Managing a difficult pregnancy

Difficult pregnancy

I’m in the third trimester of my third pregnancy, so I know how strenous a difficult pregnancy can be on a mom. Firstly, admitting that you’re struggling with your pregnancy does not make you ungrateful and neither does it make you a bad mother. Acknowledging a difficult pregnancy can be a challenging thing, so much so, that you often keep certain things to yourself. It can feel overwhelming and frustrating when you experience certain discomforts that you aren’t familiar with, or unsure of what they mean – because we often focus on the positives and “the glowing”.

With this being my third pregnancy, I can say without a doubt that each pregnancy is different. The first two trimesters were manageable, but the aches, pains and cramps are starting to get very uncomfortable at this point. With that said, I have experienced a very difficult pregnancy as well, with my first born, where I was sick and depressed for most of the pregnancy.

I may look happy and healthy in my pictures, but every day is different and I have had my difficult moments with this pregnancy.


In this post, I wanted to chat about some of my uncomfortable symptoms, that have made pregnancy feel difficult at times. I’m obviously not a medical professional, so I urge you to consult a doctor if you are really struggling with any symptoms that may or may not be listed below, especially pain and bleeding; never ignore that.

1. Headaches:

I experienced bad headaches in my first trimester. Since then, I learnt that tension headaches or migraines can occur frequently in pregnancy and are caused by hormonal changes, dehydration or fatigue. My headaches disappeared after the first trimester, however, I do get them from time to time.

To assist you to prevent pregnancy headaches,  you should:

  • Eat small frequent meals
  • Drink plenty water
  • Do simple exercises (if you are allowed to) and
  • Get as much rest as possible

Before you take any medication, please consult wth your doctor.

2. Itchy skin:

My skin was extreamly itchy during the beginning of my second trimester of pregnancy, especially on my belly and breasts. I have naturally dry skin and I think the combination of that and my changing hormones made me more prone to itching during pregnancy.

To “prevent” stretchmarks (if that is even a thing- since I do have some from each pregnancy), I carried around a small container, where I made my own mixture from tissue oil and body lotion. I would rub it on the itchy area as often as possible.

If the itching becomes unbearable or develops into a rash, you should let your doctor know.

3. Back pain:

My weak core caused by my previous pregnancies means that I get a lot of back pain. Lower back pain is common in many pregnancies and the causes vary:

  • Weak abdominal muscles or core (I have diastasis recti, which is a form of abdominal separation). I will need to do a more detailed post on this soon.
  • An expanding uterus
  • Previous back pain
  • Carrying big / multiples

Various methods can be used to relieve you from back pain during pregnancy, like:

  • Exercise – yoga, swimming and pilates are particularly good for pregnancy.
  • Getting a support belt. I recently consulted with Julie Kay BellyWay and got myself one of her “Belly Up” belts. She recommends that I wear it when I’m taking walks, experiencing discomfort and when I’m sleeping.


  • Posture and back support – if you are office bound like I am, you may want to look into a lumber support cushion, which you can get online or at a pharmacy.
  • Learning how to improve your posture – there are several videos on YouTube.
  • Wearing comfortable foot wear – this girl can’t let go of her heels, but I am still 100% comfortable in them.
  • Preggy pillow – I kept mine from my pregnancy three years ago and it’s been a life saver again, when it comes to supporting my back.

If your discomfort doesn’t improve or becomes unbearable, I would suggest that you consult with a physiotherapist or GP.

4. Bloating:

By bloating, I am not referring to your growing belly :).  A pregnant woman can be prone to more gas, indigestion and bloating, because we have more progesterone (for relaxing muscles) during this time. It can definitely get uncomfortable, but know that it is considered normal in pregnancy.

A balanced diet, smaller frequent meals and proper posture while eating can help prevent the gas build up.


difficult pregnancy


5. Stabbing belly pain (known as round ligament pain):

Another common denominator in all my pregnancies and a pain I still cant get used to, no matter how frequently they happen. Round ligament pain can feel like a sharp, or dull pain in the lower part of your belly. Personally, I have experienced this pain if I stand up too quickly, stretch, turn around while sleeping or when I have walked a lot.

Round ligament pain is known to be harmless and usually goes away after a few minutes. Changing positions and resting usually helps. Never ignore abdominal pain that does not go away after a few minutes – call your doctor as soon as you experience highly uncomfortable or severe cramping.

6. Pelvic pain:

Pelvic pain is definitely one of the top discomforts that can give you a difficult time during pregnancy. I often feel like someone has stuck a knife in my pubic bone – this pain really sucks and sometimes, I even get a cracking sound for extra effect.

  • If you have a pregnancy pillow, make use of it to support you while relaxing or sleeping.
  • Avoid carrying heavy stuff – yes your toddler included.
  • Get yourself a pregnancy support belt, like the one I showed you above, it will help to lift the pressure off your pubic bone.


7. Leg cramps:

These have been my worst nightmare- literally. These muscle-pull type of cramps are allegedly caused by a lack of magnesium and calcium, an expanding uterus and sometimes additional weight. So, if you do get theses crazy leg cramps, mostly during the night, you are not alone. It can be really scary when you experience them for the first time. I have had them in my second and third trimester of every pregnancy.

Speak to your doctor about other supplements you can take.

8. Urinary tract infections:

An infection in your urinary tract can happen when you get infected by certain bacteria. It can lead to bladder infections, or even more seriously, a kidney infection; which is considered a serious medical condition, as it increases the risks of going into labour prematurely. The symptoms usually include pain or itching while urinating, frequent trips to urinate, cloudy urine, fever or even pain in your back and abdomen.

You can try to prevent these infections by:

  • Wiping correctly after visiting the toilet (the good’ol front-to-back)
  • Drinking enough water
  • Loose, cotton underwear
  • Emptying your bladder fully

These infecitions should definitely be taken seriously.

9. Sore nipples:

Oh my, my nipples have been sensitive from the beginning of this pregnancy. This tenderness is one of the first signs of pregnancy for some women. With my previous two pregnancies I only experienced this sensitivity in my first trimester, but this time, the pain and sensitivity  have not gone away. I have been using nipple cream regularly to get some relief.

10. Other skin irritations and changes

I mentioned itchy skin as it’s own point above, but there are several ways that your skin can change during pregnancy. The condition of your skin can change at any time during and after your pregnancy. I have had acne breakouts in all three pregnancies and it is usually visible on my face, chest and back – my three year old recently asked me why I have mosquito bites everywhere. Oh well!

Other pregnant moms experience the following skin conditions:

  • Pigmentation changes. I have patches of dark skin on my face and my tummy stays very dark for the first 6-12 months postpartum (after baby has arrived). This really shocked me with my first baby, I thought something was wrong with my stomach.
  • Dry skin
  • Varicose veins
  • Stretchmarks


Lastly, the emotions of it all…

This point needs an entire blog post! Women are often painted to be unreasonably emotional during pregnancy, hence I mentioned the guilt earlier. It is completely normal for your emotions to be all over the place during this time. Whether it’s crying, not wanting to be around certain people, being exhausted by everything (especially if this isn’t your first child and there are other children and a household to take care of) or just being tired and emotionally drained. Find an outlet to handle them, so you’re not bottling up everything. Seek guidance from a friend who has walked the journey before, go for regular walks, journal and write your feelings down, read helpful articles and spend your time on the things that bring you joy.

If you are experiencing a difficult pregnancy, I want to encourage you to talk to someone about it and seek medical advice when you are not okay. It is possible to get depression during pregnancy. This is a special time, but it can be daunting as well. Many moms feel down during their pregnancies, when it is not the glowing-experience that was expected or that others speak of. Remember that it is a short time and soon you will have your precious baby in your arms.

As moms, I believe that we have so much to learn from one another. Have you experienced a difficult pregnancy? How did you handle it? Please leave me a comment below, letting me know.

I would also love it if you could follow further facets of my motherhood journey that I share on my Instagram and Facebook pages.

Modern Zulu Mom

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  1. Awesome post. I didn’t know about carrying a toddler, I have been lifting him up and also putting him on my back. I almost killed myself mos. I think I need to speak to someone, my memory loss is stressing me as it affects my kids.

    1. I’m forgetting everything too Mama, you’re not alone there. I think it’s okay to carry your toddler as long you don’t feel discomfort. For me, it’s definitely a strain. I don’t think we can get away from that completely, because they do need us.

  2. Mommy, this is so interesting. I had a smooth pregnancy where I was never sick and enjoyed every minute of it but emotions where like the Cape Town weather. With me having crocodile tears, it got worse during my pregnancy.

    During my pregnancy I experienced point no.8. I literally couldn’t go pee the entire night. I remember doing the trips to the toilet, around 3am I started blaming swimming for my struggle that evening. I swam a lot during my pregnancy and that’s the only thing that kept me sane. At around 5am, I text my gynae as I was in pain and she responded promptly and told me to go the hospital to be admitted at maternity ward. Before 10am she came to check up on me ang put me on treatment. The following day she was very happy with how I was responding to medication. Later that afternoon she came to check up on me and I was fine, she assured me that all was well and that the next day I should be discharged.

    In the evening my partner came to spend sometime with me and he doesn’t like hospitals but had no choice. There I was excited ang bragging about going home the next day. He left around 9pmand around 10:30pm I started having stomach cramps. Rang the bell and the sister came to check on me and the baby, only to find that we are fine, She gave me a glass of water to drink. About an hour later i had serious updorminal pain, rang the bell and she came back. Checked up on us as usual because I was in pain. a lot happened so fast and ended up delivery a premature.

    All is history but the experience taught me a lot.

    Thank you Thando for always sharing with us, looking forward to more…

  3. I had an easier pregnancy with my first and with my second I had more troubles. Nausea until into the third trimester, migraines and I actually took sick days during my pregnancy which I felt very guilty about. I was just so incredibly weak and dehydrated a lot of the time. Acknowledging the struggles does not make us ungrateful. Growing a human being inside of you is a BIG JOB and taxing on the mother. and if there are aches and pains you must acknowledge that.

    1. Oh, I know all about that guilt. I drag myself to work no matter how I’m felling. Hydration is such an important one and something I’m not too disciplined about. Grateful we have healthy babies.

  4. This is my first pregnancy and I am finally in my second trimester. Sadly I have Hyperemesis gravidarum (severe morning sickness & vomiting). And I get headaches and leg cramps at night. All of it is tough for me as I am not used to being sick (only ever have a cold/flu).

    I am actually grateful to be unemployed this year as I cannot do much because of all the not so nice symptoms. Also grateful for my partner and my mom.

    So I’ve declared 2019 baby growing year!

    Thank you for the post Thando.

    1. Oh mommy, I’m so glad you found this post. Very sorry about your Hyperemesis and I hope things settle down for you soon so you can get to enjoy some parts of this. Either way, the reward will be amazing. Shout out to your amazing support structure!

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