Which aches are normal during pregnancy?
November 6, 2006 8:52 AM   Subscribe

[PregnancyFilter] In the second trimester, which aches and pains are a normal part of the experience, and which require immediate medical attention?

I'm 18 weeks pregnant, and I'm feeling a lot of stretching and mild abdominal unease in addition to the very identifiable round ligament pain. My doctor isn't too concerned, and explained at my last visit that I'm probably feeling my uterus growing. But she did say to call her if I felt worse.

Now, of course, I'm sensitive to every little feeling in my body, and if I look up any sort of symptom the book or site invariably says both, "Some aches, cramps, and pains are completely normal during pregnancy" and "Contact your doctor if you're feeling any discomfort or pain." Never having been through this before, how do I know which aches and pains are par for the course, and which are truly problematic? (Obviously anything that really hurts is cause for a phone call, but I'm talking about the more middle range, "I feel like staying in bed" discomforts. I don't want to be alarmist, but I also don't want to ignore anything that might be important.)
posted by hsoltz to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This would be a great question for your doctor. Ask her specifically, "what aches are normal during pregnancy?"

Mild discomfort, ligament stretching is normal. I'd be concerned if there were severe cramps and bleeding involved.

Best advice though is, "when in doubt, call your doctor." That's what they are there for. Even if you call every day. Better safe than sorry.
posted by Sassyfras at 9:34 AM on November 6, 2006

Also, look up Braxton Hicks contractions, which are a very common 'false labour' cause.

In our area (Vancouver) there is a toll-free (and free) nurse line specifically oriented to pregnancy and newborns that was helpful to see whether to take something seriously. We called it a number of times, saving us trips to the hospital.
posted by Kickstart70 at 9:47 AM on November 6, 2006

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. What is "normal" for one person (with an otherwise uncomplicated pregnancy) might be problematic for another. This explains the contradictory advice (don't panic but call a pro). Ultimately, the best solution is to step away from the internet and avoid googling every symptom you get.

If you ask me (a lay pregnant woman), mild discomfort and feeling like staying in bed is pretty normal. Growing new human life is hard work. Drink more water and go back to bed. Did that help? No? Try taking a walk, going for a swim, or prenatal yoga. Make double sure that you're eating well (or just eating food that agrees with you). Most problems of this nature are transient and will resolve themselves with common sense remedies (rest, fluids), time, and patience.

That said, you need not suffer if you are in actual pain. One of my hips moved out of its socket which caused a persistent pain in my butt on one side. After sucking it up and living with it for a few weeks, I went to go see a physical therapist that specializes in treating pregnant women. All it took was some ice and stretching (and some strategic hip realignment) to sort out the problem.

Note that the recommendation to see the PT came from some women at work after I had asked for advice about my specific problem ("oh yeah I saw him, he's great!"), not from the nurse/doc at the OB practice. The lady I got on the nurse line gave me the whole "hip/back pain is normal and there's not much you can do" spiel. I went to the PT anyway and I was glad that I did.

Bottom line here is that you need to trust your body. Your body was designed to gestate and birth a baby, so it knows what it's doing. If it is telling you to rest, rest. If it is telling you that something is really wrong (ie, interfering with doing day-to-day things, bleeding, severe pain), then get checked out.
posted by crazycanuck at 10:13 AM on November 6, 2006

I am also in my second trimester, at 21 weeks. This being my second pregnancy I know that I don't tend to focus on it nearly as much as I did with my first. Last time I was nervous about every twinge and pain. I also felt like there were so many things I had never heard women talk about dealing with pregnancy.

If I move too fast standing up or getting out of bed I will get a horrible ligament stretching pain that goes away after a few seconds...I had it last time too.

As others have said, if you feel a constant pain that doesn't go away or you are having cramping or bleeding, call right away. Obviously, if you really feel there is a problem don't hesitate to call.

My advice would be to join perhaps an online pregnant woman/motherhood forum. I belong to one and they have been wonderful to talk to when I have a question about how I am feeling. By all means they aren't medical experts, but they are in the same boat at the exact same time as you are.
posted by Gooney at 11:06 AM on November 6, 2006

Mothering.com is great for me, I'm 22 weeks and it's been a fantastic resource to talk to other hippie/doctor-suspicious/women-centered moms. Good luck, and if you don't find what you're looking for there, you really should go to your doctor. I'm very busy avoiding mine, but that's just because it's my nature to worry less than I should.
posted by pomegranate at 11:28 AM on November 6, 2006

Thanks for the comments so far. I did speak with the perinatal nurse today, and she was reassuring that a.) a lot of twinges and achiness are common and are often helped by hydration and/or rest and b.) to call anytime...they expect this!

The Mothering.com forum looks a little saner than the BabyCenter boards. If anyone has other suggestions for online pregnancy/motherhood communities, please post them.

I realize this is a very open-ended question where the bottom line is "everyone's different." I suppose I'm looking for the collective wisdom of women who have been through pregnancy and could offer useful anecdotes about what did or didn't warrant a call to the doctor. There are several other AskMe threads where "anecdotal evidence" has been extremely useful in keeping this first-timer educated and calm. Please keep the comments coming if you have something to offer!
posted by hsoltz at 1:38 PM on November 6, 2006

AltDotLife has some good pregnancy discussion. Much smaller than mothering.com's boards, but there's still lots of useful info there.
posted by belladonna at 4:50 PM on November 6, 2006

Here is one that is fairly small and the women are great. It is also closely moderated to keep it sane.
posted by Gooney at 4:54 PM on November 6, 2006

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