Pregnancy is not an illness. And I have in no way had a bad time of it so far. And the following is not a list of complaints. But all the same, as an otherwise healthy human being, I do feel I like I have been given a crash course on the physical symptoms I see in my patients on a daily basis at work.
1. Shortness of breath
Walking up a flight of stairs with one shopping bag is enough to leave me panting for breath. Having a belly push up on your diaphragm apparently makes a huge difference to your performance level. Which makes me think of every patient I have treated with central adiposity and respiratory failure (or Pickwick’s Syndrome as Charles Dickens described) with a whole new level of insight.
I will remember the feeling forever and use it as a tested example when advising my patients that losing weight is indeed good for their lung function however much they argue that every doctor says their weight is the reason for every problem.
My usual deep and treasured sleep has been replaced with one of nightly awakenings. It’s hard to know if it’s due to the hormones, to the obvious physical reasons or a newly developed tendency to mull over things.
Every website has a novel answer. It is however a great opportunity to put into use all the good tips on sleep hygiene I have lectured patients on, but also to foster a heightened sense of empathy for all those who suffer from insomnia.
3. Chest pain
I’m not one to panic easily, but chest pain is normally a symptom which causes worry. One night spent on-call in an average accident and emergency unit is usually enough to see a handful of patients with chest pain, most who don’t have a serious underlying cause and many where no definite reason can be found at all.
After a little bit of googling, I have come to the acceptable conclusion that my pain arises from the baby’s head jutting against my ribs. And ouch, it can hurt. Once again, I have a new regard for my patients with chest infections, post-chest surgery and the like who report a similar symptom.
Confront a doctor with the phrase ‚I’m tired all the time‘ and you will invariably be categorised into the ‚heartsink‘ category. There are many tests to perform on a patient who reports this symptom, but sometimes no real reason is found. Almost all our lung cancer patients experience lethargy due to the underlying cancer or the the therapy they receive. And there is no simple way to treat it. After weeks of feeling tired, it’s hard to explain to others how crippling tiredness can be and and how not like yourself you feel. And even if there is no remedy for patients, it deserves to be addressed and taken seriously when complained of by patients.
I fear this list will only grow as the weeks roll on. And while I still regard my growing bump with a sense of awe and contentment, I am looking forward to the day where I can rely on my body again to get on with things without a fuss.