Pregnancy Discomforts

Dealing with the Discomforts of Pregnancy

Leg Cramps

  • Cause
    •  Pressure of a pregnant uterus on blood vessels, lessening the flow of blood to the legs
    • Pointing of the toes
    • Sudden stretching
    • Fatigue or chilling
    • Lack of calcium in the diet
  • Relief
    • The object is to stretch the cramped muscle to improve circulation.
    • For foot cramps, stand on the affected foot.
    • For calf cramps, straighten knee, pull foot toward head, hold and then relax and repeat.
    • For thigh cramps, stretch leg backwards.
    • For buttock cramps, stretch leg forward.
    • NEVER massage a cramped muscle because it enhances rather than relieves the cramp and can cause tenderness for days.

Foot Pain

  • Cause
    • Excessive weight gain (40-60 lbs.) and curvature of the spine may affect stability of the foot, causing a breakdown of the arch.
  • Relief
    • Turn foot in when walking barefoot to hold up arch.
    • Wear shows with arch supports.

Groin Ache or Pain

  • Cause
    • Poor posture
    • Standing too long
    • Pressure of the baby
    • Spasm of the round ligament
  • Relief 
    • Do light effleurage (small circular massage) in groin area, giving a slight lift as hands comes upward. Use pressure on the down stroke.
    • For relief of sudden spasm, pull up leg on same side as spasm, as if tying a shoe, or lie down on affected side with leg drawn up.

Nausea and Vomiting

  • Cause
    • Hormonal changes, possibly related to low blood sugar 
  • Relief
    • Eat small frequent meals.
    • Have dry crackers or toast before getting up in the morning.
    • Try hard candy like peppermints or lemon drops.
    • Patience- it usually subsides at the end of the first trimester.

Dizziness, Lightheadedness, and Fainting

  • Cause
    • Pressure from the pregnant uterus on greater abdominal muscles
    • Decreased blood sugar
  • Relief 
    • Avoid sudden changes in posture/movements.
    • Get up slowly after lying down- roll side to side then push up to a sitting position.
    • Follow physician’s advice for treatment of anemia.
    • Avoid standing or lying flat on back for long periods of time.
    • Do not skip meals-eat properly.
    • Avoid hot, stuffy areas.


  • Cause
    • Decreased activity of intestine due to pressure from an enlarged uterus & the relaxing effect of progesterone on muscles & intestines
    • Decreased physical activity
    • Impaired tone of stretched abdominal muscles
  • Relief
    • Eat bran cereal, fresh vegetables and fruit. Drink plenty of water daily.

Flatulence (Gas)

  • Cause
    • Decreased activity of intestinal tract
  • Relief 
    • Avoid gas forming foods like beans, cabbage, corn, fried foods, pastry, very sweet desserts & food known to cause problems.
    • Eat bulky foods & drink plenty of water.

Frequent Urination

  • Cause
    • Smaller bladder capacity from the pressure of the uterus on the bladder (in the first trimester) and from pressure of the weight of the baby (in the third trimester)
  • Relief
    • Limit caffeine intake & intake of fluids close to bedtime. 
    • Be aware of signs & symptoms of urinary tract infection & report to physician. 
    • Symptoms include: burning upon urination, flank pain, painful pressure, especially after emptying the bladder

Swelling of Legs

  • Cause
    • Increased fluid in body & increased pressure from the uterus, causing difficulty in the return of fluid from the lower parts of the body
    • May be a sign of more serious problems. Report excess swelling to your physician.
  • Relief
    • Elevate legs as much as possible.
    • Support hose may provide some relief.
    • Avoid standing or sitting with legs dependent for long periods of time.

Vaginal Discharge/Bleeding

  • Cause
    • Increased estrogen causes normal “pregnancy” discharge
    • Increased progesterone may cause a yeast infection
  • Relief 
    • If discharge is not causing itching or irritation & is non-odorous, do not worry.
    • If a yeast infection is suspected, report symptoms to your physician.

Ache in Back, Hips, or Thighs

  • Cause
    • Pressure of baby on small nerves on the inside of the spine & pelvis
  • Relief 
    • Pelvic rock on all fours or creeping on all fours. This may encourage the baby to readjust his/her position.


  • Cause
    • Poor posture/muscle tone
    • Lax abdominal muscles let uterus fall forward which leads to lordotic posture 
    • Softening effect of hormone action on spine & pelvic joints
    • Obesity
  • Relief
    • Careful attention to correct posture & body mechanics
    • Pelvic rock, especially on all fours
    • Kneel in a crawling position several times a day
    • When standing, lift one foot & place it on an object so it’s higher than the other foot; or stand with one foot in front of the other & rock back & forth slightly
    • Firm mattress on your bed

Tingling, Numbness, & Swelling of Extremities

  • Cause
    • Enlargement of breast tissue high in the armpit, resulting in pressure on nerves and blood vessels
  • Relief
    • Place hands on shoulders & rotate elbows in a circle.

Diaphragm Pressure (Cramp or Stitch under Ribs)

  • Cause
    • When the baby is high in the abdomen, the diaphragm is pushed against the base of the lungs.
  • Relief 
    • Lift rib cage by raising arms sideways & upward above the head and then stretch.

Shortness of Breath

  • Cause
    • When the baby is high in the abdomen, the diaphragm is pushed against the base of the lungs
  • Relief 
    • Sleep propped up with pillows or spend the first ten minutes in bed lying on your back with arms extended above your head & resting on the bed.
    • Late pregnancy will bring relief (when the baby drops into the pelvis)


  • Cause
    • Relaxing effect of progesterone & the pressure of a heavy uterus on the lower part of the large bowel
    • Obesity, lack of exercise, excessive sitting, constipation
    • Straining to move bowels
  • Relief
    • Same for constipation
    • Do Kegel exercise regularly to stimulate circulation in the pelvic area.
    • Apply cold compresses, e.g. ice, witch hazel, Epson salt

Varicose Veins/Leg Ache

  • Cause
    • Hereditary predisposition
    • Relaxing effect of progesterone on walls of veins
    • Pressure of enlarged uterus on abdominal veins slows blood return from lower limbs
    • Fatigue
    • Standing with knees locked, causing muscular constriction, preventing proper venous return
  • Relief 
    • Avoid thigh-high hosiery or any clothing that causes muscular constriction which prevents proper venous return.
    • Change position frequently and avoid long periods of standing or sitting.
    • Do Kegel exercises regularly.
    • Take long walks because the massaging action of muscles close to veins is good for stimulating circulation.
    • Crawl on hands & knees several times a day. Be sure knees are flexed & supported by pillows when at rest. Do pelvic rock exercise.
    • Elevate legs & hips several times a day.
    • Wear support hose or stockings made of elastic; put on while lying down, ideally before getting out of bed in the morning.
    • Never stand with knees locked. They should always be flexed.

Updated December 29, 2017