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Worried about haemorrhoids or itchy skin? Your Tesco pharmacist can help

Pregnancy is a time when your body changes in ways you could never have imagined. Most of these are magical and fascinating to watch, from the swell of your belly to glowing skin and longer fingernails. However, sometimes pregnancy has other side effects that aren’t so pleasant.

Rather than head to your doctor, some of these problems can be dealt with by your local pharmacist. Don’t worry about being embarrassed –  they will have seen similar complaints plenty of times and can quickly and discreetly offer advice and suitable medication that’s safe for you and your baby. Here’s our list of the most common problems your pharmacist can help with.

1. Heartburn and indigestion

It might feel like a volcano is erupting in your chest but heartburn and indigestion, although irritating, are nothing to worry about. For many pregnant women it can be a daily occurrence – the NHS says eight out of 10 pregnant women will suffer with it during pregnancy. The main cause is the relaxing of muscles between your throat and stomach, which lets stomach acid leak back up. Your pharmacist will be able to recommend something to help calm the acid down and ease the burning.

2. Discharge

It can be a bit embarrassing to ask your pharmacist about vaginal discharge, but it’s more common than you think and a normal part of pregnancy. If the discharge smells or is accompanied by pain, itching or soreness you should see the doctor, as it could be an infection like thrush. During pregnancy your cervix and vaginal walls get softer and discharge increases to help prevent any infections travelling to the womb. Towards the end of pregnancy the baby’s head will be pressing down more on your cervix causing heavier discharge. A panty liner can help you feel fresher and more comfortable.

3. Gas and bloating

You might be blaming it on your partner or cat but before they reach for the gas mask, remind them the wind you’re passing is just another wonderful symptom of growing a life inside you! This time it’s the hormone progesterone to blame, which slows down digestion causing bloating. Also your expanding uterus puts increased pressure on your rectum, which weakens muscle control and results in more gas being passed – so it really isn’t your fault at all! Your pharmacist can give you some advice on how to prevent a build up of gas, such as avoiding foods that make it worse, taking longer over mealtimes and eating smaller portions of food throughout the day.

4. Haemorrhoids

Ok, so this one is quite hard to talk to your pharmacist about, especially in a busy supermarket, but honestly, they’ll have heard the same complaint a thousand times before. Haemorrhoids, or piles, are enlarged and swollen veins in or around the lower rectum and anus. Pregnancy hormones can make your veins relax, which can sometimes cause piles. Constipation (see below) can also be to blame, so make sure you try and keep your stools soft and regular where possible. Luckily there are over-the-counter remedies to soothe the inflammation and your pharmacist will be able to tell you which ones are safe to use during pregnancy. The good news is that piles will usually disappear within weeks after the birth.

5. Itching

As your bump grows, the skin on your tummy will stretch and might start to feel tight and itchy. Add in raging hormones and clothes that are starting to feel a bit tight and you could find yourself wanting to rub up against the nearest tree. Rest assured, mild itching is usually nothing to worry about and your pharmacist can recommend some lotions or creams to soothe your skin. Using a regular moisturiser might also help to prevent pesky stretch marks forming. However if the itching is more noticeable in the evenings or during the night, or is severe, let your doctor or midwife know, as it could be a sign or something more serious.

6. Constipation

Your regular – erm – schedule might become a thing of the past during pregnancy. Hormonal changes during the first trimester can often cause constipation, which can be painful and uncomfortable. Explain your symptoms to your pharmacist who will be able to give you some advice on what foods to eat and which to avoid, and for more severe cases, suggest some mild laxatives to use that are safe during pregnancy.

7. Bleeding gums

It’s the turn of those hormones again, but this time they’re causing your gums to be more vulnerable to plaque, which can lead to inflammation and bleeding. But before you practice smiling with your mouth closed, take a visit to your pharmacist who will be able to help by suggesting you replace your toothbrush with a small-headed one with soft bristles. If that doesn’t work, remember dentist visits are free during pregnancy with your maternity exemption card so make the most of it and book an appointment.

8. Incontinence

You’re having a good laugh with your friends when suddenly your knickers are wet and you have to make a quick dash to the toilet. No, your waters haven’t broken, it’s just your bladder having a ‘moment’. Incontinence during and after pregnancy is very common and is caused by your pelvic floor muscles relaxing slightly to prepare for the baby’s delivery. Your pharmacist will be able to suggest some pads to wear to soak up any leakages that will leave you feeling more comfortable and confident.