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Categories > Pregnancy and Childbirth > Pregnancy: What to expect

A coping guide for expectant moms

Everything comes at a price—and (expectant) motherhood is no exception. No matter how much you longed to be pregnant or how hard you tried to conceive, you might not feel so great about it when you’re having trouble keeping your meals down or you can’t figure out how to get a good night’s sleep (that’s between trips to the bathroom!). Here are some practical ways to ease the discomfort of pregnancy and enjoy this special time.

MORNING SICKNESS: Don’t be misled by the misnomer: Morning sickness can strike after dinner, too! Fortunately, the nausea and vomiting that commonly occur during the first 12 to 14 weeks of pregnancy rarely interfere with proper nutrition.

What you can do: Eat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day, and drink plenty of fluids. (But go lightly on fluids during meals to avoid overfilling your stomach.) If morning sickness is worse in the a.m., eat a few crackers and sip some herbal tea before you rise (s-l-o-w-l-y) out of bed. If just the sight or smell of a particular food makes you feel sick, avoid it! (Don’t be surprised if it’s a food that never seemed to bother you before.)

Bonus: Your new eating strategy will also help combat heartburn, another pregnancy-related woe. Also, avoid bending over or lying down abruptly. If heartburn continues to be a problem, ask your doctor to prescribe an antacid, but don’t take one—prescription or not—without his or her OK.

CONSTIPATION: Crowding and pressure from a growing uterus can be hard on intestines. Not surprisingly, half of all pregnant women suffer from constipation, and those who experienced it before they got pregnant are especially susceptible.

What you can do: Filling up on fiber—bran, fresh and dried fruits, raw or lightly cooked vegetables, whole-grain products—is a delicious and healthful strategy for mom and baby alike. Daily exercise stimulates bowel activity, and drinking lots of fluids keeps foods moving through the intestines.

Bonus: Keeping constipation at bay is a surefire way to prevent hemorrhoids, varicose veins of the rectum. If you should develop the painful condition, try witch-hazel soaks and avoid straining during a bowel movement. Don’t use over-the-counter preparations without your doctor’s okay.

BACKACHE: During pregnancy, the joints in your pelvis begin to soften to start making room for baby to pass through. And your expanding uterus causes your center of gravity to shift. Before you know it, you’re walking like Howard the Duck, belly thrust forward, back curved. Not uncommonly, the result is back pain.

What you can do: Practice perfect posture. Make an effort to keep your bottom tucked under and your shoulders back. Try to sit with feet slightly elevated, and avoid standing for long periods. If you must stand, prop one leg on a footstool. Lift correctly by bending at the knees, not at the waist, and push up with your thighs, not your back. Avoid sudden, jerking movements, which can lead to muscle strain. A maternity girdle may offer relief, as may massage, a heating pad and proper back-strengthening exercises. Wear well-fitting shoes with a wide, two-inch heel for good support.

SLEEP DEPRIVATION: Today, a bulging belly, giving up your favorite sleeping position and frequent visits to the toilet are disrupting your nights. Tomorrow, it’s crying and 2 a.m. feedings and … well, you get the picture.

What you can do: If you normally sleep on your back or stomach, practice your new position—sleeping on your side (curled up or stretched out, it doesn’t matter)—before you’re forced into it. Sometime in your second or third trimester, you may find it more comfortable to stuff a pillow between your legs and cross one leg over the other. Some women find it helpful to prop a rolled-up pillow behind their backs as well.

PAINFUL LEG CRAMPS: These are another annoying nighttime culprit. To keep them to a minimum, do calf-stretching exercises and avoid pointing your toes when you stretch. To counter a cramp, straighten your leg and flex your foot toward your nose.