Women's Health

Early Pregnancy Symptoms & Tips to Relieve Discomfort

Here are some common early pregnancy discomforts and tips on how to feel better from Rebecca Alicandro, MD, OBGYN at Rochester Regional Health.

Sep. 18, 2020 3   min read

Woman with pregnancy symptoms

Pregnancy can cause a lot of changes in your body. From the moment you get the good news of baby’s arrival you may start to notice common discomforts and early pregnancy symptoms. But don’t worry, it’s a sign that your body is creating a healthy environment so your baby can grow. "During the first trimester, from week one to around week 13, many women experience nausea, heartburn, back pain, leg cramps, and other pregnancy symptoms," said Rebecca Alicandro, MD, OBGYN at Rochester Regional Health. "But there are things women can do to reduce discomfort and help feel better."

Here are some common early pregnancy symptoms and tips to deal with discomfort.

Nausea and Morning Sickness

Nausea (or morning sickness) is a common complaint of early pregnancy, and it’s usually caused by hormonal changes. Contrary to popular belief, morning sickness can occur at any time of the day or night. Since your sense of smell is more refined during pregnancy, you may find yourself feeling nauseous from things that normally wouldn’t bother you. For most women, nausea resolves or greatly improves after the first trimester. 

Remedies and prevention tips for nausea

  • Don’t let your stomach go empty. Eat small, frequent meals.
  • Keep crackers or dry toast at your bedside and eat before getting up.
  • Eat a small snack before going to bed
  • Avoid drinking large amounts of liquid at one time
  • Avoid foods that are greasy, spicy, or have odors that bother you
  • Take your prenatal vitamins at night if taking in the morning upsets your stomach
  • Try drinking ginger tea to relieve nausea
  • If these are not working, ask your provider about safe medications to take in pregnancy to treat nausea

"Being constipated or having heartburn can make nausea worse, so be sure to address these issues separately if your nausea is not improving," said Dr. Alicandro. 


Feeling tired is common in early pregnancy because your body needs more from you, like sleep. It’s important to take naps if you can and not stay up late. Even putting your feet up for a few minutes every hour or so can help reduce fatigue.

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Heartburn is a burning feeling in your chest. During pregnancy, stomach acid can back up into your esophagus due to a change in your hormone levels.

How to help relieve heartburn:

  • Avoid eating large meals and greasy or spicy foods
  • Avoid chewing gum
  • Don’t lie down or bend over for two hours after eating
  • Raise the head of your bed about six inches (block or pillows under the mattress)
  • Avoid tight clothing around your abdomen or waist

*Check with your provider about an antacid that is safe to use. Do not drink lots of liquid with your meals, instead drink liquid in between meals.


Constipation occurs when you go too long without having a bowel movement or bowel movements become difficult to pass. It happens because of changes in your diet or routine and inadequate intake of fiber. The hormone changes in pregnancy also make it more likely you become constipated. Things that can help are:

  • Increasing fiber intake like fruits, vegetables, dried fruits and bran or whole grain food
  • Drinking more fluids - at least eight glasses of liquid each day. Water is best..
  • Increasing your activity. Even taking an extra 15-30 minute walk each day can help
  • Maintaining regular bowel habits. Try to have a bowel movement the same time every day. Check with your provider about using stool softeners.
  • Do not use laxatives or enemas unless your provider has prescribed them

Frequent Urination

During early pregnancy, you will notice that you have to go to the bathroom to urinate more often. This is due to hormone changes in your body and the growing uterus pushing on your bladder. Although this frequency in urination is normal, please notify your provider of any burning or pain.

Breast Tenderness

Your breasts grow larger during pregnancy as the milk glands develop. Sometimes you feel a tingling or a throbbing sensation. The changes are normal. A good supportive bra that is not too tight will help.

Vaginal Discharge

The change in your hormone levels changes the cells in your vagina. This causes an increase in vaginal secretions. The discharge is usually clear or white in color with no odor.

Things that can make you feel more comfortable include:

  • Try to avoid tight or layered clothing
  • Do not douche or use strong smelling soaps
  • Report irritation, odor or colored discharge to your provider

Back Pain

Lower back pain can be caused by muscle strain from bending or lifting. Hormone changes during pregnancy and the shift in your center of gravity as your uterus expands can leave you more at risk for back pain.

How to reduce back pain

  • Use proper body mechanics when lifting by keeping your back straight and bending your knees. Do not twist while lifting or pulling. Stand and sit with your back as straight as possible.
  • Avoid standing too long in one spot. If you can, rest one foot on a footstool or step while you are standing. Change which foot you are leaning on every few minutes.
  • Wear a special support belt for pregnant women. You can find these at maternity shops or medical supply stores. Sometimes a written prescription will cover the cost.
  • Use a footstool while sitting so your feet are touching the ground and can provide extra support to your back.
  • Ask your partner or a friend for a back rub, or use a heating pad on low setting to relieve aches. A warm (not hot) bath can also help.
  • Try sleeping on a firm mattress and use lots of pillows. Wedge a pillow in between your knees and place one under your belly. Avoid sleeping on your back by putting a pillow under your back so you are tilted.
  • Do pelvic exercises. On your hands and knees like an angry cat, rock back and forth to stretch out your back. On your back, bend your knees and lift your bottom off the floor so only your feet, shoulder and head are touching the floor. Hold this position for a few seconds and then relax. Repeat this as long as it’s comfortable.
  • Wear good shoes. Try not to wear shoes with a high heel (greater than two inches).


Hemorrhoids are painful, varicose veins around your rectum. They are common in pregnancy due to extra blood flow in the pelvis and pressure from the uterus. They can itch and sometimes bleed.

Reduce pain from hemorrhoids

  • Avoid constipation. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables so you have a bowel movement every day if possible. Ask your healthcare provider if you need a laxative to help regulate your bowel movements.
  • Do not strain or push when having a bowel movement.
  • Refrain from having anal sex. This can be painful and make any hemorrhoids worse.
  • Drink lots of fluids.
  • Try soaking in a warm tub a few times a day, or a sitz bath that you can sit in, usually available at your local grocery store.
  • Do Kegel exercises. The best way to learn these is to stop your stream of urine by tightening up the muscles in your bottom. After that, only do them when you’re not urinating because it can lead to an increase in urinary tract infections.
  • Ice packs and Witch Hazel will help with swelling.
  • Do not sit for long periods of time. Get up and stretch or shift positions when you can.

Leg Cramps

Leg cramps or Charley horses are very common in pregnancy. These spasms are marked by uncomfortable muscle contractions. If the contracting muscles don’t relax for several seconds or more, the pain can be severe.

Here are some things you can do to prevent leg cramps and relieve pain:

  • Flex your foot and massage the muscle in a downward motion.
  • Place an ice pack on the cramped area
  • Stretch your legs before bedtime
  • Drink lots of fluids.
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