Ways to Cope with Pregnancy Discomforts
When you’re pregnant, each day and to-do list can feel extremely long . . . especially if you’re experiencing any new pregnancy discomforts. While pregnancy is one of the most exciting times in a woman’s life, it can also be overwhelming and uncomfortable. Your body is doing so much work to grow that sweet baby of yours. With your body rapidly changing to nurture yourself and your child, pregnancy can cause many women to experience various types of discomforts. I know them all to well because I experienced many of them when I was pregnant too! Many of my expecting clients have asked me about ways to cope with pregnancy discomforts so I thought I would share my tips with all of you! Here’s to hoping that these tips give you the relief that you’re looking for and that they make this special time more enjoyable for you.
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 doctor. This could be a warning sign of preeclampsia or toxemia. It is a lot more common 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, a stack 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 lets your system reabsorb the fluid. Also try walking around the block during 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 responsibilities 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 fresh 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.
Heartburn & Indigestion
Thankfully, the heart has nothing to do with this problem. Heartburn involves regurgitation of stomach acid back into the throat or esophagus. It’s a mild form of indigestion that, once again, is caused by your hormonal changes. A lot of expecting women experience this pregnancy discomfort and it is definitely no fun. You may experience a burning sensation in your upper abdomen or lower chest, a bitter taste in your mouth, and some burping. If you are, here are ways to relieve this problem:
- Eliminate certain foods – Stop drinking citrus fruit juices or beverages made from them. Eliminate rich, greasy, and spicy foods from your diet. (I know, no fun.) Instead, have snacks, such as yogurt and honey, papaya, apples, or toast. Also stay away from caffeine-filled drinks.
- Eat small amounts regularly rather than a few big meals – Avoid eating too much, too quickly.
- Drink water – A glass of water will wash away the acid. Then drink a little milk, buttermilk, or cream to coat your stomach. Or try some peppermint tea.
- Chew gum – Chew a stick of gum after meals or sip a carbonated drink.
- Try a tablespoon of honey in a glass of warm milk.
- Use antacids – Ask your physician about using Maalox or some type of antacid to relieve the discomfort. These are products you can keep in your purse, desk drawer and use whenever necessary. Note: Liquid antacids are more effective than tablets.
- Change your position – Try sitting or standing. Avoid lying down; it may only worsen the condition. Sleep propped up with extra pillows – an elevated head may help.
- Remain upright after eating.
- Try some herbal and homeopathic remedies.
Constipation and straining to move your bowels may cause hemorrhoids (varicose veins of the rectum caused by pressure). Super sexy, I know. While hemorrhoids are a common pregnancy discomfort for many women, they do shrink after delivery. If they cause you pain, try the following aids:
- If you sit for long hours, use a pillow or a rubber doughnut-shaped cushion to relieve the discomfort. Apply ice packs or pads soaked in witch hazel with a few drops of lavender. Drugstores sell Tucks, which works well too.
- If you stand for long hours at work, take sitting breaks whenever your supervisor gives you the okay.
Muscle cramps in the back, groin, and legs (common in the calves) caused by slow blood circulation and pressure on certain nerves are common occurrences. If you cramp up, give these ideas a try:
- Change your position by sitting in another position for a few minutes.
- If you’re standing when the cramp occurs, keep your weight evenly distributed and flex your knees. Avoid pointing your toes. Instead, bring your toes upward, pushing out your heel.
- Place a hot-water bag or heating pad directly on the cramped muscle.
- Drink lots of fluids. Place two tablespoons of honey in a glass of warm water to help your muscles relax.
- Wear support hose to help relieve leg cramps. A well-fitting maternity girdle and low-heeled shoes will relieve the strain on your muscles as well.
Nausea, Vomiting, & Morning Sickness
Many women suffer from this pregnancy discomfort. Occasional nausea is common because of the pressure on organs and the high levels of estrogen in the body, especially in early pregnancy. If you are prone to vomiting, keep towels, a trashcan, and mouthwash or breath mints nearby, and figure out the quickest way to the bathroom. If you are driving, have a big bottle of ice water handy and drive with the window down or with cool air on your face. Also, keep plastic grocery bags ready just incase you can’t make it out of the car.
For more tips on morning sickness, read my post about things that you can do to fend off nausea.
The tiny blood vessels of the nose become more congested during pregnancy and break open easily. That’s why nosebleeds are so common. Dry air tends to worsen the problem. You might try these techniques:
- Apply pressure – Lean your head forward and apply pressure to the bridge of your nose with your fingers for at least four minutes. Keep tissues handy to protect your clothing.
- Try Vaseline – Apply Vaseline with a cotton-tip swab to each nostril to stop the bleeding.
- Use a spray – If your nose feels uncomfortably full after a nosebleed, mix ½ teaspoon of salt with ½ cup of warm water, and spray each nostril with the mixture. You could also use a Saline spray.
Did you know that your basal metabolic rate (the rate at which you expend energy) increases by 20% during pregnancy? It does! This then causes your glands to work overtime and the blood flow to your skin to increase. This is why you’re more likely to feel uncomfortable in both warm weather and cold weather. It takes a little extra effort to keep yourself cool, so try to do the following:
- Bathe daily – A daily bath is a must during pregnancy and also helps you keep relaxed.
- Use a good antiperspirant – This is an obvious one.
- Dress in layers – As the office gets warmer, you can remove a layer at a time until you’re down to a light blouse.
- Keep tissues nearby – Sometimes sweaty palms make it difficult to work. A box of tissues, a handkerchief, or even a towel are handy things to keep conveniently nearby.
- Wear foot pads – If your feet become less tolerant to heat, use foot pads to keep perspiration under control.
- Keep a fan with you – Have one in your office, at your workstation, or even a portable one in your purse.
- Schedule your time – Try not to be outside between 11am and 3pm when the sun is at its strongest.
- Try not to accept work assignments that could take too much of a physical toll – An all-day business conference is draining enough under any circumstances, but for mothers-to-be, such an event can be downright exhausting.
You may be noticing as your pregnancy progresses that your bladder is filling up more quickly and you’re having to go to the bathroom more frequently. This is a very common pregnancy discomfort. Your uterus is placing more and more pressure on your bladder as your baby grows so that is part of the problem. But, not only that, you’re drinking more water to relieve constipation, dehydration, and possibly to treat a urinary-tract infection. To be on the safe side, do the following:
- Empty your bladder frequently throughout the day – You may have to explain to your boss that you will be needing more frequent bathroom breaks.
- Wear a sanitary pad – Sometimes, nature calls before you can run out the door. Be prepared in case you can’t make it to the restroom in time. Carry an extra one in your purse as well just in case.
- Tell your doctor – Frequent urination may also be the result of an infection. If the problem increases, be sure to talk to your care provider.
When veins become weakened and enlarged because they’ve had to work harder to circulate the blood, those are called varicose veins. Heredity also plays a part in their development. Pregnant women will often develop them in their legs, and less often, in their genital area. The good thing is you can expect them to fade a good amount after birth. While you are pregnant, however, there are efforts you can make to reduce the threat, such as:
- Move around often – Walking and exercising provide the best protection against varicose veins. Elevate your legs when you’re sitting to hurry the return of blood from your legs.
- Wear support hose – Especially if you stand for long periods, wear elastic support stockings or maternity pantyhose, which you should put on while lying on your back. Also, avoid tight clothing.
- Don’t cross your legs for long periods of time.
Increased water retention and elevated hormone levels may cause vision disturbances. If you experience vision changes along with swelling in the face and hands, it usually means something more serious like toxemia. If you are not experiencing swelling in the face and hands with blurry vision, this difficulty should only be temporary. Take these precautions while waiting for it to pass:
- Cleanse contact lenses often – Cloudy contact lenses interfere with your work and life. Keep a lens-cleaning kit with you and use it whenever necessary. If contacts don’t fit as well as usual, wear glasses instead.
- Use eye drops – Ask your doctor to recommend a good brand of eye drops and use them several times during the day.
- Avoid eye strain – You may not be able to cut down on reading if your work responsibilities require it, but be sure to rest your eyes in the evening if they’ve been bothering you. This means avoid watching TV.
Alright, ladies! There you have it! These are all of the ways to cope with pregnancy discomforts. I hope these tips help. 🙂