Pregnancy illnesses & conditions

If you have any concerns or questions about any illness please speak to your GP or midwife - this information is a general overview and not intended as professional medical advice.

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Hormonal changes during pregnancy can result in a break out of acne, due to an increased amount of skin secretions. You are most likely to suffer during the 1st trimester.

Traditional acne treatments are not suitable for use during pregnancy.

Instead try

  • Keeping skin clean using a gentle cleanser and toner or facial wash.
  • Use a gentle exfoliator (scrub) once a week.
  • Use a face mask to draw out impurities once a week.
  • Dab tea tree oil onto spots.
  • Use a moisturising lotion to avoid dryness.
  • Make sure hands are clean when touching the affected area, touching the area as little as possible.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and veg.

Back Pain and Sciatica

It is a common symptom of pregnancy to suffer with some degree of back pain in pregnancy.

It can be caused of any combination of factors such as:

  • Poor posture
  • Production of the hormone Relaxin which loosens ligaments.
  • Increased pressure on the body caused by weight gain.
  • Aggravation of existing back problems

Preventing Back Pain

  • Take exercise to keep to keep fit and strengthen muscles. More about exercise.
  • Maintain a good posture. Don't slouch or slump shoulders, stand tall.
  • Invest in a good mattress. (I found a new mattress made an amazing improvement regarding back and pelvic pain).
  • Lift correctly, bend knees, back straight.
  • Rest when possible.

Treatments for Back Pain

  • Warm bath
  • Hot water bottle or head pads
  • Massage
  • Reflexology
  • Acupuncture
  • Osteopath/Chiropractor/Physiotherapist
  • Sitting on a birth ball to improve posture
  • Support belt
  • Do those pelvic floor exercises!
  • When lying down try placing a pillow under your bump and/or between your legs.
  • A TENS machine can relieve back pain, use during the final few weeks of pregnancy. Always consult your midwife and read the manufacturers guidelines before use.
  • Paracetamol

Sciatica is shooting pain in the back/buttocks/legs, caused by pressure on the sciatic nerve. Treatments listed for back pain will also help with sciatica.


Bleeding Gums

During pregnancy the amount of blood flowing around the body increases. Changing hormone levels can lead to sensitive and inflamed gums. Brushing and flossing teeth can cause gums to bleed.

Pregnancy Gingivitis is spontaneously bleeding gums.

It is important to keep your teeth and gums healthy during pregnancy to avoid lasting problems.

Help to prevent bleeding by:

  • Maintaining good dental hygiene. Brush twice a day.
  • Floss or use interdental brushes regularly.
  • Use mouthwash, ask your dentist to recommend one suitable for pregnancy.
  • Brush with an electric toothbrush.
  • Don't scrub teeth and gums, brush in gentle circular motions covering the whole tooth area.
  • Make the most of the free dental service available to pregnant women (if you can find an NHS dentist that is). See your dentist and hygienist every 6 months or as recommended.
  • Don't smoke

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can affect anyone, but pregnant women are at an increased risk. Fluid retention puts pressure on the median nerve. It then affects the hand or hands around the thumb, index, middle and part of the ring fingers, sometimes spreading up the arms; causing limited movement, numbness, burning pain, pins and needles and swelling.

Recommended treatments are:

  • Ice packs
  • Wrist Splints
  • Resting hands and wrists
  • Sleep with wrists slightly raised
  • Yoga provides relief because some exercises stretch and elevate the hands and fingers.
  • Massaging wrists, hands and arms.
  • Acupuncture

Symptoms usually cease after birth. If they do persist then a simple surgical procedure can provide a cure.


>Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

When a blood clot forms in a vein this is known as a DVT. This happens to the veins deep inside the body, rather than the surface veins that are visible to us. It most commonly affects the leg veins, especially those in the calf. There are lots of factors that make you more susceptible to suffering with a DVT and pregnancy is one of them.

What are the Symptoms?

In some cases there are no symptoms. But when symptoms do occur they show in the affected area as:

  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Hotness
  • Redness

If you develop any of these symptoms or if you are at all concerned then see your midwife or GP as soon as possible. A deep vein thrombosis can cause serious problems if left untreated.


Haemorrhoids (piles)

Unfortunately during pregnancy you may find yourself suffering from piles. These are varicose veins around the anus. They can be caused by:

  • Constipation
  • Increased blood flow around the body
  • The uterus putting pressure on the veins, causing them to swell
  • Pushing during labour

Preventing piles:

  • Do your pelvic floor exercises
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Eat a high fibre diet, lots of wholegrains and fruit and veg.
  • Use a haemorrhoid cream suitable for pregnant women
  • Soak cotton wool or a sanitary pad with witch hazel and apply to the area
  • Take a warm bath

Symptoms of piles:

  • Bleeding from the back passage
  • Itching around the anus
  • Lumps just inside the anus (internal haemorrhoids) or around the anus (external haemorrhoids).
  • Pain

Any bleeding from the back passage should be investigated, so it would be wise to see your GP or midwife to check it out.


Headaches and Migraines

Headaches and migraines are common during pregnancy. Headaches can range from a dull throbbing pain to a stronger pain.

They are usually due to:

  • Stress
  • Dehydration
  • Tiredness

Migraines on the other hand are much more severe and can last for up to 48 hours. They are caused by the blood vessels in the brain. Migraines are most likely to happen during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

The effects of a migraine are:

  • Throbbing pain to one side.
  • Sickness
  • Flashing lights and flickering vision
  • Tunnel vision
  • Blind Spots

Preventing migraines:

  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Cut out foods that can bring on migraines; chocolate, cheese, fatty foods, monosodium glutamate
  • Avoid triggers such as loud noises, tiredness, bright lights and stress.

Treating migraines:

  • See your GP to review the medication that's available to you
  • Acupuncture
  • Reflexology
  • Massage
  • Yoga

Consult your GP or midwife to establish the cause of severe or persistent headaches.


High Blood Pressure and Pre-eclampsia

Around one in four women develop high blood pressure in their first pregnancy (one in ten in subsequent pregnancies). It is not known why some women develop the condition. If the blood pressure is not seriously high then it is not normally spotted until your antenatal checks. Your blood pressure (bp) will be taken at each appointment.

Causes of high blood pressure in pregnancy:

  • Chronic Hypertension (if you already had high blood pressure)
  • Pregnancy Induced Hypertension (PIH)
  • Pre-eclampsia

If you suffer from Chronic Hypertension, then you should consult your GP before getting pregnant, to make sure you have appropriate medication and sufficient monitoring.

If your blood pressure reading is only slightly higher than it should be its not really a problem. But if it continues to rise then it will be monitored more closely.

In some cases women develop pre-eclampsia, which is a potentially serious condition. It can affect liver function. It usually occurs after the 20th week of pregnancy.

Factors that increase your risk of developing pre-eclampsia are:

  • If its your first pregnancy
  • Its your first baby with a new partner
  • If you've suffered with it in a previous pregnancy
  • Close family history of the condition
  • A multiple baby pregnancy
  • Being 35+
  • Diabetes
  • Suffering kidney problems

Symptoms of pre-eclampsia include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Protein in your urine
  • Severe headaches and blurred vision
  • Sickness
  • Swelling of the face, hands and feet
  • Pain in the right side of the abdomen
  • Breathing difficulties

If you suffer from these symptoms or if you are at all concerned then see your midwife or GP.

Treating pre-eclampsia:

  • In the early stages rest and avoiding stress.
  • Frequent monitoring of blood pressure and protein levels in the urine.
  • In more advanced cases hospitalisation and drugs to treat the condition. The drugs will not harm the baby.
  • Delivering the baby.

For support and information


Obstetric Cholestasis

Obstetric cholestasis is a liver disease that affects around one in 200 pregnant women.

Symptoms of obstetric cholestasis are:

  • Itchy skin
  • Dark urine
  • Pale stools

What are the risks to the baby?

  • In some cases still birth
  • Foetal distress
  • Meconium in the amniotic fluid
  • Premature Birth

What are the risks to mum?

  • Vitamin K deficiency
  • Increased risk of haemorraging

Factors that increase the risk of obstetric cholestasis:

  • A family history of the condition
  • Having suffered from it in a previous pregnancy

How is obstetric cholestasis treated?

  • Monitoring the baby
  • Drugs to manage the condition
  • Early delivery of the baby
  • Vitamin K is administered to the mum


During pregnancy the body retains more fluid. You may find that your feet, legs and ankles swell (oedema). Fingers may also become puffy. Carpal tunnel syndrome can cause swelling to fingers, wrists and hands.

How to reduce swelling:

  • Cut back on salt
  • Stay hydrated
  • Eat healthily
  • Have massage (if you are at risk of DVT massage should be avoided)
  • Keep feet up where possible
  • Minimise the amount of time standing
  • Take gentle exercise (more about exercise)
  • Wear support tights
  • Wear flat, comfy shoes

In some cases swelling can indicate a more serious problem such as pre-eclampsia or a DVT.

If you have:

  • Sudden swelling to face or hands
  • Pain
  • Hot lumpy calves
  • Excessive swelling
  • Start to feel unwell

Then you should contact your midwife or GP.


Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD)

The release of the hormone Relaxin during pregnancy, causes the ligaments in the body to soften. This happens so that the pelvis can open wider during birth, to accommodate the baby. But in some cases it loosens the pelvis earlier in pregnancy. This is known as Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD).

The symptoms of SPD are:

  • Pain in the pubis, groin and inner thighs.
  • Difficulty walking.
  • Movements become painful; such as rolling over, squatting, dressing.
  • Clicking pelvis

There is limited treatment for the condition. You may be offered physiotherapy and/or advised to wear a support belt. In severe cases anti inflammatory pain killers can be prescribed. It could even be recommended that you use crutches or a wheelchair.

For more information:


Varicose Veins

Varicose veins appear as swollen looking blue veins. When the valves in a vein fail to work efficiently, blood flow is affected and veins swell. They are most commonly found in the legs. As well as being rather unsightly, they can become achy, heavy and generally painful.

To help with varicose veins:

  • Keep legs raised and rest where possible.
  • Avoid standing for long periods.
  • Don't cross your legs.
  • Wear support tights or stockings if recommended by your GP or midwife.
  • Swimming is a gentle way to exercise the legs and improve circulation.

If you have any concerns or questions about any illness please speak to your GP or midwife - this information is a general overview and not intended as professional medical advice.