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Supporting you through pregnancy and the early stages of motherhood
Easing your symptoms of pregnancy
Some lucky women sail through their pregnancy without even developing so much as a stretchmark never mind some of the more unpleasant symptoms. The majority however do experience some minor ailments and some are affected by more serious conditions during pregnancy that do require some form of medical intervention. If you do experience the occasional minor problem during your pregnancy you will be happy to know that there are many different ways of easing the discomfort, some with the aid of medicine and some with a change in diet or the use of natural remedies.
there are many different ways
of easing the discomfort

You may experience some of the following...
This is quite common in pregnancy, if not all the way through then at some point during it. Some women have only slight heartburn, which does not bother them too much and only occurs after certain foods, which they soon learn to avoid. Personally I experienced really bad heartburn while pregnant with my son. It was something that I had never experienced before, and it really was not nice.
Heartburn is a very unpleasant condition caused by pregnancy hormones relaxing the valve at the top of your stomach so that your stomach acids are released upwards, also the physical pressure from your enlarging uterus adds to this. All this combines to make you feel bloated and have a burning sensation in your upper chest.
When you feel an attack coming on, try to avoid sitting or bending over as this worsens the feeling. Instead try to stand as tall and straight as possible, even raising your arms above your head can help by increasing the amount of chest space and offer a bit of immediate relief. Eating smaller meals throughout the day can help, and avoiding certain foods like spicy curries, fatty foods, and coffee as these are the most common triggers. You will get to know yourself which foods trigger your heartburn, as it can be different for different people. For example drinking a glass of milk can help ease the burning sensation for some women and yet for some it can be their trigger. Make sure that you eat your meals slowly and avoid eating just before going to bed.

So, to summarise the techniques to avoid and ease heartburn are:
Avoid eating fatty foods, spicy foods, alcohol (which you should be avoiding anyway) and coffee.
Eat slowly and smaller meals throughout the day.
Avoid eating just before bed.
Stand tall, with arms raised above head to increase chest space during an attack for immediate relief.
There are also over the counter indigestion and heartburn remedies available, which are safe to use during pregnancy. Remember to always check that you pick ones that say for during pregnancy or that the pharmacist or your GP recommend.
Haemorrhoids (Piles)
Haemorrhoids are varicose veins around the rectum and anus. They are very common during pregnancy and few women escape getting them at some point. They are worsened by straining so it is important to try and avoid getting constipated by eating a healthy balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables. There are a variety of creams and gels available that can ease the itching and pain however make sure you let the pharmacist know that you are pregnant or ask your doctor or midwife for advice. There are also some herbal and homeopathic remedies available.
Avoid constipation, drink plenty of water and eat plenty of fruit and veg.
Check out your local pharmacy for creams and gels specifically for piles and use during pregnancy (ask the pharmacist or your GP).
Look into possible homeopathic and herbal remedies.
Understandably, backache is really common in pregnancy. All the extra weight of carrying a baby puts stress on your frame leading to backache. If you develop severe back pain then you should seek help from a specialist who should be able to show you special exercises to help alleviate any discomfort.

If however you suffer from only mild backache or in fact don't yet but want to prevent it then it is important to watch your posture. Many women when pregnant (especially when they develop a bump) make the mistake of arching their back and pushing out their tummies, this just makes matters worse. It is far better for your spine if you can pull your tummy in. Try to evenly balance your body weight between your heels and the balls of your feet. When sitting make sure you sit with both feet on the floor rather than crossing your legs or slouching back. Apart from easing and preventing backache this also encourages your baby to get into the right position for a vaginal delivery, in the latter stages of pregnancy. Having your partner or a professional give you a back massage can also be great for easing discomfort and relaxing you.
Watch your posture, do not arch back and push out tummy.
Sit up straight with your feet on the floor.
Evenly balance your weight between heels and balls of your feet.
Have a massage.
Many women think that being constipated during pregnancy is just something that is inevitable and cannot be prevented. This however is not true, yes you digestive system becomes more sluggish during pregnancy, but you can compensate for this by increasing your water intake and fruit and vegetables.
If you do suffer from constipation during pregnancy and have tried the above but things don't improve then speak to your GP who could prescribe you something to help. There are also homeopathic preparations that may help and some mums-to-be have recommended reflexology and acupuncture.
Eat at least 5 or 6 portions of fresh fruit and vegetables a day.
Try to drink at least 8 glasses of water.
Try eating dried fruit, which is very high in fibre.
Although during pregnancy you tend to suffer more from tiredness, in some cases severe tiredness can be a sign that you may be suffering from anaemia. This is caused by a reduced amount of haemoglobin in your red blood cells. Now this can be a result of not enough iron in your diet or the heavy demands of your pregnancy.
Your GP or midwife will do a blood test as a matter of routine at least once during your pregnancy to check your haemoglobin levels, however if you think that your tiredness could be caused by insufficient iron then it is worth asking your GP or midwife for a blood test to check. If it is discovered that you are suffering from anaemia due to a lack of iron in your diet then you will probably be prescribed iron supplements, these can cause constipation, if this happens then a different brand or prescription may help.
Vaginal infections
It is quite common in pregnancy to experience an increase in vaginal discharge and develop infections. However if you have an unusual or heavy discharge or if you are itching then consult your doctor or midwife. It is important for them to determine whether your symptoms are caused by a simple case of thrush or if you have another infection. This is even more important the closer you are to term as some infections such as group B Streptococcus (GBS) can be contracted by your baby during pregnancy.
If you have an unusual or heavy discharge or are itching, then consult your doctor as you may have a vaginal infection.
Varicose veins
These usually appear as bulging, bluish veins under the skin and can be a result of extra strain on your legs. Wearing support tights and lots of walks can help as this helps the blood return to your heart. Take time during each day to relax, spend roughly half an hour with your legs higher than your head. You could lie on the floor with your bottom against the wall and your legs up on the wall.
Morning sickness
Not all women experience morning sickness during their pregnancy however it is quite common in the early stages and in some cases continues throughout the pregnancy. Nausea during pregnancy is caused by the increased amount of hormones circulating in your system, so in fact this is usually a sign of a healthy pregnancy, even although you may feel really horrible as nausea during pregnancy is like no sickness you have ever experienced. You feel empty, almost like if you have skipped a meal and are feeling hungry but when you eat you just feel worse and in some cases eating may make you vomit.

In the early stages of my pregnancy (roughly around 8 weeks) I was thinking it was great that I had not experienced any feelings of nausea but then at about 9 weeks, out of the blue I woke up one morning (after eating a Chinese meal the day before) feeling really sick and all I could think about was that Chinese meal and I went off all food except toast and beans for about 2 weeks. I felt sick every morning through till lunchtime but found eating ginger biscuits (recommended to me by my midwife) helped a lot to ease the nausea. After about 2 weeks I felt pretty much back to normal except I was no longer able to eat Chinese takeaway (I was previously a Chinese take away addict) and this remained the case until about my 8th month and then all of a sudden I craved a Chinese chicken curry. Pregnancy can be so strange!

I found eating ginger biscuits
(recommended to me by my midwife)
helped a lot to ease the nausea

In the majority of cases feelings of nausea and sickness tend to fade away by the 13th or 14th week. You can manage your morning sickness by eating little and often. Look for foods that are rich in vitamin B6 and Zinc, as nausea is linked to deficiencies in these nutrients. You may find it helpful to eat something before you get out of bed in the morning (a good excuse for your partner providing you with breakfast in bed). Dry crackers, wholemeal bread, and ginger (eaten in any form) tend to help keep feelings of nausea at bay. Make sure you always have snacks at hand, so if you are out shopping or at work keep some fruit or ginger biscuits in your handbag. If you have actually been sick you should still try and eat a small snack, it will help. And remember to try and eat as healthily as possible.
Eat little and often.
Eat something before getting out of bed in the morning, even if it is just a small dry cracker or ginger biscuit.
Keep snacks close to hand.
Eat foods that are rich in vitamin B6 and Zinc to prevent your blood-sugar levels from dropping e.g. bananas.
Routine blood tests
Full Blood Count
Blood Group
Hepatitis B
More serious conditions
Placenta Praevia
Easing your symptoms
Vaginal Infections
Varicose Veins
Morning Sickness
Screening tests
Spina Bifida
Down's syndrome
If you get heartburn,
try to stand as tall and
straight as possible,
even raising your arms
above your head
Screening tests
At about week 15 of your pregnancy you will be given the choice whether or not to have the screening test for spina bifida and Down's syndrome. This is a personal choice and you do not have to have the test if you do not want to. You should discuss it with your partner and make the decision that you feel is right for you. Your decision will not affect the rest of your antenatal care in any way.
If you decide to go ahead with the test there are two stages but you can change your mind at any time. The first stage is offered to everyone and is a simple blood test. Depending on the results some women will be offered a follow up test. A small blood sample will be taken from your arm and sent to the lab for testing, the levels of two naturally occurring hormones AFP and HCG are measured. You will be sent a letter within two weeks telling you that you have either a low chance or a higher chance of your baby having spina bifida or Down's syndrome. 9 out of 10 women will be given a low chance result and this means that there is only a very small chance that your baby will have Down's syndrome or spina bifida, no further testing is carried out. If you are considered higher chance this means that further investigation will be offered however most women in this group still go on to have healthy babies.

Spina Bifida
If the AFP levels in you blood is high then there is an increased chance of spina bifida. However there are about 1 in 20 women screened who have this result and it does not always mean that there is a problem. Most women go on to have normal healthy babies, the most common causes of this result are: That the pregnancy was further along that originally anticipated, that there are twins or simply because of normal variations between women in the level of AFP in the blood. The follow up test to this result is usually a detailed ultrasound scan and it is your choice whether to have this or not. The scan is similar to the one that almost all women have during pregnancy, sound waves make a picture of your baby on a special screen and the baby's age and position can be determined. A more detailed scan can check for certain conditions including spina bifida and hydrocephalus.
In most cases the follow us tests will show a healthy baby however if spina bifida is found it will be discussed with you and your partner and you will be able to choose what is best for you.
Babies with Spina Bifida have and opening in the bones of the spine, and the nerves to the lower part of the body are damaged. This can result in problems with walking and bowel and bladder control. Spina bifida is often accompanied by hydrocephalus (an accumulation of fluid in the brain) which can result in learning difficulties. There are variations in the level of disability and many people with spina bifida are able to lead fulfilling lives.

Down's syndrome
Age is considered in the screening test for Down's syndrome because older mothers are more likely to have a baby with Down's syndrome;
One baby in every 1500 born to women aged 20 has Down's syndrome
One baby in every 900 born to women aged 30 has Down's syndrome
One baby in every 100 born to women aged 40 has Down's syndrome

The combination of AFP and HCG are considered along with your age and about 1 in 20 women are considered higher chance of Down's syndrome, this result does not mean that there is a problem and most women with this result go on the have normal healthy babies. The most common causes of this result are that the pregnancy was not as far on as originally thought, or simply due to normal variations between women in the level of AFP and HCG in the blood. The follow up test offered is usually an amniocentesis and it is your choice whether to have this test. For most women an amniocentesis will only take a few minutes and there is little discomfort there is however a 1 in 100 risk of miscarriage following and amniocentesis. An ultra sound is used to determine the baby's position before a needle is inserted into the amniotic fluid. A small amount of the fluid is removed and sent to the lab for the baby's chromosomes to be examined. People with Down's syndrome (or trisomy 21) have an extra copy of chromosome 21; they have three instead of a pair. Children with Down's syndrome have learning difficulties and will require special help with their education, they may also have health problems such as heart defects or thyroid problems. However many people with Down's syndrome do go on to enjoy a healthy life.
The results from the amniocentesis test take up to 3 weeks to come back, although newer tests are shortening this time to just a few days. If the results show that the baby has Down's syndrome it will be discussed fully with you and your partner and the decision about what to do will be yours. There should be no pressure to influence your decision and hospital staff will be there to help you if you have any questions or need support.
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