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Pregnancy Symptoms and Concerns

Pregnancy is exciting, exhilarating and totally different for every woman. This means pregnancy symptoms will also be different for every woman.  They may be mild and uncomplicated like food cravings, or they may require more medical intervention such as high blood pressure in pregnancy.  

6 mins to read Dec 7, 2023

Pregnancy symptoms may arise due to hormonal changes during pregnancy, or pre-existing medical conditions that affect a pregnancy. Being open and honest with your health care provider, as well as going to all your health check-ups is the best way to stay on top of these symptoms and help minimise any complications as a result.

Below is a list of some common pregnancy symptoms plus some positive action steps you can take that might help make your pregnancy all it can be. 


1.    Early Pregnancy symptoms

Some people say they know straight away that they’re pregnant from the moment of conception, thinking they can already feel the very first signs of pregnancy. While for others it may take a positive pregnancy test – or two – to convince them. Missing your period and feeling a little ill are common early signs of pregnancy – but there are many other early pregnancy symptoms that may indicate you are pregnant. If you notice any of the following early pregnancy symptoms, it’s best to take a home pregnancy test:

  • Breast changes
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Slight spotting or cramping
  • Mood changes
  • Food cravings


2.    Cravings

Though no one really knows why they occur, countless mums have had them, for everything from watermelon and chocolate to chilli sauce on ice cream. 

Action steps for when you have a craving:

  • Don’t judge them – they are a normal part of pregnancy! Unless it’s something inedible like dirt or chalk – that probably needs some investigation by your healthcare professional.
  • Keep your portions reasonable and maintain an otherwise healthy diet. 


3.    Pregnancy morning sickness

Nausea and vomiting affects many mums-to-be, especially in the first trimester. The cause of pregnancy morning sickness is unknown and may be due to hormonal changes or lower blood sugar during early pregnancy. As the name suggests, it often occurs in the morning but can strike at any time of the day! 

Tips to put into action to help manage morning sickness:

  • Eat frequent, small meals.
  • Think nutritious foods but in a snack-portion size.
  • Your sense of smell may be heightened when pregnant, so avoid potential triggers like food with strong aromas, perfume and cigarette smoke.
  • Go for mild flavours over spicy.
  • Have a small snack at bedtime and upon waking, such as dry toast, crackers or fruit.
  • Take your pregnancy vitamins with or after food.
  • For severe nausea, talk to your doctor.


4.    Constipation during pregnancy

Constipation during pregnancy can be due to pregnancy hormones relaxing your intestinal muscles and slowing the movement of food through your intestine. Your baby is also putting pressure on your intestines, slowing down the process even more.

Here are some simple remedies that may help manage constipation during pregnancy:

  • Drink plenty of fluids every day including water, decaffeinated tea, prune juice, milk and soups. Vegetables and fruits with lots of moisture—like celery, berries and watermelon— can also help.
  • Eat more fibre-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Be active – exercise, such as regular walks, can help keep food moving!


5.    Heavy legs, cramps, and swelling in pregnancy

Cramps are very common during pregnancy however it is not known what exactly causes this. A feeling of heavy legs, ‘pins and needles’, oedema (e.g feet swelling in pregnancy) results from extra fluid in the tissues of your body. If you have these symptoms there is no harm in talking to your doctor about them and to adopt some good habits.

Tips to manage swelling in pregnancy:

  • Massage the affected area to provide some relief. Stretching may also help with pain relief.
  • Wear comfortable shoes to help with swollen feet or ankles.
  • Put your feet up whenever you can. Try to keep them elevated above the level of your heart. Sleep on your left side, or with your legs slightly raised (using a pillow). This will help circulation.
  • You may need to wear support stockings (your doctor can provide you with a prescription or recommendation).
  • Avoid eating too much salt and salty foods.

It’s important to know that drinking plenty of water is still important during your pregnancy to keep hydrated, even if you are experiencing swelling. 

If the swelling in pregnancy is concerning you, discuss with your doctor.


6.    Heartburn in pregnancy

Heartburn in pregnancy - a burning sensation in the middle of your chest - can occur because your growing baby is pushing on your stomach and intestines. Because stomach acids are squeezed into the oesophagus and the muscle at the top of the oesophagus relaxes, it creates the uncomfortable burning sensation we know as “heartburn.” Heartburn becomes more common as your pregnancy progresses.

See if these dietary changes act to ease your heartburn in pregnancy:

  • Eat smaller meals more frequently and eat slowly.
  • Avoid greasy and spicy foods.
  • Try to wait at least an hour after you eat before lying down.
  • Try to avoid eating at least 2 hours before exercise.
  • Sleep with your head elevated slightly or on your left side.

Check with your doctor before taking any over-the-counter antacids or tablets.


7.    High blood pressure in pregnancy

Gestational hypertension (high blood pressure during pregnancy) requires the attention of your healthcare professional.

Before becoming pregnant:

  • Try and make some small lifestyle changes, including limiting salt intake, staying active and looking to reduce your weight if overweight.

If you have high blood pressure in pregnancy:

  • Try to maintain a healthy weight gain throughout your pregnancy.
  • Avoid alcohol and smoking.
  • Tell your healthcare professional if you’re taking any over-the-counter or prescription medications and get regular check-ups.


Mental health during pregnancy 

Some feelings of anxiety during pregnancy can be quite normal. These feelings may include:

  • Hesitation
  • Worry
  • Nervousness
  • Sadness 
  • Uncertainty
  • Mood changes

For most, these feelings will come and go during pregnancy as you anticipate the arrival of a new member to the family.  These feelings can be normal even if they feel intense, but shouldn’t last too long.

If any of these concerns become overwhelming, or out of control, talk to your doctor and get your support network involved. Getting advice and treatment early is important. Anxiety during pregnancy and depression during pregnancy can affect you and your family and there is support available to help your pregnancy mental health and wellbeing. 


Appearance changes during pregnancy

Apart from the obvious one – the protruding belly – there are many other physical changes you may experience during your pregnancy, including:

  • Larger, tender breasts.
  • Skin colour changes.
  • Stretch marks. 
  • Hair changes.
  • Visible veins.
  • Swelling in ankles, feet and hands.
  • Haemorrhoids.

These changes can be all part and parcel of your pregnancy, and will subside in time after your baby is born. If you have any concerns at all, speak to your healthcare professional.


There may be other pregnancy aches and pains you may experience during pregnancy. If you have any concerns, consult your doctor.