Common symptoms

Backache

During pregnancy, the ligaments in your body naturally become softer and stretch to prepare you for labour. This can put a strain on the joints of your lower back and pelvis, which can cause backache.

Bleeding gums

Some women get swollen and sore gums, which may bleed, in pregnancy. Bleeding gums are caused by a build-up of plaque (bacteria) on the teeth. Hormonal changes during pregnancy can make your gums more vulnerable to plaque, leading to inflammation and bleeding. This is also called pregnancy gingivitis or gum disease, see your dentist if you are concerned.

Carpal tunnel syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a condition that causes pain, numbness and a tingling sensation in the hand and fingers. Usually, these sensations develop gradually and start off being worse during the night. They tend to affect the thumb, index finger, middle finger and half of the ring finger. Do take care as you may not be able to grip things as you would do normally.

Constipation

You may become constipated very early in pregnancy because of the hormonal changes in your body. Constipation can mean that you are not passing stools (faeces) as often as you normally do, you have to strain more than usual or you are unable to completely empty your bowels.

Cramp

Cramp is a sudden, sharp pain, usually in your calf muscles or feet. It is most common at night. Regular, gentle exercise in pregnancy, particularly ankle and leg movements, will improve your circulation and may help to prevent cramp occurring.

Feeling faint

Pregnant women often feel faint. This is because of hormonal changes occurring in your body during pregnancy. Fainting happens if your brain is not getting enough blood and therefore not enough oxygen. You are most likely to feel faint if you stand too quickly from a chair or out of a bath, but it can also happen when you are lying on your back.

Feeling hot

During pregnancy you’re likely to feel warmer than normal. This is due to hormonal changes and an increase in blood supply to the skin. You’re also likely to sweat more.

Headaches

Headaches in women are often caused by hormones, and many women who are not pregnant notice a link with their periods. Menopause and pregnancy are also potential triggers. Some pregnant women find they get a lot of headaches. Headaches can get worse in the first few weeks of pregnancy, but they usually improve or stop completely during the last six months. They don’t harm the baby but they can be uncomfortable for you.

Incontinence

Incontinence is a common problem, and it can affect you during and after pregnancy. Sometimes pregnant women are unable to prevent a sudden spurt of urine or a small leak when they cough, laugh or sneeze, or when they move suddenly, or just get up from a sitting position. This may be temporary, because the pelvic floor muscles (the muscles around the bladder) relax slightly to prepare for the baby's delivery. You can help to prevent incontinence by doing pelvic floor exercises.

Indigestion and heartburn

Indigestion in pregnancy is partly caused by hormonal changes, and in later pregnancy by the growing womb pressing on your stomach. As many as eight out of 10 women experience indigestion at some point during their pregnancy. The symptoms of indigestion can include feeling full, feeling sick or nauseous, and burping. The symptoms usually come on after eating food.

Heartburn is a strong, burning pain in the chest that is caused by stomach acid passing from your stomach into your oesophagus (the tube that leads from your mouth to your stomach). 

You can help ease the discomfort of indigestion and heartburn by making changes to your diet and lifestyle, and there are treatments that are safe to take in pregnancy. Talk to your midwife, GP or pharmacist. 

Itching

Mild itching is common in pregnancy because of the increased blood supply to the skin. Later on, as your bump grows, the skin of your abdomen is stretched and this may also feel itchy. Mild itching is usually nothing to worry about, but if the itching becomes severe it can be a sign of a liver condition called obstetric cholestasis. This affects fewer than one in 100 pregnant women, but needs medical attention.

Leaking nipples

Some women notice leaking from their nipples during pregnancy - this is normal. In pregnancy, the breasts may start to produce milk weeks or months before you are due to have your baby. It can happen as early as 14 weeks of pregnancy. 

Nausea and morning sickness

Nausea and vomiting in pregnancy, also known as morning sickness, is very common in the early weeks of pregnancy. It doesn’t put your baby at any increased risk, and usually clears up between weeks 12 and 14 weeks.

Some women get a very severe form of nausea and vomiting, called hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). It's sometimes called extreme morning sickness, and it can be very serious. HG needs specialist treatment, sometimes in hospital.

With morning sickness, some women are sick (vomit) and some have a feeling of sickness (nausea) without being sick. The term ‘morning sickness’ is misleading. It can affect you at any time of the day or night, and some women feel sick all day long. It’s thought that hormonal changes in the first 12 weeks are probably one of the causes of morning sickness.

Nosebleeds

Nosebleeds are quite common in pregnancy because of hormonal changes. They are usually short but can be quite heavy. Nosebleeds can be frightening but as long as you don't lose a lot of blood, there is nothing to worry about, and they can often be treated at home. During pregnancy, you may also find that your nose gets blocked up more than usual.

Passing urine often

Needing to urinate (pass water, or pee) often may start in early pregnancy. Sometimes it continues throughout pregnancy. In later pregnancy it is the result of the baby’s head pressing on your bladder.

Pelvic joint pain

Some women develop a condition called pregnancy-related pelvic girdle pain (PPGP) in pregnancy. This is sometimes called SPD (symphysis pubis dysfunction). PPGP is a collection of uncomfortable symptoms caused by a misalignment or stiffness of your pelvic joints at either the back or front of your pelvis. PPGP is not harmful to your baby, but it can cause severe pain around your pelvic area and make it difficult for you to get around. Different women have different symptoms, and in some women PPGP is worse than in others.

Piles

Piles, also known as haemorrhoids, are enlarged and swollen veins in or around the lower rectum and anus. Anyone can get piles – they don't just happen in pregnancy. When you're pregnant, piles can occur because hormones make your veins relax.

Skin and hair changes

Hormonal changes taking place in pregnancy will make your nipples and the area around them go darker. Your skin colour may also darken a little, either in patches or all over. Birthmarks, moles and freckles may also darken. Some women develop a dark line down the middle of their stomach. These changes will gradually fade after the baby is born, although your nipples may remain a little darker. If you sunbathe while you are pregnant, you may find you burn more easily. Protect your skin with a high-factor sunscreen and don’t stay in the sun for a long time. Hair growth can also increase in pregnancy, and your hair may be greasier. After the baby is born, it may seem as if you are losing a lot of hair but you are simply losing the extra hair.

Sleep/tiredness

It's common to feel tired, or even exhausted, during pregnancy, especially in the first 12 weeks. Hormonal changes at this time can make you feel tired, nauseous and emotional. Later on in pregnancy, you may feel tired because of the extra weight you are carrying. As your bump gets bigger, it can be difficult to get a good night's sleep. You might find it uncomfortable lying down or, just when you get comfortable, you have to get up to go to the loo.

Stretch marks

Stretch marks are narrow pink or purplish streak-like lines that can develop on the surface of the skin. They're also known as stria or striae. If you get them, they usually appear on your tummy or sometimes on your upper thighs and breasts as your pregnancy progresses. The first sign you notice might be itchiness around an area where the skin is becoming thin and pink. Stretch marks are very common and don't just affect pregnant women. They can happen whenever the skin is stretched, for example when we're growing during puberty or when putting on or losing weight, but hormonal changes in pregnancy can affect your skin and make you more likely to get stretch marks.

Swollen ankles, feet and fingers

Ankles, feet and fingers often swell a little in pregnancy as your body is holding more water than usual. Towards the end of the day, the extra water tends to gather in the lowest parts of the body, especially if the weather is hot or if you have been standing a lot. The gradual swelling isn't harmful to you or your baby, but it can be uncomfortable.

Varicose veins

Varicose veins are veins that have become swollen. The veins in the legs are most commonly affected. You can also get varicose veins in the vulva (vaginal opening). They usually get better after the birth.