Ways to Cope with Pregnancy Discomforts: Part One
When you’re expecting, it can be exhausting when thinking of all the things that you need to get done during the week since you’re now experiencing some new pregnancy discomforts. (Even when you’re not pregnant, it can be a lot when thinking of the new work week.) While pregnancy is one of the most exciting and best times in a woman’s life, growing a tiny human is a lot on the body to handle. It causes women to experience many different types of discomforts. I’ve had many of my clients ask me several times about ways to cope with pregnancy discomforts so I thought this would be the perfect time to go over some of them and the things that you can do to find relief. Again, this is a special time so I want you to be able to enjoy it. Since there are MANY different pregnancy discomforts, this will be a series so keep reading! 😉 Here we go!
Backaches are so common during pregnancy because of the increased weight you’re carrying. Neck and shoulder aches are also normal and can be due to tension and/or the increased weight of your growing breasts. Many women experience lower back pain that can extend or shoot down one side of your back, butt, and into one leg. This is known as sciatica, caused when the baby’s head compresses the sciatic nerve. Here are some tips that will help to relieve the discomfort of backaches or avoid them altogether:
- Drive comfortably – Move your car seat forward to keep your knees bent and higher than your hips. Use a small pillow to support your lower back area.
- Lift correctly – It’s important to remember to bend at the knees, not at the waist, and lift with your arms and legs, which will take the stress off your back.
- Limit your standing – Try not to stand in one place or one position for too long. If your job requires long periods of standing, keep one foot on a raised surface, such as a step or a box, to prevent your lower back from curving inward. If you are experiencing some back pain when standing at a table, lean forward with your knees slightly bent, and support your weight with your hands or elbows.
- Use ice or a cold pack – Place a bag with ice, wrapped in a towel, against the small of your back when you’re sitting down.
- Elevate your feet – When seated, prop up your feet with a footstool, stack of files/books, pillows, trash can, or anything else available.
- Stretch daily – This is a must-do during pregnancy. When you’re at work, try setting the clock on your phone or computer to beep at you every thirty minutes to remind you to get up and stretch.
- Avoid wearing high heels – I love heels just as much as the next girly girl, but if you’re experiencing chronic back pain, trade in those heels for some lower ones. It will really help your back. It’s time to wear sturdy shoes with a heel no higher than one inch. Save those higher heels for special meetings, date nights, and place thin, foam rubber inserts in the toes to reduce pressure.
- Wear a maternity belt – A wide, soft, supportive elastic band that wraps around your lower back and under your belly can take over part of the job of tired, stretched abdominal and back muscles as it cradles the weight of your growing belly.
- Improve your posture – Try to keep your shoulders and hips in line as you walk, and keep your back straight by tucking a pillow behind you when you’re seated.
More than 70% of pregnant women experience some excess fluid accumulation in their feet, legs, face, and hands. This condition is related to hormone buildup in your system, which results in the kidneys collecting more water and salt than normal. If your job keeps you walking a lot and on your feet, you are also more likely to experience edema.
If you experience sudden, extreme swelling, you should immediately alert your physician. This could be a warning sign of preeclampsia or toxemia. It is a lot more commmon to experience edema in your legs and feet during your third trimester, but if you have swelling in your face and/or hands or experience these symptoms earlier in your pregnancy, contact your care provider. Mild swelling, which is considered normal and beneficial, can be relieved by these methods:
- Raise your legs – Prop up your legs on anything available: a footstool, astack of papers, books, or a box. Also, elevate your feet and hands above your heart to reduce swelling by gravity. If possible, lie down during the day on your left (heart) side, not on your back. This position prevents your uterus from compressing major arteries and let your system reabsorb the fluid. Also try walking around the block on your lunch hour.
- Soak your feet – Tired, burning feet should be soaked at the end of a workday. If you can treat yourself to a pedicure every now and then, even better! Also, throughout the day, rotate your ankles to help with circulation and reduce swelling.
- Keep water with you – Consuming extra water will help to draw fluid from puffy tissues back into your bloodstream to be excreted by your kidneys later. Have a glass or a bottled water nearby throughout the day.
- Wear loose clothing – Although you always want to look well dressed at work and in everyday life, choose looser clothes for maternity wear.
- Watch your diet – I know that you want to indulge in some sweets and treats, but stay away from fatty foods. You want to eat plenty of protein and cut down on salt, which causes fluid retention.
As I’ve said before, it takes a lot of work to grow a baby. You are more than likely feeling extreme fatigue. This is normal. By the second trimester, your body will probably have adjusted, and you may feel a burst of energy. By the third trimester, however, you may feel exhausted again and need more rest. There’s no cure for this. Your body is going through a lot so it is just reflecting the strains being put on it. These are things you can do to help fight your daytime fatigue:
- Go to bed early – Never mind the undone chores you see all around you at home. This is the time to catch up on rest since you and your baby are growing daily. You need the rest!
- Try to reduce worrying – Making an effort not to worry about work and home concerns can relieve the tension that builds up during the day. Go for a walk, get some exercise, and get some fresh air.
- Delegate responsibilities – At work, if you’re in a position to delegate responsibility when the pressure becomes too great, do so. Most coworkers will understand and will want to help, so don’t feel guilty about doing it. At home, ask your partner, family, and friends for help. They, too, want you and baby to do well and be stress free.
- Learn your daily rhythms of alertness and fatigue – Do your strenuous or creative work during alert times; rest during tired periods. If you can, take a quick nap during your lunch hour. If possible, ask your employer to reduce your hours temporarily if you just can’t keep up near the end of your term. It never hurts to ask.
- Combat anemia – Many women have anemia and it can result in tiredness, weakness, and fainting. You will need to add more iron-rich foods to your diet, such as lentils and green leafy vegetables. Doctor-recommended iron tablets can help as well.
Headaches are extremely common during pregnancy. They may be caused by hormonal changes, which you have little control over. But you may alleviate the problem by doing these:
- Rest – Sit in a dark, quiet room with your eyes closed. Try meditation, yoga, or other relaxation techniques until it passes.
- Hydrate – Headaches are commonly caused by dehydration. This is yet another reason why having water throughout the day is important.
- Breathe fresh air – Avoid stuffy, over-crowded, smoke-filled rooms. Step outside, if possible, for a breath of clear air.
- Eat regularly – Little or no food over a long period of time can cause your blood sugar level to drop. Eat small meals/snacks throughout the day. Excessive caffeine can also cause headaches as well. Limit your intake if your headaches continue to persist.
- Try to reduce stress – Whenever possible, avoid unnecessary stressful situations and find ways to control the stress you cannot avoid. I know that this is easier said than done, but talk to the people around you to help limit your stress.
- Take calcium – Calcium tends to quiet your nerves and ease a headache. If the headaches are regular, take up to four 450-milligram calcium tablets a day. (Consult your care provider first.) If you suddenly develop a severe headache, call your doctor. It could indicate the onset of toxemia.
- Cut down on your salt intake – Especially during pregnancy, too much salt can cause headaches and high blood pressure.
- Use cold compresses – Place a cold, moist cloth on your forehead or on the back of your neck. Add a few drops of essential oil of lavender on your washcloth to help with relaxation.
- Use liniments – Rub peppermint oil, Tiger Balm, or white flower oil into your temples, or drink peppermint tea.
- Take non-aspirin pain relievers – If other methods are not working, Tylenol might help. With any antibiotics, get your doctor’s approval first.
Alright, ladies! I hope this list of ways to cope with some of the common pregnancy discomforts helps!