5 Most Embarrassing Pregnancy Problems

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From extra gas to pregnancy incontinence, these nine months have a whole lot of surprises coming your way.

WORDS RACHEL LIM

 

Motherhood speaks to Dr Pamela Tan, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, TLC Gynaecology Practice, Thomson Medical Centre; Associate Professor Roy Ng, senior consultant, Women’s Centre, National University Hospital (NUH); and Dr Lim Min Yu, consultant, Women’s Centre, NUH, about some (embarrassing) pregnancy-related discomforts and their remedies.

 

Bloating, Burping and Flatulence

Why does it happen? The pregnancy hormone Progesterone causes your intestinal muscles to relax more and this, in turn, causes your digestion to slow down. According to Dr Tan, in the later stages of pregnancy, the weight of the uterus also puts pressure on the abdominal contents, further slowing intestinal transit and increasing gas production due to the metabolic breakdown of incompletely digested food by colonic bacteria.

 

What to do about it?

  • Graze, don’t gorge. Eat small frequent meals.
  • Don’t gulp. We swallow more air through rushed meals.
  • Keep calm during meals. Tension and anxiety can increase swallowing of air.
  • Avoid gas-producing foods such as onions, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, fried food, rich sauces, sugary sweets, beans, carbonated drinks.
  • Chamomile tea or hot water with lemon may aid digestion.

 

Dr Tan highlights that medication such as mist carminative can be prescribed for gas if the above changes in eating habits do not provide sufficient relief.

 

Incontinence

Why does it happen? “The compression of the Pudendal nerve, which supplies the pelvic floor, during the second stage of labour can cause loss of bladder control postpartum. Vaginal births also stretch or damage the pelvic floor muscles, ligaments and fascia, contributing to urinary incontinence after delivery,” explains Dr Ng.

 

What to do about it? Dr Ng recommends women start doing pelvic floor (Kegels) exercises even before they get pregnant and to continue to do them from 24 weeks of pregnancy until delivery.

 

 

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Acne

Why does it happen? An increase in hormones called androgens can cause the glands in your skin to grow and produce more sebum – an oily, waxy substance that can clog pores and lead to inflammation and outbreaks.

 

What to do about it?

  • Don’t squeeze acne sores. This can cause scarring.
  • Rest. Fatigue can trigger acne outbreaks.
  • Change your pillowcases and towels frequently.
  • Refrain from touching your face as it can introduce bacteria.
  • Opt for oil-free makeup products labelled “non-acnegenic”. Make sure to remove makeup thoroughly before you sleep.

 

Leaky Breasts

Why does it happen? From about Week 16 of pregnancy, your breasts will prepare for the birth of your baby by making colostrum.

 

What to do about it? Wear breast pads to absorb any leaks and prevent wet patches from appearing on your clothes.

 

Constipation/Haemorrhoids

Why does it happen? “When you’re pregnant, hormonal relaxation of the gut smooth muscles by increased progesterone causes digestion to slow down so food passes more slowly through the gastrointestinal tract and aids in the absorption of nutrients for the baby. More water is also absorbed which tends to make stools harder and bowel movements more difficult,” explains Dr Tan.

 

What to do about it?

  • Ensure a high fibre intake. Include fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grain cereals and bread, wheat bran, psyllium, brown rice and oatmeal in your diet.
  • Resist refined foods such as white bread and rice.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Aim for eight glasses a day. Hot water and lemon can also help stimulate bowel movement.
  • Don’t resist the urge to go.
  • Avoid culprits such as prenatal vitamins with calcium and iron or antacids. Change the dosage or to a slow release formula.
  • Increase intake of probiotics including yoghurt.
  • Exercise to encourage active bowels.

 

According to Dr Tan, a stool softener such as lactulose can be prescribed if the above measures do not bring sufficient relief.

 

 

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