Dr Bernadette Carr answers your questions on pregnancy and brittle nails

I am five months pregnant and have recently started hiccupping after meals, sometimes for up to 20 minutes. Why is this happening and should I be worried?

Hiccuping can be a very common symptom in pregnancy. It can begin at any stage of pregnancy and continue throughout your pregnancy occurring in every trimester. A hiccup happens when the diaphragm contracts suddenly at the same time as a contraction of the larynx (voice box) in the throat, rhythmic contractions will occur causing discomfort and a characteristic hiccup noise.

A number of different things may cause hiccupping during your pregnancy, however hiccups alone are rarely a cause for any concern.

Indigestion may be one reason why you are experiencing hiccups, with certain foods exacerbating symptoms more than others. Many women will experience heartburn and digestive issues as the baby grows. Most often this can be relieved by paying attention to your diet and sleeping position and the use of antacid medications following discussion with your doctor during your pregnancy appointments.

Normal changes to the amount of air your body will take in during pregnancy may also be a cause of hiccups. Your body’s oxygen requirements will increase as your pregnancy progresses and an increased rate of breathing, which is normal over the course of pregnancy may also contribute to pregnancy hiccups.

There are a number of different and simple remedies which you can try to help relieve your symptoms but most hiccups will pass on their own after a short time. Drinking water in short sips may help as can breathing exercises such as inhaling a deep breath, holding for a short while and then letting out the breath slowly. Breathing normally into closed cupped hands for a short while may also help to relieve symptoms.

It is a good idea to discuss your symptoms with your doctor at your routine antenatal appointments, however hiccups in pregnancy are a very common symptom and are generally harmless.

I’ve noticed my nails have developed vertical ridges and are very brittle. What can I do?

Dr Bernadette Carr answers your questions on pregnancy and brittle nails

Vertical ridges or raised lines which run along the nail from the tip to the nail bed occur in many people for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it can be due to trauma to the nail and in some cases these ridges run in families. But ageing is the the most common reason for nail ridges.

A series of vertical ridges are most often entirely normal.

Nail ridges running horizontally or across the nail are more commonly the result of an underlying medical conditions or periods of infection, so it is a good idea to consult your doctor if this is what you have experienced.

Brittle nails which break and crack easily may also be associated with the normal ageing process. If you frequently expose your hands to the elements or frequently wash your hands, or have them exposed to chemicals or cleaning products, the nails may also become more brittle and weak.

Nails are also more brittle when wet. Fungal nail infections and athlete’s foot may also contribute to brittle weak nails, with raised, discoloured, flaky nails. In this case, painting the nails with medicated lacquer or creams may be helpful in curing the issue. Wearing gloves and keeping hands well moisturised may help improve overall nail condition.

Sometimes brittle nails may be a sign of an underlying vitamin deficiency, however this is not the most common cause. It is important to ensure a good quality diet with adequate levels of vitamin B, D, E and the minerals iron and zinc especially to help with healthy nail growth. It should be possible to get adequate levels of these in your diet but if you need a boost, it’s a good idea to discuss over-the-counter supplements with your pharmacist or doctor.


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