Pregnancy could be a period of mixed feelings. While on the one hand you may be euphoric at the thought of becoming a mother, you may be plagued by a range of physical discomforts. A good gynecologist or midwife should be consulted regularly throughout the pregnancy to guide you through the process. While each pregnancy is unique, here are some frequent pains associated with it.
During a pregnancy, a woman usually experiences two distinct kinds of cramps: simple cramps, and contractions.
Simple cramps are caused by the expanding uterus which is growing to accommodate the growing fetus. The uterus is attached to its environment through ligaments which can cause pain when strained. During the first trimester, muscle spasms in the uterus and ligament stretching are common causes of cramping.
During the second and third trimesters, cramps are usually caused by ligament stretching, and Braxton-Hicks contractions which are essentially ‘training contractions’ which prepare the uterus for labor. In the third trimester, specifically, these training contractions increase in intensity and finally convert into full contractions, signaling the onset of labor.
The main discomfort during pregnancy is caused by the expansion of the uterus, putting extra pressure on its immediate surroundings.
The expanding uterus puts pressure on the inferior vena cava (the large vein on the right side of the body). This consequently increases the load on the small veins in the leg (and other areas). Since veins, which bring de-oxygenated blood back to the heart, are already working against gravity, tend to bulge further upon increased pressure and an increase of blood production. Furthermore, as your progesterone levels rise, the walls of your blood vessels relax, allowing them to swell under pressure.
Varicose veins are swollen veins that may bulge near the surface of the skin. As unsightly as they may seem, they are not harmful, and tend to disappear once the strain of pregnancy is relieved.
Backache is a frequent pregnancy complaint. Most women feel a chronic pain in their backs especially during the latter months of their pregnancies. With women already going through an emotional phase in their lives, backaches are certainly not seen as welcome additions to their pregnancy experience. Here are the major causes of the all-too-common pregnancy backaches.
Increased weight: A typical woman will gain an average of 30-35 pounds during her pregnancy. This extra weight is then supported by the body’s skeletal structure, including the spine. This extra weigh on the skeletal muscles causes lower back pain. Additionally, the weight of the growing baby puts extra pressure on the pelvic nerves and blood vessels, which adds to the pain.
Changes in posture: During pregnancy, the body’s center of gravity shifts. This means that the body is having to re-adjust to the new center of gravity by applying extra pressure. This strains the back muscles, contributing to the back pain.
Hormone changes: Relaxin, a hormone which relaxes body joints and widens the cervix to prepare for the upcoming birth, is produced by the ovaries and released into the body. This hormone also affects spine-supporting ligaments, causing lack of stability and strain.
Like any other physical condition, emotional stress can worsen muscular tension which contributes to the various aches and pains of pregnancy. You may notice a worsening of the pain during particularly stressful periods. So, it is best to manage stress, and try to stay emotionally calm during your pregnancy. Staying in touch with your consulting gynecologist or midwife will also ensure that any abnormalities or emergencies are addressed right away.