Aches and pains during pregnancy
During pregnancy, your body will go through a lot of changes as your baby grows and your hormones change. Along with the other common symptoms during pregnancy, you will often notice new aches and pains.
Headaches are common during pregnancy. Before you take medicine, ask your health care provider if it is safe to take. Other than medicine, relaxation techniques may help.
Headaches can be a sign of preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy). If your headaches get worse, and they do not go away easily when you rest and take acetaminophen (Tylenol), especially toward the end of your pregnancy, tell your provider.
Preeclampsia is when a pregnant woman develops high blood pressure and protein in the urine after the 20th week of pregnancy.
Pain in Your Lower Abdomen (Belly) or Groin
Most often, this happens between 18 and 24 weeks. When you feel stretching or pain, move slowly or change positions.
Mild aches and pains lasting for short periods of time are normal. But see your provider right away if you have constant, severe abdominal pain, possible contractions, or you have pain and are bleeding or have fever. These are symptoms that can indicate more severe problems, such as:
- Placental abruption (the placenta separates from the uterus)
- Preterm labor
- Gallbladder disease
Numbness and Tingling
As your uterus grows, it may press on the nerves in your legs. This may cause some numbness and tingling (feeling of pins and needles) in your legs and toes. This is normal and will go away after you give birth (it may take a few weeks to months).
You may also have numbness or tingling in your fingers and hands. You may notice it more often when you wake up in the morning. This also goes away after you give birth, though, again, not always right away.
If it is uncomfortable, you can wear a brace at night. Ask your provider where to get one.
Have your provider check any persistent numbness, tingling, or weakness in any extremity to ensure there is not a more serious problem.
Pregnancy strains your back and posture. To avoid or reduce backaches, you can:
- Stay physically fit, walk, and stretch regularly.
- Wear low-heeled shoes.
- Sleep on your side with a pillow between your legs.
- Sit in a chair with good back support.
- Avoid standing for too long.
- Bend your knees when picking things up. DO NOT bend at the waist.
- Avoid lifting heavy objects.
- Avoid gaining too much weight.
- Use heat or cold on the sore part of your back.
- Have someone massage or rub the sore part of your back. If you go to a professional massage therapist, let them know you are pregnant.
- Do back exercises that your provider suggests to relieve back stress and maintain a healthy posture.
Leg Aches and Pains
The extra weight you carry when you are pregnant can make your legs and back hurt.
Your body will also make a hormone that loosens ligaments throughout your body to prepare you for childbirth. However, these looser ligaments are more easily injured, most often in your back, so be careful when you lift and exercise.
Leg cramps are common in the last months of pregnancy. Sometimes stretching your legs before bed will reduce the cramps. Your provider can show you how to safely stretch.
Watch for pain and swelling in one leg, but not the other. This can be a sign of a blood clot. Let your provider know if this happens.
Bope ET, Kellerman RD. Pregnancy and antepartum care. In: Bope ET, Kellerman RD, eds. Conn's Current Therapy 2016. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 18.
Gregory KD, Ramos DE, Jauniaux ERM. Preconception and prenatal care. In: Gabbe SG, Niebyl JR, Simpson JL, et al, eds. Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 6.
Review Date: 10/4/2016
Reviewed By: John D. Jacobson, MD, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Loma Linda University School of Medicine, Loma Linda Center for Fertility, Loma Linda, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.