A pregnant woman leans her arm on a table and holds her belly. She appears uncomfortable.
Fatigue is one of the many symptoms some women battle throughout their pregnancy. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

For some, pregnancy is a fantastic and wonderful time. As my mother-in-law put it, “It’s a time of feeling better than ever.”

But that’s not the experience for everyone.

In my pregnancies, I couldn’t relate to what my mother-in-law said. With all 10 pregnancies, I experienced morning sickness—or actually, more of an all-day sickness.

I didn’t feel radiant, but big and bulky. I experienced normal pregnancy symptoms that I hadn’t realized were so common.

I loved feeling the babies move inside me, and finally getting to hold them in my arms made it all worth it.

But there are still some not-so-fun things that are quite normal in pregnancy:

  • Headaches—Hormonal changes can cause headaches. Some women I’ve talked to have had relief from migraines when they become pregnant, yet others start having headaches. You can try a cold compress and Tylenol, and also make sure you are drinking enough fluids and practicing relaxation techniques.
  • Mouth Issues—During pregnancy it’s common to experience gums that bleed, as well as a strange metallic taste in your mouth and excessive salivation. You should continue to brush and floss daily, and keep all your dental appointments while you are pregnant. There is a correlation between mouth health and pregnancy outcomes.
  • Itchiness and stretch marks—As the skin stretches around the growing uterus, itchiness is a normal feeling. Use lotion or oil. Do the creams that say they will avoid stretch marks help? I personally believe it’s the makeup of your skin. I’ve seen very large bellies with no stretch marks, and small bellies with lots of stretch marks. The creams and lotions can help with the dryness and itchiness. The skin can also change color with a line, the “linea nigra,” that goes from the navel to the pubic hair line. The area around the nipple, the areola, also gets darker and a little larger.
  • Heartburn—During a few of my pregnancies, a simple glass of water would set off my heartburn. I ended up drinking flavored water. Heartburn is typically greater in the third trimester, when baby is pushing on the stomach, but it can also bother mamas in the first trimester. Try and see if certain foods affect you and, if possible, avoid them. This can be different for everyone. I remember a friend who could lessen her heartburn by eating hot, spicy foods. Another helpful tip: Eat small meals. I call it the “grazing method” of eating. It appears mom is eating constantly when really it’s only a handful of one thing, or a few small things, that she’s eating more often.
  • Abdominal cramping—This cramping feeling can be normal for some in their pregnancy. It can also be round ligament pain. If ever you are bleeding, you need to contact your OB provider.
  • Constipation—This happens as the uterus is growing. It is literally moving organs around. Make sure you are drinking enough fluids, and also increase your fiber level. Fresh fruit and vegetables are great and fiber bars are a good option for a snack. Make sure you’re drinking sufficient fluids, too.
  • Varicose veins—These are related to the increased blood supply during pregnancy. Rest and get off your feet when you can. Support hose are a great option. Ask your OB provider about additional vitamin C, which can help.
  • Leg Cramps—These can wake you up out of a sound sleep. Try stretching your calf muscles by pulling your toes toward your head and then the opposite way. Talk to your OB provider about a magnesium supplement.
  • Fatigue—I remember waking up in the morning and wondering when it would be nap time. Rest and sleep whenever you can. As I tell my mamas in our early pregnancy session: You are growing a baby. If that means multiple naps, so be it. This can be hard when you are working or caring for other children. Exercise can also help you sleep better. If your fatigue seems extreme, talk to your OB provider about your hemoglobin level (iron in the blood).
  • Inability to sleep—Somehow, with the fatigue of pregnancy, you can also experience the inability to sleep. Try to rest if you are unable to sleep. Women often express having very strange and vivid dreams. My favorite was a mama who told me she dreamt that dad was having the baby, which ended up to be puppies. Sleep becomes more difficult in the third trimester, as it’s hard to find a comfortable position to sleep.

As you may have noticed, a lot of the things that can happen during pregnancy are related to the physical effects that the uterus has on mom’s body. It’s normal, but not easy.