Minor Discomforts of Pregnancy with Nursing Interventions


The practical nurse is an invaluable member of the health care team when working with pregnant patients. Being knowledgeable and capable to support the patient and to give her advice to make her more comfortable is very important during the pregnancy. Since the patient is carrying a new life within her, her body must make certain adaptations to his presence. These adaptations of the body can be very annoying, and by your intervention, you may help the new pregnant patient to carry her pregnancy more comfortably and safely.

Do be aware that all patients do not experience all of the discomforts and some patients pass through the entire Antepartum period without any complications of this type.


Nausea and Vomiting (Morning Sickness). 

  1. One of the most common discomforts of early pregnancy, it is possibly due to high levels of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) or progesterone, cultural expectations, emotional factors, and hypoglycemic reaction as a result of increased basal metabolism due to the 24-hour a day fetal and maternal body functions, especially after a period of fasting (from night to morning). 
  2. Nausea and vomiting usually appear early in the first trimester (6 to 8 weeks) and subsides by the end of the 12th week of pregnancy. 
  3. This is most bothersome in the morning when a woman awakes and the stomach is empty. Some pregnant women may experience this sort of discomfort at other times of the day. 
  4. Nursing interventions consist of advising the mother to:

    (a) Eat a high-protein snack at bedtime if it's a hypoglycemic attack.

    (b) Eat crackers or a piece of dry toast before getting up (keep by bedside if possible).

    (c) Eat frequently spaced, small meals of high-quality (protein) foods.

    (d) Sip a hot drink before arising.

Heartburn (Pyrosis). 

Heartburn is a burning sensation in the Epigastric and sternal region. It results from relaxation of the cardiac sphincter and the decreased tone and mobility of smooth muscles which is due to increased progesterone there by allowing for esophageal regurgitation, decreased emptying time of the stomach, and reverse peristalsis. 

Nursing interventions consist of advising the patient to:

(a) Eat frequent, small meals.

(b) Take sips of milk or hot tea.

(c) Eat slowly.

(d) Avoid fatty and gas-forming foods.

(e) Maintain good posture to give the gastrointestinal tract lots of space.

(f) Do not lie down after eating.


  1. The gastrointestinal tract motility is slowed due to increased progesterone resulting in increased reabsorption of water and drying of stool; and compression of the intestines by the enlarging uterus. 
  2. Predisposition to constipation due to oral iron supplement (side effect of iron therapy is constipation). Some patients respond with diarrhea though. 
  3. Nursing intervention consists of advising the patient to:

    (a) Drink at least six glasses of water per day.

    (b) Increase roughage in the diet (for example, bran, coarse ground cereals, and fresh fruits and vegetables with skins).

    (c) Do moderate exercise every day, especially walking.

    (d) Maintain a regular schedule for bowel movements.

    (e) Utilize deep breathing and relaxation techniques.



  1. Backache is caused by relaxation of the sacroiliac joint which is due to increased hormones (steroid sex hormone and relaxing) resulting in slight joint and muscle relaxation and increased mobility; and exaggerated lumbar and cervicothoracic curves caused by changes in the center of gravity from the enlarging abdomen and breasts. 
  2. Prevention of strain, which can cause backache, should begin early in pregnancy. 
  3. Nursing interventions consist of advising the patient:

    (a) That maternity girdles are no longer recommended.

    (b) To practice good posture and good body mechanics (use the pelvic tilt and bend at the knees).

    (c) To wear appropriate, well-fitting shoes.

    (d) To sleep on a firm mattress or backboard.

    (e) That backaches may indicate a kidney or bladder infection. The patient must inform the physician of backache problems. Backaches should be carefully evaluated.

Muscle Cramps. 

  1. Muscle cramps are caused by:

    (a) Compression of nerves supplying the lower extremities due to the enlarging uterus.

    (b) Reduced level of diffusible serum calcium or elevation of serum phosphorus in the bloodstream.

    (c) Fatigue, chilling, or tense body posture.

  2. Muscle cramps are not considered a serious condition, but they may be quite painful.
  • Nursing interventions consists of advising the patient to:

    (a) Avoid fatigue and cold legs.

    (b) Eat a diet with adequate calcium or prescribed calcium.

    (c) Avoid drinking more than one (1) quart of milk per day. More than one quart of milk per day will create too much phosphorus in the system.

    (d) Take the prescribed vitamins B and D per doctor's instructions.

  • Treatment during muscle cramps.

    (a) The patient should lie on her back and extend the affected limb. A second individual should apply pressure on the patient's knee with one hand and sharply flex the foot with the other hand. The affected muscle may also be kneaded with the heel or palm of the hand.

    (b) Heat may be applied to the area of the muscle cramp.


Supine Hypotension (Vena Cava Syndrome). 

  1. Supine hypotension is caused by pressure of the gravid uterus on the ascending vena cava when the woman is supine which decreases the return of the blood. 
  2. Symptoms include nausea, cold, feels faint, and hypotensive (decreased blood pressure). 
  3. Nursing interventions consist of advising the patient to:

    (a) Get up slowly.

    (b) Use the side-lying position, preferably on the left side.

    Photo by Wiley Online Library

Varicose Veins

Varicosity is an enlargement of the lumen of a vein due to thinning and stretching of its walls. 
  1. It is caused by the relaxation of smooth muscle walls of veins, which is due to increased hormones (progesterone), which causes pelvic vasocongestion. This condition is aggravated during pregnancy due to the enlarging uterus in the pelvis causing pressure on the great abdominal veins, which interferes with return blood flow from the lower extremities. It is also aggravated by gravity and bearing down for bowel movements. This may also be a hereditary disposition. 
  2. Varicosity involves the veins of the lower extremities (legs), the external genitalia (vulva or labia), the pelvis, and the perineal area (hemorrhoids). 
  3. Nursing intervention consists of advising the patient to:

    (a) Avoid obesity.

    (b) Avoid lengthy standing or sitting.

    (c) Avoid constrictive clothing.

    (d) Avoid constipation and bearing down

    (e) Elevate legs when sitting.

    (f) Get adequate rest.

    (g) Perform moderate exercise.

  4. Treatment once varicose veins have developed.

    (a) Rest with legs and hips elevated.

    (b) Wear support stockings before rising (getting up) if varicose veins are severe.

    (c) Lie on the bed with legs extended at a right angle to the body if ordered by the physician.

    (d) If in the vulva, may be relieved by placing a pillow under the buttocks to elevate the hips, assuming the Sim's position for a few minutes several times a day, avoid standing as much as possible, or laying down instead of sitting when practical.

    (e) To relieve pain and swelling, take hot sit baths or local application of astringent compresses (witch-hazel pads).

Edema (Ankle Edema, Nonpitting to Lower Extremities)

Edema is very common during pregnancy. It most often occurs during the second and third trimesters. Edema is caused by reduced blood circulation in the lower extremities as the gravid uterus puts pressure on the large vessels. Edema is most noticeable at the end of the day and it is normal in pregnancy as long as it is not accompanied by the following:

(a) Proteinuria (the presence of an excess of serum proteins in urine)

(b) Edema of nondependent parts.

(c) Sudden increase in weight.

Nursing intervention consists of advising the patient to:

(a) Maintain good posture

(b) Avoid prolonged standing or sitting.

(c) Wear support stockings.

(d) Avoid constrictive clothing (garters, knee-high hose).

(e) Drink at least eight glasses of fluid for "natural" diuretic.

(f) Get adequate rest and exercise; include rest periods to elevate legs.

Treatment of ankle edema.

(a) Elevate the feet as often as possible.

(b) Apply support stockings before getting up.

(c) Diuretics are contraindicated.

If condition worsens to a generalized edema, the patient should notify her physician.



  1. Dyspnea is caused by the limited expansion of the diaphragm by the enlarging uterus. It may be an increased sensitivity to or compensation for slight acidosis ("breathing for two"). 
  2. Dyspnea may be very troublesome in the last weeks of pregnancy. The patient may have difficulty sleeping. 
  3. Nursing interventions consist of advising the patient to:

    (a) Sleep on additional pillows.

    (b) Maintain good posture.

    (c) Avoid over eating.

    (d) Stop or decrease smoking.

    (e) Limit activity before becoming dyspenic.

    (f) Decrease anxiety by concentrating on slow, deep breaths.

  4. Dyspnea of sudden onset in patients who are known to have heart disease may be a sign of impending heart failure. The physician should be notified immediately. 

Nasal Stuffiness 

Nasal stuffiness is caused by increased vascularization due to the increase in hormone. It is not preventable; functioning of the nasal will return to normal after delivery.



Leukorrhea is a white or yellowish mucous discharge from the cervical canal or the vagina. It is caused by the hormonal stimulation of the cervix, which becomes hypertrophic and hyperactive producing an abundant amount of mucous. 
  1. Leukorrhea is not preventable and the patient should not douche. 
  2. Leukorrhea may lead to pruritis (severe itching), burning on urination, foul odor from the discharge, or edema of the vulva. The physician should be notified immediately if any of the these symptoms appear. It may be an infection. 
  3. Treatment/nursing intervention consists of:

    (a) Reassuring the patient that this is normal. Tell the patient to use perineal pads and to change them frequently. Also, to cleanse the vulva at least once a day with soap and water and to dry thoroughly.

    (b) Advising the patient to maintain good hygiene. 

Braxton Hicks' Contractions

These are mild, intermittent, usually painless, uterine contractions. These contractions are in the preparation for the work of labor. 
  • Treatment/nursing interventions consist of advising the patient:

    (a) That these are normal contractions.

    (b) To get plenty of rest.

    (c) To change position as often as possible.

    (d) To practice breathing techniques when contractions are bothersome.


Urinary Frequency and Urgency. 

  1. This is caused by the vascular engorgement and altered bladder function due to the reduction of bladder capacity and an increase in hormones. The enlarging uterus and fetal presenting part (The presenting part is that part of the fetus which lies closest to the internal os of the cervix) causes this.
  2. Nursing interventions consist of advising the patient:

    (a) That this is normal.

    (b) To limit fluid intake before bedtime to ensure rest.

    (c) To wear perineal pads.

    (d) Notify the physician if pain or burning is noted.

Stress Incontinence.

This occurs later in pregnancy. The patient may actually void on herself. Stress incontinence is caused by the enlarging uterus and pressure on the presenting part on the bladder.

Post a Comment