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Pregnancy Symptoms: What's Normal and What's Not

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

This guest post was written by Dr. Emily Buchner, PT, DPT, CMTPT from Resilience RX.

What to Expect During Pregnancy

Is {insert symptom} normal during pregnancy? I’m Dr. Emily - a mom of two and a pelvic floor physical therapist. This question crossed my mind countless times during my pregnancies, and it’s a question I hear often from other pregnant women. If this is your first pregnancy, you really don’t know what to expect!

As wonderful and miraculous as pregnancy is, it’s not without its challenges. There are a lot of weird and uncomfortable symptoms during pregnancy! Here’s a quick guideline of what to expect during pregnancy, what symptoms are normal, and what symptoms may warrant a call to your pelvic floor physical therapist.

Pregnancy Symptoms

During both of my pregnancies, the first trimester was my least favorite part. You don’t look pregnant yet, but you sure feel like it! There is a wide range of symptoms that come with pregnancy and many start in the first trimester. You may experience “morning” sickness (let’s be real - it’s “all-day” sickness for many), fatigue, and mood swings as all these hormones are flooding your system. Other “super fun” symptoms you may experience are heartburn, sensitive gums, brain fog, acne, bloating, food aversions, etc. - the list is quite long.

These types of symptoms can fluctuate as you progress through your pregnancy. If you have questions concerning these types of symptoms and management of them, it may be wise to ask your OB or midwife.

Pregnancy Aches and Pains - Normal or Not?

During pregnancy, your body produces a hormone called relaxin, which helps all your joints and ligaments loosen in order to expand for delivery. Because your joints may have more mobility during this time, your muscles have to work even harder to stabilize them. This can cause tightness, pain, or soreness in those muscles or lead to soreness in the joint itself. Ever-changing posture, weight gain, and muscle weakness can all contribute to aches and pains during pregnancy as well.

What some women aren’t told is that while pregnancy-related aches and pains are common, it doesn’t mean that they can’t be addressed and lessened. Oftentimes there is something that can be done! You don’t have to wait it out until your baby arrives! In physical therapy, we calm tight and angry muscles and work on strengthening muscles to give more support and stability to the area to decrease your pain.

All of these pregnancy-related aches and pains can be addressed in physical therapy:

  • Back or hip pain

  • Pelvic or tailbone pain

  • Pubic symphysis pain

  • SI joint pain

  • Sciatica

  • Round ligament pain

Symptoms That Are Not Normal

There are some symptoms that are not normal to have, no matter what trimester of pregnancy you are in. If you are experiencing these symptoms, call your pelvic floor physical therapist to get them resolved:

  • Leaking

  • Heaviness or pelvic pressure

  • Painful intercourse

  • Difficulty going to the bathroom (starting the urine stream, incomplete emptying, chronic constipation)

  • Coning or doming in your abs (see picture below)

Exercise and Pregnancy

Besides addressing pregnancy-related aches and pains, there are other reasons to see a physical therapist during pregnancy. We work with a lot of athletes, many of whom want to keep participating in their sport, hobby, or type of exercise while pregnant. We can help guide you to safely continue your sport and help you modify as needed as you progress through your pregnancy.

Other women want to start exercising during pregnancy. This is an awesome idea! Yes, it is safe and beneficial for both you and your baby to begin exercising when pregnant. We can guide you in safely doing this!

Preparing for Birth

All that your body goes through during pregnancy, labor, and delivery is basically like running a marathon. Would you run a marathon without training for it? There are a lot of things you can do to prepare your body prior to giving birth and to decrease the risk of tearing or having other complications.

Learning how to relax your pelvic floor is one of the most important ways you can prepare for birth. Your pelvic floor doesn’t push your baby out - your uterus does! The pelvic floor muscles actually have to relax and lengthen (two to four times their resting length!) to allow your baby to pass through. You will bear down to assist in pushing your baby out, but it should NOT be a lot of hard straining.

Other ways you can prepare for birth include massaging your perineum (the tissue between the base of your vagina and your anus), getting your pelvis moving with exercises like cat/cow and pelvic tilts, and practicing positions you want to try during labor and delivery. This was one area I was unaware I had options for during the delivery of my first child, especially since I had an epidural. I thought all women gave birth on their backs (I mean that’s how it’s always portrayed in the movies, right?). Lying on your back actually doesn’t allow your pelvis to be mobile and doesn’t allow your tailbone to move out of the way. Being more upright (like on hands and knees or in a squat) or lying on your side can make the whole process a little easier.

Pelvic floor physical therapy is a great option to review these things in depth. We want to help you feel confident as you navigate the uncertainty surrounding the birth of your little one!

Have an Enjoyable Pregnancy!

I hope this guideline helps put your mind at ease and answers some of your burning questions related to pregnancy symptoms. If you are experiencing any aches or pains, have any “Is this normal?” questions, or want some assistance in preparing for labor and delivery, contact us. We’d love to help your pregnancy be as enjoyable and pain-free as possible!

As a mom of 2 and a runner, Dr. Emily understands the importance of addressing and preventing pain and injuries so they do not interfere with your busy and active lifestyle.

She’s not only a pelvic floor physical therapy specialist but she’s also experienced pelvic floor physical therapy herself. In this post, she's sharing what's normal and what's not when it comes to your pregnancy symptoms.

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