10 common health problems in pregnancy

Most people know pregnancy (morning) sickness is a common symptom in pregnancy. Here are some others that you may not be aware of.

This page talks about some of the most common pregnancy complaints. We have more information if you have symptoms you are worried about or if you want to know more about pregnancy complications.

1. Bleeding gums in pregnancy

Have you noticed your gums bleeding when you brush your teeth? Bleeding gums in pregnancy could be a condition called gingivitis. Hormones can make your teeth more vulnerable to plaque, leaving you with swollen, bleeding gums.

These are some things you can do to take extra care of your smile when you’re pregnant:

  • book a dentist appointment
  • ask your dentist about getting a professional clean
  • brush your teeth twice a day for 2 minutes
  • avoid sugary and acidic drinks and foods
  • stop smoking – there’s lots of support available if you need it.

If you have pregnancy (morning) sickness, rinse your mouth with water after being sick – try to wait an hour before you brush your teeth (they’ll be softened by the acid in your tummy). 

Don't forget to ask your midwife for a maternity exemption certificate. This will let you get free dental care and prescriptions during pregnancy and for 1 year after your baby’s birth.

2. Leg cramps in pregnancy

Cramps can be common in pregnancy. Leg cramps are sudden, sharp pains, usually in the lower leg.

It may help to try to stretch your leg and move your ankle up and down during a cramp. Gentle stretches and trying not to point your toes down when lying down may help prevent cramps.

Speak to your midwife or GP if:

  • leg cramps are disturbing your sleep 
  • you have numbness or swelling in your legs
  • cramps last longer than 10 minutes
  • if you have any other symptoms or concerns. 

Some people get restless legs syndrome in pregnancy, usually in the third trimester. 

3. Feeling faint in pregnancy

Been feeling slightly dizzy or faint? This may be due to hormonal changes, low blood pressure  or getting too hot (see next symptom). Here are some useful tips:

  • get up slowly after sitting or lying down
  • as soon as you feel faint, find a seat quickly – if the faintness doesn’t pass, lie down on your side(
  • turn on your side if you feel faint while lying on your back (It’s best to sleep on your side when you reach your third trimester. Research shows that this can reduce the risk of stillbirth.)  
  • stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. 

Talk to your midwife or doctor if you are feeling dizzy or faint. 

4. Feeling hot in pregnancy

Your body pumps more blood in pregnancy, which alongside hormones can make you feel hot. It may help to:

  • use a desk fan for work and your bedroom
  • carry a small, battery-operated fan around with you
  • wear loose, breathable fabrics
  • stay hydrated and always have a bottle of water with you
  • take a dip in a refreshing bath or go for a swim.

Some people feel colder during pregnancy. This does not necessarily mean that there is anything wrong. But if you have any concerns, it’s always best to call your midwife or doctor.

5. Headaches in pregnancy

Headaches can be common in early pregnancy and usually improve as your pregnancy progresses. It may help to:

  • try and rest when you can
  • keep hydrated
  • find ways to relax.

Paracetamol is safe to take in pregnancy. Make sure you only take the recommended dose and take it for the shortest possible time. Do not take codeine or ibuprofen – unless prescribed by your doctor.   

Call your midwife, GP or maternity unit if you have a severe headache that does not go away. This can be a sign of pre-eclampsia, which can cause serious complications in pregnancy.

6. Indigestion and heartburn in pregnancy

Hormones and, later in pregnancy, your womb pressing on your stomach can cause:

  • heartburn – a painful burning feeling in the chest, often after eating
  • feeling full and bloated
  • nausea (feeling sick)
  • burping and farting
  • bitter-tasting fluids into your mouth or bringing up food.

There are some things you can do that may help relieve your symptoms:

  • make a note of what makes you feel worse and avoid these foods, especially in the evenings (spicy foods, chocolate and fruit juice are often to blame)
  • eat a healthy, balanced diet
  • try eating smaller meals often
  • sit up straight when you’re eating to take the pressure of your stomach
  • finish eating about 3 hours before bedtime
  • don’t smoke (there is support available if you need it)
  • don’t drink alcohol

Speak to your midwife or GP if your heartburn is severe and the ideas above don’t help you feel better. 

7. Swollen ankles, hands and feet in pregnancy

Your body holds more water in pregnancy, which can move towards the lowest parts of your body making your ankles, hands and feet swell. Try to:

  • avoid standing for long periods of time
  • prop your feet up so they’re higher than your heart for about an hour each day
  • wear comfortable shoes and socks
  • do some stretches such as pointing your toes down and releasing upwards 30 times, then circle each foot 8 times 
  • drink lots of water
  • take some gentle exercise.

Call your midwife, GP or maternity unit if you have a sudden increase in swelling, particularly in your hands face or feet. This can be a sign of pre-eclampsia, which can cause serious complications in pregnancy. 

8. Constipation in pregnancy

Pregnancy hormones can play havoc with your digestive system, leaving you constipated. Here are some tips:

  • Make sure you’re getting enough fibre. Eat lots of fruit and vegetables, pulses, wholemeal breads and cereals.
  • Drink plenty of water. 
  • Stay active. This doesn’t have to be strenuous. Regular light or moderate exercise, such as walking or swimming may help.
  • If you’re taking iron supplements (which can make you constipated), talk to your GP about your options. 

Talk to your midwife or GP if you are still struggling with constipation after making these changes. 

9. Diarrhoea

Diarrhoea in pregnancy can be caused by hormone changes, a tummy bug or food poisoning. Find out more about diarrhoea in pregnancy and how to look after yourself.

Loperamide (also known as Imodium or dioraleze) is not usually recommended in pregnancy. This is because there is not enough information to say whether it is safe or not. Do not take this medicine to treat diarrhoea without speaking to your midwife or doctor first.  

Rarely, diarrhoea can be caused by an infection called listeria, which can be dangerous in pregnancy. Speak to your midwife, doctor or NHS 111 if you have diarrhoea and:

  • a high temperature of 38C or above
  • aches and pains
  • chills
  • are feeling or being sick. 

Find out more about infections in pregnancy and how to avoid them. 

10. Piles

Some women get piles during pregnancy. These are swellings containing enlarged blood vessels inside or around the bottom. Anyone can get piles, but they happen in pregnancy because hormone make your veins relax.

Symptoms of piles can include:

  • itching, aching, soreness or swelling around your anus
  • pain when passing a stool (faeces, poo) and a mucus discharge afterwards
  • a lump hanging outside the anus, which may need to be pushed back in after passing a stool
  • bleeding after passing a stool – the blood is usually bright red.

Piles can cause constipation. Try to drink plenty of water and eat plenty of fibre such as:

  • wholemeal bread
  • fruit
  • vegetables.

Talk to your midwife, doctor or pharmacist about how to manage piles. Don’t use a cream or medicine without checking with them first. 

Have a look at our Ask a midwife information hub for more common pregnancy complaints and questions. 

NHS. Bleeding gums. https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/related-conditions/common-symptoms/bleeding-gums (Page last reviewed: 16 December 2020 Next review due: 16 December 2023)

NHS. Leg cramps. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/leg-cramps/ (Page last reviewed: 19 August 2019 Next review due: 19 August 2022)

Clinical Knowledge Summaries. (2020) Restless legs syndrome https://cks.nice.org.uk/restless-legs-syndrome

NHS. Low blood pressure. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/low-blood-pressure-hypotension/ (Page last reviewed: 9 September 2020 Next review due: 9 September 2023)

Heazell AEP, Li M, Budd J, Thompson JMD, Stacey T, Cronin RS, Martin B, Roberts D, Mitchell EA, McCowan LME. Association between maternal sleep practices and late stillbirth – findings from a stillbirth case-control study. BJOG2017; https://doi.org/10.1111/1471-0528.14967.

NHS. Common health problems in pregnancy. https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/related-conditions/common-symptoms/common-health-problems/ (Page last reviewed: 8 March 2021 Next review due: 8 March 2024)

NHS. Headaches in pregnancy. https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/related-conditions/common-symptoms/headaches/ (Page last reviewed: 8 April 2021 Next review due: 8 April 2024)

NHS. Indigestion and heartburn in pregnancy. https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/related-conditions/common-symptoms/indigestion-and-heartburn/ (Page last reviewed: 2 December 2020 Next review due:  2 December 2023)

NHS. Swollen ankles, feet and fingers in pregnancy. https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/related-conditions/common-symptoms/swollen-ankles-feet-and-fingers/ (Page last reviewed: 10 March 2021 Next review due: 10 March 2024)
NHS. Loperamide. https://www.nhs.uk/medicines/loperamide (Page last reviewed: 8 March 2021 Next review due: 8 March 2024)

NHS. Listeriosis. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/listeriosis/ (Page last reviewed: 20 October 2020 Next review due: 20 October 2023)

NHS. Piles in pregnancy. https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/related-conditions/common-symptoms/piles/ (Page last reviewed: 17 February 2021. Next review due: 17 February 2024) 

Review dates
Reviewed: 27 April 2022
Next review: 27 April 2025