Carrying a pregnancy to full term of about 40 weeks does not come without any complains from the woman who is carrying the pregnancy. From the onset of pregnancy, down till the final week, there are several complaints the woman may present to the hospital with especially during her antenatal visits. These complaints usually are as a result of her physiological response to the pregnancy and they may be of variable severity.
Among the very many complaints women have during pregnancy, there are some major ones which most women who are pregnant will complain about to their obstetrician or midwife during the pregnancy period. It is not all women who have such complaints.
THE MOST COMMON COMPLAINTS DURING PREGNANCY
Fatigue, somnolence, headache and blackouts are often noticed in the early months of pregnancy and their cause is unknown. Hypotension secondary to peripheral vasodilation, may be responsible for feelings of faintness.
Nausea and vomiting are due to the effects of large amounts of circulatory estrogen or human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) level. They can occur at anytime of the day but especially in the morning, and are aggravated by cooking and fatigue. Nausea and vomiting however, does not usually continue after the 16th week of the pregnancy. Mild cases can be resolved by taking light carbohydrate meals in the morning like biscuits and milk. Severe cases will need antiemetics and treatment at the hospital.
This is due to the relaxing effects of progesterone on the smooth muscle. A bowel movement every 2 or 3 days is perfectly normal and consistent with good health during pregnancy.
The enlarging uterus encourages esophageal reflux of gastric acid by pressing against the stomach. Sleeping in a semi-recumbent position (on the side) usually helps to relieve the heart burns.
Pelvic pressure and hemorrhoids
Pressure from the enlarged uterus gradually obstructs venous return and this may lead to haemorrhoids and varicose veins of the legs and vulva. Skin tights can be helpful to resolve leg varicosities and suppositories are used for haemorrhoids. There is nothing that can be done for the varicosity of the vulva unless to relax and wait for the pregnancy to be over.
Pelvic joint pain
This can occur because the ligaments of the pelvic joints are softened and relaxed during pregnancy by steroid induced fluid retention and increased vascularity which occurs in all soft tissue. Back ache and sacro-iliac strain may occur because the softening ligaments are aggravated by the postural change that pregnancy causes.
An apparent increase in the amount of saliva produced occurs especially during the early pregnancy. This causes the woman to spit out her saliva very frequently and not swallowing it. The woman lives in an aura of wet handkerchiefs and spit bottles.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Pregnant women often complain of tingling pain and numbness in the fingers of one or both hands. This pain and numbness gets worse when walking, as the fingers tend to feel lifeless and pin-prick sensation is usually reduced in the affected area. All these is due to the compression of the median nerve in the carpal tunnel which lies under the flexor retinaculum muscle.
Women can also complain of vaginal discharge during pregnancy. Increased secretion of cervical mucus and the increased vascularity of the vagina is what combine to produce a fairly copious discharge in pregnancy. This discharge is not offensive or itchy and normal hygiene is the only treatment required. When there is itchy and offensive vaginal discharge, it is usually from candidiasis or trachomonas infection and must be treated at the hospital properly in other to prevent mother to child transmission of such infection during the process of child birth.
Kelvin P. Hanretty : Antenatal care common complaints” Obstetrics Illustrated (6th edition).