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Ten Things Your Mother Never Told You About Being Pregnant

NEW YORK (JUNE 23, 2003) - While mothers and grandmothers are quick with advice about everything from baby names to where, when and how often a newborn should sleep, a new survey reveals that the majority of pregnant women wish their mothers had told them more about what to expect when they are pregnant. 

According to a recent survey by the makers of Dulcolax, a safe and gentle stimulant laxative product line for constipation, nearly two in ten women who are currently pregnant say they wish someone had told them more about being overly tired (18%) and having constipation (17%) before their pregnancy. Other issues they would have liked more information about include incontinence, morning sickness, strange cravings, and weight gain.

"Women who are pregnant with their first child don't necessarily know what to expect in terms of the symptoms they may experience - including ones that are as common as constipation," observed Donnica Moore, MD a leading women's health expert, TV personality and columnist.  "That's why I'm encouraging more openness and discussion about this very common pregnancy symptom."

But just how prevalent are certain symptoms such as constipation among pregnant women?  According to the Dulcolax "Break the Silence" survey, pregnant women are more likely to report suffering from constipation than women who are not pregnant.  In fact, 60 percent of pregnant women surveyed say they are suffering from constipation during their pregnancy, compared to only 37% who say they have not experienced this condition.  What's more, pregnant women are also more likely to experience constipation more frequently.  Sixty-four percent of those pregnant women who report experiencing constipation say they are suffering from it at least once or twice a month - including 44% who are experiencing constipation once a week or more.  Just 33% are experiencing constipation infrequently or less than once a month.

"Mum's the Word" Among Moms To Be

But just because they experience symptoms like constipation doesn't mean pregnant women are comfortable talking about it.  Compared to other pregnancy-related health issues, constipation is one of the most uncomfortable topics for women who are pregnant or who have experienced pregnancy - right up there with incontinence.  Nearly 30 percent of women say they are very or somewhat uncomfortable talking about constipation, followed by 27 percent who say they are uncomfortable talking about incontinence.  Other common symptoms women would prefer not to discuss include weight gain (7%); morning sickness (4%); strange cravings (3%) and being overly tired (2%).

"Pregnant women need to feel more comfortable talking about the symptoms they are experiencing - with their doctors or even a friend or family member," notes Dr. Donnica.  "Knowledge is power.  The more you know, the better off you are."  Dr. Donnica also adds that it is particularly important to mention these symptoms to your doctor in case they are signs of a more serious condition and not "just" a normal symptom of pregnancy. 

What to Expect - Common Pregnancy Symptoms Revealed

According to Dr. Donnica, other common, yet often not discussed, pregnancy symptoms may include:

  • Pregnancy gingivitis.   Ever wonder why your gums bleed more when you're pregnant?  Experts say it's because pregnancy exaggerates the body's normal response to dental plaque.  As a result, excessive plaque build-up often leads to bright red, tender, swollen, sensitive gums that may bleed easily.
  • Backaches.  It's the law of physics, sort of.  As your abdomen grows, so does the pressure on your back.  It's common to experience backache after walking, bending, lifting, standing or excessive exercise.
  • Leg Cramps:  While they can happen any time, leg cramps seem to strike most often at night - usually when you're trying to get some much needed sleep.  You'll know it when you get one - it's that pain in your calf that often causes your foot to point - or spasm - involuntarily.
  • Skin Problems:  Not everyone is blessed with a pregnant glow.  For some women the increased secretion of oils wreaks havoc with their complexions, causing breakouts not seen since junior high.
  • Sciatic-Nerve Pain:  Located behind the uterus, in the pelvic area, the sciatic nerve runs down into the leg.  Sciatic nerve pain is an often sharp (some would even say memorable!) pain felt in the buttocks and down the back or side of either leg.  It tends to occur more frequently the further along your pregnancy gets.
  • Heartburn & Indigestion:  Gastrointesinal discomfort such as heartburn and indigestion will most likely haunt you throughout your pregnancy.  The cause is usually the same as it is when you're not pregnant - overindulgence., although now you have far less room for expansion.  
  • Shortness of Breath:  As the baby grows, your uterus pushes your stomach and other organs upward and reduces the room your lungs and diaphragm have for breathing.  Women are most likely to experience shortness of breath during their last trimester, especially in the hot summer months.
  • Early Contractions:  Called "Braxton Hicks" contractions, they often feel as though the uterus is bunching up and hardening.  Braxton Hicks contractions typically begin sometime after the 20th week of pregnancy and are the body's way of "rehearsing" for labor.  Braxton Hicks contractions are very common, but Dr. Donnica recommends that women talk to their doctor when they begin:  sometimes they can be a sign of preterm labor and it may be tough to tell the difference. 
  • Swelling/Edema:  Doctors say that blood volume increases as much as 40 percent during pregnancy, which means that your circulatory system is working harder than usual. The increase in blood volume sometimes slows down your circulation, so a certain amount of swelling is normal in late pregnancy.  This should be monitored at each prenatal visit, however, because more than a little swelling may be an indication that something more serious is wrong.
  • Hemorrhoids: The increase in blood volume can also lead to varicose or enlarged veins. Hemorrhoids are simply varicose veins in the rectum, which may appear as small bulges at the edge of the rectal opening, or they may be internal.  They can hurt and may bleed when you have a bowel movement, especially if you are constipated.

Created: 7/18/2003  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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