It is not unusual to experience some pain and body aches in pregnancy. Hormonal fluctuations lead to these pains in early pregnancy, while in later pregnancy, the expanding uterus exerts pressure on the adjacent nerves and organs, leading to aches and pains. In addition, during pregnancy, the hormone relaxin is released, which causes musculoskeletal pain and leads to the loosening of the ligaments. Although painful, these changes occur as the body prepares itself for childbirth. Read the post to learn about the causes, types, and home care measures for body aches and pains during pregnancy.
What Are Common Pregnancy Aches And Pains?
The following aches and pains are common in pregnant women:
Headaches are common in pregnancy. It is recommended to seek a doctor’s advice for persistent headaches in pregnancy. These persistent headaches, especially after the second trimester, could be associated with gestational hypertension and preeclampsia (1).
2. Dental pain
Pregnancy hormones can affect the gums and teeth. Dental pain (tooth pain) and sensitivity can be due to tooth decay and gum problems. Vomiting and gagging while brushing teeth are common in pregnancy and can damage the teeth with stomach acids. Sugary food cravings are also a reason for tooth damage in pregnant women (2).
3. Wrist and hand pain
Carpal tunnel syndrome causes pain, tingling, and numbness in the hand and arm. This occurs when the median nerve running to the hand is compressed or squeezed. The swollen blood vessels due to doubled blood volume in the carpal tunnel area compress the nerves during pregnancy (3).
4. Breast pain
Changes in hormones can cause breast pain during pregnancy. Breast soreness and tenderness are more obvious in the first trimester and can be felt on both breasts. You may seek medical care if you experience symptoms of infection such as nipple discharge, severe pain, warmness, or redness in the breasts (4).
5. Chest pain
Heartburn (acid reflux or indigestion) is the common cause of chest pain in pregnancy. Hormonal changes and the growing uterus pressure can cause burning sensation or pain in the chest. Sometimes, sharp or stabbing chest pain can be due to heart problems or other conditions. You may seek medical care if the chest pain is concerning (5).
6. Backache and back pain
Back pain is one of the common pains experienced by most pregnant women, especially in later months. Relaxation of ligaments and posture changes during pregnancy causes backache or back pain. The growing uterus shifts the center of gravity and weakens and stretches the abdominal muscles. In addition to these changes, extra weight can also increase the strain on the back (6).
7. Round ligament pain
Round ligament pain is felt in the abdomen near the hips and groin area. Round ligaments connect the uterus to the pelvis and keep the uterus in place. When the uterus grows, it shifts position, and pregnancy hormones loosen and stretch the round ligaments. This can be felt as an ache, stabbing, or pulling sensation (7).
8. Anal or rectal pain
Hemorrhoids and constipation can cause pain in the anal area or buttocks. This can be increased during bowel movements. Constipation and tear in the anal tissue (anal fissure) can also be the reason for painful bowel movements in pregnancy (8).
9. Sciatica pain
Sciatica is nerve pain caused by pinching or compressing the sciatic nerve in the lower back. The pinched nerve can cause sharp or shooting pain in the lower back, buttocks, and legs. In addition, changes in posture and pressure from the growing uterus can cause sciatic pain in pregnancy (9).
10. Leg cramps
Leg cramps in pregnancy can be due to involuntary contractions of the leg muscles, and nearly half of pregnant women experience them. Since the growing uterus presses the blood vessels to the lower parts of the body, there is a diminished blood supply to the legs, causing acid build-up and pain. Some women may experience muscle cramps due to calcium deficiency. Leg cramps increase as pregnancy advances (1).
11. Foot pain
Foot pain is common in pregnancy, especially during the last trimesters. This is because changes in the center of gravity due to the growing belly put pressure on the feet. As a result, forefeet pressure is greater while standing and walking. In addition, swollen feet and ankles due to reduced venous return can also cause discomfort (10).
You can experience pain and aches in various parts of the body during pregnancy. Any pain that is concerning or not relieved by home care measures should be evaluated by a doctor. Avoid taking OTC pain relief medications unless recommended by your healthcare provider.
How To Ease Body Aches During Pregnancy?
Rest and exercise can help ease several body aches and pains during pregnancy. For example, stretching exercises can improve blood circulation and reduce aches and pains due to diminished blood supply in various body parts.
You may also try prenatal exercises as per your doctor’s recommendations. Sometimes, lying down for a while can help ease pressure on muscles and improve circulation. Applying heat packs can also relieve many aches and pains.
The following tips may help reduce body aches and pains during pregnancy:
- Headaches can be resolved with some relaxation techniques and rest. You may also take paracetamol or acetaminophen as per the doctor’s recommendations (1).
- Dental pain can be treated by brushing teeth twice a day with toothpaste and flossing between teeth once a day. Eating healthy foods and avoiding sugary foods can promote dental health. You may also rinse your mouth with water after vomiting episodes. Regular dental checkups are also recommended (2).
- Pain, numbness, and tingling of hands can be relieved by giving rest to the hands. You may also use special splints to keep the wrists straight with your doctor’s recommendation (11).
- Breast soreness can be reduced by using a maternity bra with good support. Change the bra as the breast size changes. You may also try a warm or hot compress to relieve pain. Avoiding certain foods or adding supplements to prevent breast pain in pregnancy is not supported by scientific evidence (4).
- Chest pain due to heartburn can be relieved by changing eating and drinking habits. Eating small portions of more frequent meals than a large meal and sitting upright after meals help reduce heartburn. You may also avoid caffeinated drinks, spicy, and oily foods. Prenatal care, controlling blood pressure and other chronic lung and heart conditions can help prevent chest pain due to heart problems (5).
- Back pain is relieved by regular stretching and walking. You may also wear low-heeled shoes and use a chair with back support. Avoid lifting heavy objects and standing too long. Maintaining optimal weight also reduces the risk of back pain (6).
- Round ligament pain can be relieved by rest and wearing maternity belts to support the baby bump. Regular exercise and prenatal yoga can also be beneficial (7).
- Buttock or anal pain due to hemorrhoids can be alleviated by adding more fiber into your diet and drinking enough water. This eases bowel movement and prevents constipation and hemorrhoids. You may also try a sitz bath in warm water to help relieve the pain in the anal area. Use stool softeners and topical creams or suppositories per your doctor’s recommendations (8).
- Sciatica pain can be improved by practicing regular exercises, and taking rest. You may also avoid activities that cause pain, such as sitting for long periods. Gentle massages may also help relieve pain (9).
- Leg cramps can be relieved by stretching, bending, and rotating your foot and legs. You may also rest, keeping the legs elevated to improve blood circulation. Calcium-rich foods can also reduce leg muscle cramps. Ask your doctor if you need calcium supplements (1).
- Foot pain in pregnancy can be relieved by rest, wearing supportive footwear, foot massages, and keeping legs elevated. You may also try simple foot exercises, including stretches, bends, and rotations of the foot (10).
You may also try physiotherapy and other therapies from registered practitioners to alleviate pains and aches. Exercising in water or swimming can also be helpful for pregnant women with body pains that limit certain exercises and activities.
When To Call Your Doctor?
Although body aches and cramps are normal in pregnancy, you may seek medical care if it concerns you. It is recommended to seek prescriptions to take pain relievers in pregnancy since several over-the-counter pain medications are unsafe.
Always seek medical care for pain or aches with other symptoms such as fever, persistent headaches, breathing troubles, and vaginal bleeding. These symptoms may indicate underlying infections, high blood pressure, or ectopic pregnancy in some women. Your health care provider can diagnose the exact cause of pain and treat them accordingly.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is it normal to ache all over in early pregnancy?
Yes. Hormonal changes can cause body aches and pain all over the body in early pregnancy. This can be more prominent toward the end of the first trimester. Aches in the lower abdomen and joints are common during the early weeks of pregnancy. Some women may experience back pain and leg cramps from early weeks (12).
2. Are body aches a pregnancy symptom?
Although not a specific pregnancy symptom, most women experience different body aches during pregnancy. For example, headaches, abdominal cramps, breast soreness, etc., are seen in the early weeks of pregnancy.
3. Does my body ache before labor?
The pressure exerted by the developing fetus may cause body aches before labor. However, pain during labor is caused by the contraction of the uterine muscles, which may be felt as strong cramps in the abdomen, groin, and back. Some may experience pain in their sides or thighs (13).
4. Why do I feel pain in between my legs during pregnancy?
Pelvic girdle pain during pregnancy may be felt as pain in the buttocks, groin, and thighs. This may be due to the pressure on the pelvis caused by the growing baby or loosening of the ligaments due to hormonal changes. Specific muscle strengthening exercises, compression garments/belts, massage, and ice packs may help ease the discomfort (14).
Aches and pains are common in pregnancy. Practicing prenatal exercises and yoga from the early stages of pregnancy can help reduce pain in some women. Do not self-treat pains and body aches with OTC medications since some may harm the baby. Do not ignore pains with other alarming symptoms. You may discuss with your doctor to know more individualized measures to relieve and avoid body aches and pains during pregnancy.
- Due to hormonal and physical changes, headaches, dental pain, wrist and hand discomfort, backaches are prevalent throughout pregnancy.
- In pregnancy, round ligament pain and sciatica may occur due to pressure from the growing uterus on surrounding structures.
- Massages, keeping legs elevated, regular exercises, pain relievers, and a well-balanced diet can help manage pregnancy-related pains.
- Aches and pains during pregnancy.
- Pregnancy and Teeth.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome and pregnancy go hand in hand.
- Breast Pain.
- Indigestion and heartburn in pregnancy.
- Back Pain During Pregnancy.
- Round Ligament Pain.
- What can I do for hemorrhoids during pregnancy?
- Sciatic Nerve Pain During Pregnancy? Here’s What to Do.
- Evrim Karadag-Saygi, et al; Plantar pressure and foot pain in the last trimester of pregnancy.
- Body Changes and Discomforts.
- Pregnancy Stages and Changes.
- Dealing With Pain During Childbirth.
- Pregnancy-related pelvic girdle pain.