Ask the experts

Pregnancy Ailments

How do I cope with pregnancy sickness? I can’t keep anything down, not even water. What should I do?

Ruth Armes is a qualified Active Birth and NCT teacher with over 15 years of experience and has supported over 2,000 pregnant women and their partners through the physical and emotional challenges of pregnancy. Ruth’s specialities include pregnancy-related ailments, yoga for pregnancy, birth preparation and educating parents about their options for childbirth so that parents can make the right choice for them. 

Q. How do I cope with pregnancy sickness?  I can’t keep anything down, not even water. What should I do?

Pregnancy sickness is a miserable condition and one that can be very hard to cope with. It can begin anywhere from 4-5 weeks pregnant and although it does often tail off at around 12-14 weeks, some women will experience it until later, and a few unlucky people right the way through pregnancy.

It is worth knowing that although you may be feeling terrible, the retching does not damage your baby, and your baby will not be deprived even if you are only keeping down a little food because they will get adequate nutrients from your reserves stored before you got pregnant.

There are a number of self-help remedies that you can try:

Try to eat small amounts regularly. You may benefit from a glass of apple juice, or some water with honey, sipped regularly, and even during the night. Have a snack before bed and even in the night – nuts, seeds, an oat biscuit or rice cake may all be tolerated.

It may help to have someone bring you a little food and drink in bed before you get up.

Ginger has a good reputation for sickness and can be taken as a tablet or tea, fresh ginger can be used, or in foods such as crystallised ginger or ginger beer.

Alternative therapies to try are acupuncture, reflexology and homeopathy. For some women they can be very successful. Make sure you consult a qualified practitioner with experience of treating pregnant women.

There is an acupuncture point that you can stimulate yourself. You can do this most easily by buying some Sea Bands from the chemist. These are elasticated bands worn around the wrists, which apply pressure to the point.

Even if you are struggling to tolerate food it is important to keep drinking. Drink small amounts regularly. Try herbal teas, particularly peppermint or ginger, hot water with a slice of lemon, fruit juices, or thin soups. It may be a good idea to take a vitamin tonic.

If you are unable to keep water down you must see your doctor. Anti-nausea medication may be essential if vomiting is excessive and you are dehydrated. Very occasionally women need hospital treatment with intravenous fluids.

Q. I’m 7 months pregnant and keep getting tummy aches – is it serious?

Pain in the abdomen is very common in pregnancy and may be felt in a number of ways. All the organs in your abdomen are being squeezed for space, your abdominal muscles are stretching, all the ligaments in the pelvis stretch and soften, and there is upward pressure under the ribs, stomach and diaphragm. It is hardly surprising that there is discomfort as pregnancy progresses! Other common causes are:

Round ligament pain – the round ligaments are attached into the groin and run to the top of your uterus. They have to lengthen a lot during pregnancy and may ache or give you a sharp pain, especially as you move from sitting to standing. This is completely harmless.

Contractions – the uterus contracts throughout pregnancy in practice contractions called Braxton Hicks. You might feel your uterus becoming hard, or a firm rolling sensation across the uterus. They tend to increase in strength towards the end of pregnancy. Runs of them may happen lasting minutes or hours. This does not mean you are more likely to have an early baby. Some women are barely aware of them, whilst others can feel them as quite uncomfortable.

Fibroids – this is where a part of the uterine wall has thickened. Often they do not cause symptoms, but there could be pain over the area. This can be confirmed by scan.

Bladder or kidneys - it is possible that pain may be caused by a bladder infection. If you think this may be the cause see your doctor for a urine test.

Stomach or bowel – indigestion, diarrhoea and constipation can all be more common in pregnancy and give rise to pain, sometimes quite severe. See the other questions on these topics for ways to help you.

If you are worried, or if the pain is severe, see your midwife or doctor. You may also wish to contact a Midwife or Health Visitor on in which you can do so from the comfort of your own home.

Q. What should I do about my swollen feet/ankles?

Swelling in pregnancy is caused by extra fluid in the body leaking into tissues. It is called oedema, and is generally a harmless side effect of pregnancy.

It is more common in hot weather or if you are overweight, and often increases as the pregnancy progresses toward term.

Here are some ways you can help yourself:

Exercising improves circulation and helps to move fluids around. Try yoga postures and exercises that work the legs, feet and hands. Don’t cross your legs when seated, and rest with your legs raised when you can.

Drink plenty of water and avoid excess salt, caffeine and alcohol.

Reflexology and homeopathy can help. Make sure you consult a qualified practitioner with experience of treating pregnant women.

Occasionally the swelling may relate to a serious condition called pre-eclampsia. Other symptoms are high blood pressure, protein in your urine, headaches, abdominal pain, and visual disturbances. If you have a sudden increase in swelling, pains, or any of these symptoms, visit your doctor as soon as possible!

Ruth Armes at Greatvine


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