Pregnancy is a natural state and one that is different for every woman every time. You never know exactly what aches and pains you may or may not experience, but it does help to be prepared by knowing what changes your body will likely go through.
Your entire system is readjusted when you are pregnant. The heart pumps more blood and the lungs work more efficiently, as does the digestive system. With these and more changes occurring, it is no wonder that pregnancy can be uncomfortable at times. Minor aches and pains can be dealt with; however, you should never ignore pain or extreme fatigue, which can be warning signs of trouble. Always consult your Lead Maternity Carer or Doctor if concerned.
Natural Solutions to Common Aches & Pains:
Here are some useful natural solutions to common pregnancy aches and pains:
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a common remedy for morning sickness. It has been used for centuries in cooking and medicinally. Try herbal teas containing ginger or make your own ginger tea using fresh ginger, lemon and honey with hot water. Also keep crystallised ginger in your bag for those times when you are away from the house.
Peppermint Essential Oil - The aroma of peppermint can help a queasy stomach. Fill a large bowl with hot water. Place two drops of peppermint essential oil in the bowl and place it on a table near your bed. Make sure it is in a safe area so there is no risk of it being knocked over. Or use an aromatherapy diffuser, which can be purchased at some health food stores.
Food – Eat little and often. Always have on hand, (in your bag, on your desk and in your car), a supply of crackers, fruit, nuts and other healthy snacks. Try not to allow yourself to get hungry and do not skip meals. Avoid hot, spicy foods. You may prefer cold meals to hot meals. Try and eat some crackers or toast before getting out of bed in the morning.
Rest – Tiredness plays a big part in morning sickness so take naps and go to bed early whenever you can.
Heightened Sense of Smell - Many women have a heightened sense of smell during pregnancy and certain smells can cause nausea. Try to open windows to let in fresh air, avoid hot places and carry a hanky in your pocket which has a dash of essential oil on it (eg lemon oil). If you can’t avoid an offensive smell, hold the hanky to your nose!
Other Natural Remedies – You could try: Preggie Pops, Queasy Drops, Sea-bands, Morning Med by Naturo Pharm or Blackmores Morning Sickness Formula.
Heart Burn & Indigestion
Avoid high fat and spicy foods and avoid eating close to bedtime as indigestion and heartburn can be worse when lying down. It is also a good idea to eat less more often and avoid large meals. If you are having a bad night, prop yourself up in bed with some extra pillows.
Try combining a teaspoon of lemon juice, a teaspoon of ginger juice and two teaspoons of honey with hot water and sip throughout the day or add one tablespoon of lemon juice to a cup of warm water and consume before meals. For quick relief from indigestion you can combine equal quantities of baking soda and water and drink. This works in a similar way to ‘over-the-counter’ remedies such as ‘Quickies’.
Try these tips for keeping leg cramps at bay:
- Avoid standing or sitting with your legs crossed for long periods of time.
- Stretch your calf muscles regularly during the day and several times before you go to bed.
- Rotate your ankles and wiggle your toes when you sit, eat dinner, or watch TV.
- Take a walk every day, unless your midwife or doctor has advised you not to exercise.
- Avoid getting too tired. Lie down on your left side to improve circulation to and from your legs.
- Stay hydrated during the day by drinking water regularly.
- Try a warm bath before bed to relax your muscles.
There’s some evidence that taking a magnesium supplement in addition to a prenatal vitamin may help some women. Check with your Lead Maternity Provider before taking any kind of supplement during pregnancy.
If you do get a cramp, immediately stretch your calf muscles: Straighten your leg, heel first, and gently flex your toes back toward your shins. It might hurt at first, but it will ease the spasm and the pain will gradually go away. You can try to relax the cramp by massaging the muscle or warming it with a hot water bottle. Walking around for a few minutes may help too.
Just when sleep becomes invaluable to a woman, pregnancy can entail many long nights of tossing and turning. Many women are plagued with sleeplessness during pregnancy. There are several factors at play that cause this frustrating affliction; frequent toilet trips, increased heart rate, shortness of breath, vivid dreams and aches and pains.
Tips to help you sleep:
- Avoid drinking lots of fluids a few hours before bedtime and avoid coffee and other caffeine
- Exercise early in the day, never before bed time
- Wind down your day with relaxation techniques (yoga, breathing exercises, listening to soft music)
- Try to keep your head clear of anxiety – read a book or do a crossword before switching off the light
- Associate the bed with sleeping, not with eating food, finishing work or watching TV
- Drink some warm milk and have a light snack before going to bed
- Correct your Sleeping Position – Start sleeping on your side early on in your pregnancy. Sleeping on your stomach or back is advised against, as it can be extremely uncomfortable for you.
- Take a warm bath or shower before bed
Pregnancy Pillows: The most common sleep aid is the pregnancy pillow. A pregnant woman will want to support herself under her abdomen, between her legs, under her head, neck and shoulders and behind the back. There are now many pregnancy pillows specially designed to give you all this support in one pillow.
A hypoallergenic full body pillow will ensure healthier blood circulation and help you find a comfortable and relaxing sleep position. It also gently cradles your tummy and allows for maximum flow of oxygen and nutrients to the placenta while minimizing the swelling of ankles, hands and feet. The pillow can also be used for breastfeeding and back support once you have had your baby.
Haemorrhoids are unpleasant but a common side effect of pregnancy. The extra blood pumping around your pregnant body, coupled with the extra weight you are carrying, can cause veins around your rectum area to swell and dilate, and become painful or uncomfortable.
Avoid constipation by keeping up fluids and eating a high-fibre diet. Try adding foods to your diet such as seeds, leafy greens, psyllium husks, chia seeds, kiwifruit, prune juice, brown rice, potatoes with skins on and plenty of whole foods and fruits. Straining to pass motions is a major cause of haemorrhoids – and, alas, constipation is another extremely common pregnancy ailment.
You may want to sleep on your side to reduce pressure on the blood vessels in your pelvis, preventing the haemorrhoids from getting bigger. Also try this natural treatment if you’re experiencing discomfort – soak a large wad of cotton wool in witchhazel and apply to your rectal area. Warm salt baths are also helpful.
Pregnant women may be prone to anxiety because of the hormonal changes taking place in their body. Here are some natural remedies to help you overcome anxiety during pregnancy:
Exercise every day – 30 to 40 minutes of moderate exercise a day helps relieve anxiety. Start slowly, if you are not exercising already, then work your way up to 30 minutes. Then gradually expand your exercise time to 40-60 minutes. Walking is the easiest exercise to work into your daily activities. Check with your Lead Maternity Carer prior to beginning.
Stay away from TV news, radio news, talk shows and the newspaper – Bad news can jump-start feelings of anxiety. You don’t have to swear off current events forever. But while you are pregnant and having trouble with anxiety, take a break from anxiety-causing information.
Get out of the house – Talk to friends and to other people. Even a quick trip to meet a friend for lunch or visit to a relative can take your mind off your anxiety. Check out the internet or library for pregnancy yoga, swimming, antenatal classes etc in your area. Don’t isolate yourself. Isolation leads to depression and increases the chance of anxious thoughts.
Get a massage – A massage will relax all your tense muscles. Use the time on the table to let your worries go. Stop thinking about the small stuff. Tell yourself it will take care of itself, and tomorrow it will mean nothing.
Drink green or chamomile tea – Both are said to be helpful in relieving anxiety.
Try aromatherapy – Buy essential oils or candles in cypress, jasmine, rose or lavender scents. Burn the candles or put the essential oils in a scent diffuser and breathe deeply. Lavender is especially soothing and good for insomnia. Check with your LMC before using aromatherapy oils.
Meditate every day – If you have a hard time sitting still and clearing your mind, set a small goal of meditating for 5 minutes in the morning or at lunchtime. Sit in a quiet place. Set the timer for 5 minutes. Breathe in and out through your nose. Focus on your breath feeling cool as it moves in through your nostrils. Feel it moving through your sinuses and moving back out through your nose, warmer than before. Try to keep your mind clear of all thoughts. Focus only on your breath and your nose. If you find yourself thinking about something, return to your breath and your nose. When the timer sounds, take a few deep breaths and then get up and continue with your day.
Stop and breathe deeply several times a day – Take a break during the day and breathe deeply for at least five breaths. If you are anxious, you may tend to hold your breath or breathe shallowly. This will help break the pattern.
Ask your Lead Maternity Carer if it is okay to take herbal remedies. Valerian will help you sleep, and it is effective for treating mild anxiety. Kava, ashwangandha and bugleweed are other herbs that have been used as anti-anxiety treatments.
Seek help from a counsellor or therapist. Sometimes talking to a professional is extremely helpful. Get recommendations from your doctor, your Lead Maternity Carer or your friends.
Exercise during pregnancy is a wonderful way to cope with aches and pain, relax and prepare for the birth of your child. Always consult your Lead Maternity Carer to discuss your exercise programme and never overexert yourself.
The Practice of Yoga can help you prepare your mind and body for labour and birth. Yoga helps you focus, concentrate and keep healthy. The Yoga Postures are gentle ways of keeping your body active and supple and minimize common pregnancy symptoms like morning sickness and constipation. It can also help in ensuring easier labour and smooth delivery by relieving tension around the cervix and birth canal and by opening the pelvis. Breathing techniques can also become handy during labour.
Yoga also helps in restoring your body shape, uterus, abdomen, and pelvic floor, and in relieving upper back tension and breast discomfort after childbirth. Special care, however, is needed in choosing the Yoga Poses that you will practice, you should avoid poses that requires laying on the back or belly.
For the first trimester, standing Yoga Poses are advised as this will help strengthen the legs, promote circulation, generate energy, and may reduce leg cramps. It is also advisable to do some stretching such as the hamstrings stretch to avoid sciatica.
During the second and third trimester, you may reduce your time spent for practicing the Asanas to prevent fatigue and overwork. It is also not advised to practice from the tenth through to the fourteenth week of pregnancy since these are crucial times. Supine poses, backbends, and twisting can also be done with modification or if the body is on an incline. Do not overstretch the abdomen; the emphasis of your twisting poses should be on the shoulders and the upper back and not on the abdomen. Avoid doing inversion poses though some experienced Yoga practitioners usually still feel comfortable doing this until the seventh month.
Meditation brings with it an incredible awareness which works at a very subtle level. Meditation can help you explore your inner self; establish a connection with your baby and allows you to find peace in the moment. For therapeutic purposes, meditation can help to resolve the deepest of neuroses, fears and conflicts which are a major cause for stress and ill-health.
Mantra Japa meditation is a very effective form of meditation where a certain sound is repeated a number of times to have a remarkably soothing and subtle impact on your consciousness. It has an extremely positive effect on your senses and your growing baby.
Mantra literally means “that which liberates the mind”. Ancient yogis discovered certain ways of developing and controlling the mind by using sounds, both aloud as well as mental. You can find your own mantra.
The good news is that learning how to meditate is not as difficult as it might seem. And once you get the hang of it, it becomes increasingly easier. So here are some meditation techniques for beginners that should help get you well on your way towards better spiritual health.
Find a comfortable space
Although practiced meditators are able to focus in any space or circumstance, this can be the most difficult task for beginners. To make things easier, it is important to find a space in which you feel comfortable. As much as possible, this space should be free of any distractions such as television, telephone, computers, etc. It should also not be a place associated with work, such as a home office. If it’s warm enough, the outdoors can be the perfect spot to meditate.
Depending on how far along you are in your pregnancy, you may find it more comfortable to begin meditating while lying down on your side.
You may find this suggestion a tad obvious, but learning how to focus on your breathing is actually the first step of meditation. To warm up, simply close your eyes and take in a few deep breathes. Once you’re feeling more relaxed, begin to slowly breathe out through your nose while focusing on the movement of your belly as you inhale and exhale.
You may have heard people making noises while they do this, as this can be an effective way to better focus your attention. Some experts recommend the “so hum” technique. Breathe in with “so” and out with “hum”. You will able to hold your breaths for longer periods of time as your body gets better accustomed.
Stay on Task
Don’t be discouraged if you find it difficult to reign in your thoughts. This is your mind’s natural reaction to the sudden change of pace. You simply need to give it time to adjust. However, there are ways of keeping your mind on task. To do this, try counting from one to ten, saying each number out loud as you exhale. Eventually, you will get the hang of it, and be well on your way to a healthier – and more spiritual – pregnancy.
Nutrition & Hydration
Excellent nutrition and hydration are critical to a successful pregnancy. You should be eating plenty of whole foods including fresh fruit and vegetables for nutrients, good quality dairy and protein, unprocessed carbohydrates, natural grains, iron-rich foods and good fats. Throughout your pregnancy drink plenty of water and herbal teas. Avoid caffeinated drinks, sodas and alcohol.
It is very important that women increase their intake of iron during a pregnancy. Anemia in pregnancy is a very real problem affecting millions of women each year. Luckily, you can fight off anaemia with iron-rich foods and iron absorption enhances which help your body absorb the iron from foods.
- Lean meat, fish and chicken
- Cooked beans, peas and lentils
- Pumpkin, sesame & sunflower seeds
- Baked potatoes (with skin on)
- Good quality cereals & wholegrains (eg bran flakes, multigrain breads)
- Almonds, cashews & sunflower seeds
- Dark green leafy vegetables
- Dried fruits including apricots, raisins, figs and prunes
Iron Absorption Enhancers:
- Fruits: Orange, Orange Juice, melon, strawberries, grapefruit, apricots
- Vegetables: Broccoli, brussel sprouts, tomatoes, tomato juice, potatoes, beetroot, green & red peppers, mint & parsley, bok choy, spinach
Foods to Avoid
There are certain foods to avoid during pregnancy due to the risk of food poisoning. Foods to avoid include:
- Under-cooked and cold meats
- Mould-ripened goats cheese (eg brie or camembert, and blue-veined cheeses such as stilton)
- Pre-cooked food (i.e food kept warm in a bain marie)
- Unpasteurised or UHT milk
- Under-cooked and raw eggs
- Liver or liver products
- Sushi (unless it is freshly-made)
- Bakery filled rolls (eg ham salad bread roll)
- Pre-made salads
Keeping yourself well hydrated throughout your pregnancy, the birth and after labour is vital to your health and wellness. During pregnancy is the time to remember to drink plenty of water, decaffeinated drinks and herbal teas. Don’t let yourself get dehydrated leading to tiredness, morning sickness and headaches.