Four months into my first pregnancy my backaches grew unbearable. At six months, I began getting heartburn like you wouldn’t believe. And in the final trimester, leg cramps kept me up late at night. Unfortunately, the only response I got to my complaints from my doctor was “That’s very common for pregnant women.” I knew they were common, I’d read about them all, but I wanted my aches and pains gone! Fortunately, I did some more research and learned how to alleviate (but not eliminate) many of my problems. These discomforts may be common, but they don’t have to be overly disruptive. There are a few simple things you can do to help reduce your aches and pains during the next nine months. They may never fully go away but these tips and tricks may help you feel better. After all, isn’t pregnancy supposed to be a happy time?
To combat a variety of problems, exercise daily is a must! As you’ll see below, walking or another form of low-impact exercise can help relieve a wide variety of common discomforts.
The techniques outlined should not be considered medical advice, and if you have persistent or worsening problems, please contact your health care provider.
*Nausea and Vomiting-These are probably the most common symptoms associated with pregnancy. The increased hormones in your blood cause nausea and vomiting. If you are a victim of morning sickness, try eating dry toast or a cracker a half an hour before getting out of bed in the morning. Get out of bed slowly and avoid sudden movements. Try drinking fluids between meals instead of with meals. If you feel especially sick, sipping peppermint tea may help settle your stomach. Eating bland foods and small, frequent meals will also help.
*Gas-One of the more embarrassing discomforts of pregnancy is an increase in gas. This results from slower movements of the intestines and increasing pressure of your baby on your bowels. Eating small, frequent meals can help. Try to avoid the most common gas producing foods (fried foods, beans and peas). Just like with other ailments, exercise can help reduce gas so make walking a part of your day.
*Constipation-Again, the slower moving bowels and the pressure from your baby are to blame for this common problem. If you drink 8 to 10 glasses of water a day and eat a fiber rich diet (including whole wheat products, fresh fruits and fresh vegetables) you can avoid constipation. Exercise is also helpful with this problem. Most importantly, use the restroom when you need to and don’t put it off.
*Heartburn-Drinking 8 to 10 glasses of water helps with heartburn too! Small meals can help as well as avoiding spicy and fried foods. If heartburn keeps you up at night, then sleep propped up with pillows or try lying on your right side. Sipping peppermint tea after a meal can also help relieve your pain.
*Backache-As your center of gravity changes and you start to gain weight, your back may begin to bear the brunt of the work. To help reduce your back pain, take your mother’s advice about your posture. Sit and stand with your head up and shoulders held back. You shouldn’t be doing any heavy lifting, but if you need to pick something up from the floor bend at the knees and keep your back straight. Sitting in a tub of warm water can relax your back muscles after a long day, or if he’s willing, have your husband give you a backrub.
*Headaches-These can be caused by some combination of the following: an increase in hormones in your blood, tiredness and/or stress. To prevent headaches, never go too long without a meal. Eating small, frequent meals throughout the day will keep your blood sugar up. Avoid eyestrain, bright lights and cigarette smoke (which you should be avoiding anyway). Try to get enough rest by taking naps during the day if you can. Also, make sure to sleep at least 8 hours a night.
When you do have a headache, instead of reaching for drugs that could be potentially dangerous to your baby, find a quiet place to relax. A cool, damp cloth on your face and the back of your neck can help reduce the pain. You can also massage your forehead and shoulders. If you have the means, a warm bath will also help headaches.
*Breast tenderness-Your increasing bosom may become tender and more sensitive throughout your pregnancy. Wearing a well-fitting bra, both day and night, can help. Some women find sports bras serve this purpose very nicely.
*Leg cramps-As the months pass and your baby grows there is less blood flow to your legs. Leg cramps are a common result. A lack of calcium, reduced exercise and tiredness can also contribute to leg cramps. Make sure to incorporate enough calcium in your diet with a variety of dairy products. You should also do some form of exercise everyday. Avoid pointing your toes when you sleep at night, or when sitting at a desk or table. Keeping your legs warm can also help avoid cramps.
When you experience a cramp, pull your toes upward, and stretch the calf muscle. You can also stand on the cramped leg and bend your knee while keeping your heel on the floor. Any residual pain can be lessened with a warm bath or heating pad.
*Hemorrhoids-Again, increased pressure from your growing baby is to blame. Prevent hemorrhoids by preventing constipation. When you have bowel movements, relax and do not strain. If you already have hemorrhoids, sitting in a tub of warm water can help relieve the discomfort, as can applying ice packs to the area. If they get worse, or bleed, call your health care provider.
*Frequent Urination-It’s getting crowded in your abdomen, which means less space for your bladder. Unfortunately, this is just one of the things we have to accept when we’re pregnant. Don’t hold it! Even if you have to go more than you think you should, you need to follow your body’s signals.
*Edema-This term refers to the swelling of your feet, ankles or fingers and is caused the pressure your baby puts on your blood vessels. Eating a protein rich diet can help relieve the symptoms, as can drinking 8 to 10 glasses of water a day. Avoid standing for long periods of time and wear comfortable clothes (especially socks). Walking everyday is also a good preventative measure for edema.
*Varicose Veins-These enlarged leg veins result from the slowing of circulation to your legs that happens as the baby grows. Elevate your legs whenever possible, and avoid crossing your legs. Exercise daily can also reduce the pain of varicose veins.
Taking care of yourself, and your baby, is your top priority during this time in your life. Following a few simple steps can make a world of difference in how you feel during the next nine months, and beyond.