unknown. Choose products in filtered tea bags only. Try to include ginger tea or lemon tea in your diet.
Constipation is common during the second half of pregnancy. Pressure of the developing foetus on the digestive tract makes bowel movement difficult at times. Limited activity and exercise, insufficient fluid intake, and inadequate bulk of the diet [due to intake of highly concentrated foods] can also be other causes. A liberal intake of fluids, use of natural laxative foods, such as whole grain cereals, husked pulses, fibrous vegetables and fruits, and avoiding refined foods is important.
Some women complain about feeling of fullness or heartburn during pregnancy. This is usually due to pressure of the enlarging uterus crowding the stomach, thereby causing difficulty after eating. Food gets mixed with the gastric acid leading to burning sensation. But, this complain has nothing to do with the heart. The feeling of fullness mainly comes from gas formation/gastric pressure and this can be avoided by taking small frequent meals. Eat slowly. Drink plenty of liquids between meals. Avoid late and heavy dinners. Wear loose fitting clothes. Go for walks for at least 15-20 minutes after your main meals. The walks need not be brisk, try to go for at least a stroll [slow walking] if possible.
During pregnancy, hypertension may be mild or severe. In severe hypertension, blood pressure may rise high and might lead to excessive swelling in hands and ankles. It can be suspected when there is sudden weight gain indicating fluid retention rather than due to tissue building. This can be overcome by adequate rest and sound sleep. Restrict salty foods like chips, sauces, papad or canned foods. Also, avoid high heel shoes and try doing some ankle exercises.
- Caffeine: Pregnant women who are heavy coffee drinkers are at risk of miscarriages, and premature deliveries. Therefore, try to decrease the intake of caffeinated drinks like tea, coffee, and cola.
- Alcohol intake and smoking: These lead to an increase in the foetal mortality. It can also lead to low birth weight and growth retardation. Another disadvantage is alcohol gives seven empty [no nutritional value] calories/gm. Women who derive their required energy from alcohol are not left with sufficient appetite for nutritious foods thus leading to various kinds of nutrient deficiencies. Therefore, it is recommended to avoid smoking and drinking alcohol during pregnancy.
- Drugs: Studies show that drugs like marijuana and heroin can lead to prolonged labour, operative deliveries and other maternal problems. While in case of medicinal drugs, they should be avoided during early pregnancy as it can cause malformation of the foetus.
- Protein intake: Protein intake should be increased by 10g a day and can easily be found in animal products including chicken, fish, milk, and eggs. Some plant foods, such as legumes, nuts, seeds, and cereal grains can also provide high quality protein. It is more beneficial if you combine one food from two of these categories in the form of dishes like hummus, split pea soup, bean tacos or even a peanut butter sandwich or khichdi.
- Calcium intake: Calcium is one of the most important minerals needed during pregnancy. The current recommended amount of calcium intake during pregnancy is 1,200mg – an increase of 400mg a day over your usual needs. An increase in dairy products such as skim milk, cheese, yogurt, pudding, and ice milk is an easy way to consume lots of calcium. Other good non-dairy sources of calcium include salmon, kale, broccoli, beans, and calcium-fortified orange juice.