Common Pregnancy Discomforts and Symptoms

PHOTOGRAPHY Anna Brook @thefarmimagery

As beautiful a time as pregnancy is in a person’s life, it can also come with its fair share of discomforts. Here, we look at some common symptoms and some information for you about how they can be managed.


As the baby grows and the pressure on your body increases, you may feel some backache. Your centre of gravity also changes during pregnancy to accommodate the baby which can also put a strain on your back. Be sure to take care when lifting and maintain a good, supportive posture. Some pregnant people find acupuncture, physio treatment, or specialised pregnancy massage eases the discomfort.


Bleeding gums

Pregnant people are more likely to develop gingivitis due to pregnancy hormones and as a result, have bleeding gums when brushing their teeth. You should maintain good oral health throughout your pregnancy and see your dentist for a check-up early in your pregnancy.  See our Oral Health page for further advice.


Blocked nose/nosebleeds

Nasal congestion is also super common in pregnancy because of vascular (blood vessel) changes. Some people experience nosebleeds as a result. Remember to consult your pharmacist or GP before taking any medications for a cold or hay fever to ensure they’re safe to use during pregnancy.



Constipation can be rather uncomfortable but it is a common symptom in pregnancy. Early on it may be caused by high levels of the hormone progesterone and later it is attributed to increased pressure on the intestines and rectum. Constipation is also a common side effect if you’re taking iron supplements. To help ease constipation, drink plenty of water, increase your fibre intake, and exercise regularly.



Mild, infrequent abdominal cramping is normally due to the ligaments stretching as your uterus grows. It might feel like a slight pulling sensation. You also may have cramping due to bloating, constipation, or gas. However, if your cramps are severe or persistent, you should get in touch with your LMC right away to rule out a more serious concern.


Feeling faint and dizzy

Feeling lightheaded in pregnancy can be common and is usually due to an increase in blood supply and pregnancy hormones causing blood vessels to dilate. It might also be a sign of low iron or low blood pressure so if you haven’t had either of these conditions confirmed yet, let your LMC know so they can be sure of the cause. Feeling faint might also be because of low blood sugars – try to eat smaller meals more frequently.



Growing a pēpi requires a lot of energy so it’s no wonder you’re feeling exhausted. Tiredness is to be expected – especially in the first trimester – but most people find their energy levels pick up after 12 weeks or so. For some pregnant people, constant fatigue can be a symptom of low iron levels, so talk to your LMC if you’re concerned.

Need to pop a pill for aches and pains? Paracetamol is safe to take while pregnant but ibuprofen should not be used, unless advised by your doctor.

Fluid retention

Mild swelling in the legs, feet, hands, fingers, or face is common in pregnancy due to an increased blood volume. It tends to be exacerbated in warmer temperatures or when standing for long periods of time. When you can, rest and elevate your legs. Some people find compression stockings helpful also.

Severe fluid retention may be cause for concern as it can be one of the signs of pre-eclampsia, usually alongside protein in your urine and high blood pressure. Your LMC will monitor these factors at your regular appointments. If the swelling comes on suddenly and/or gets significantly worse, let your midwife or obstetrician know immediately.


Frequent/increased urination

As your uterus expands with baby’s growth, it puts pressure on your bladder which means you might find yourself needing to go wee/mimi more often. If you’re experiencing a burning pain while urinating, this may be a sign of a urinary tract infection, so you should book in to see your GP right away.



You may experience heartburn or indigestion due to increased pressure on your intestines or stomach as your baby grows. Some pregnant people get acid reflux because the stomach muscle that normally keeps it at bay has relaxed with pregnancy hormones. You may find that eating smaller meals more frequently or avoiding lying down immediately after eating helps with heartburn. Talk to your LMC about medication options if it is causing you significant discomfort.



Haemorrhoids are swollen veins around the rectum or anus. They may be painful, itchy, or bleed. Due to increased blood volume and pressure from the uterus, they tend to occur in late pregnancy. Avoiding constipation or straining to pass a bowel motion may help to prevent haemorrhoids. Consult your GP or LMC for treatment.


Nausea/vomiting (morning sickness)

Many people experience nausea, and occasionally vomiting in the first trimester. For most women, this eases around 12-16 weeks but some find it lasts longer or for the duration of being hapū. See our Morning Sickness page for our tips on coping with morning sickness and for information on the severe condition, hyperemesis gravidarum.


Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP) or Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD)

PGP occurs when the ligaments that normally stabilise your pelvic bone become softened (due to the pregnancy hormone, relaxin), causing you pain in one or more of your pelvic joints. Seeing a physiotherapist can help with managing this condition.


Round ligament pain

Sometimes referred to as lightning crotch, round ligament pain is a sharp, shooting pain felt in the lower abdomen and pelvic area which usually disappears quickly. Caused by a sudden spasm of the nerves in your ligaments (their job is to support the uterus), round ligament pain is not normally a discomfort you need to be concerned about as it is common. But if you are worried or the pain is excruciating or lingering, consult your LMC.


Tender/heavy breasts

As your pregnancy progresses, your breasts will grow and may feel tender or heavy. It’s a good idea to get properly fitted for a larger size bra and to forgo underwire bras during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. The better supported your breasts are, the more comfortable you will feel.


Thrush/Yeast Infection

Thrush is the term commonly used to refer to a vaginal yeast infection. Simply put, it’s an overgrowth of yeast. Due to an increase in vaginal discharge during pregnancy, your vagina becomes more moist and therefore you may be more susceptible to thrush. Thrush tends to be accompanied by itching or irritation around your vagina, a burning or stinging feeling when going wee/mimi, pain during sex, and a change in discharge. See your GP for an examination if you think you have thrush.


Vaginal discharge

Vaginal discharge increases during pregnancy due to higher oestrogen levels. This helps to keep your vagina healthy and protect you from infections that could reach your uterus. If your discharge changes in colour or odour, get it checked by your doctor.


Varicose veins

Due to increased blood volume and increased pressure on your body, some pregnant people develop varicose veins (enlarged, swollen veins) in the legs or around the vagina. There’s no treatment available during pregnancy for this discomfort but resting, putting your feet up, and wearing compression stockings may help provide some relief.

While these are all considered ‘normal’ discomforts of pregnancy, if you are unsure about any changes to your body, consult your LMC or GP. It’s important to trust your intuition; you know your body best. It’s okay to consult another doctor or healthcare professional for a second opinion if you are concerned.