Pregnancy pain: 5 common causes

Expect some discomfort even in the smoothest pregnancy. Get a grip on the five most common aches.

Ouch! If the pain isn’t on your tush, your wrist aches. Growing a baby sure takes a toll on your body. And if you’re expecting for the first time, even the slightest twinge of pain may well send you on a Googling frenzy. For most pregnant women, some physical discomfort is par for the course. If you experience a persistent and intense pain, seek immediate medical attention to rule out a problem.

1. Tension headaches

It’s not unusual to experience headaches, especially during the first trimester. These are triggered by hormonal and circulatory changes, as well as the increased blood volume. Sometimes, it may be linked to dietary changes, a lack of sleep or general fatigue.

          Dr Kelly Loi, a fertility specialist and gynaecologist who runs Health & Fertility Centre for Women, explains, “Tension headaches are often described as a tight band of pain around the head, and sometimes, the back of the neck.”

          They tend to disappear during the second trimester, possibly because the hormone levels start to stabilise. But if it returns towards the end of your pregnancy, it could be a symptom of pre-eclampsia where high blood pressure occurs, along with protein loss in the urine. As this can affect your baby, inform your doctor at once as you may need to deliver earlier.


Ensure that you are adequately hydrated, eat a healthy balanced diet and get enough rest, although little else can be done to ease this condition. You can safely take paracetamol but skip other medications like aspirin and ibuprofen, as well as most prescription migraine drugs.

Leg cramps could also signal dehydration or a lack of nutrients in your body.

2. Leg cramps

Leg spasms (also known as Charley horses) is that “jumpy” crampy sensation in your legs that can happen anytime and anywhere ― and they hurt! “No one really knows why pregnant women get more leg cramps,” Dr Loi notes. “Possible factors include leg muscles being tired from carrying around all the extra weight.” Leg cramps could also signal dehydration or a lack of nutrients in your body. Your muscles contract ― that crampy feeling ― when your body lacks water or sodium.


If you do get a cramp, stretch your calf muscles immediately. Dr Loi advises, “Straighten your leg, heel first, and gently flex your toes backwards toward your shins.” It might hurt at first, but this will ease the spasm and the pain will go away gradually. Try to relax the cramp by massaging the muscle or taking a warm shower before bed. Also make sure your diet has sufficient calcium and minerals, such as potassium and magnesium, both of which are found in dark, leafy greens.

Illustration: INGimage and Rachel Lim