Natural Ways To Ease Your Pregnancy Discomfort
You’ve gotten confirmation that you’re pregnant, and are waiting with excitement to meet your new arrival. What you might not be so thrilled about are the ailments that come with growing a bundle of joy.
Issues like tummy upset and aches and pains can seem more troublesome as there’s little over-the-counter medication you can take, and you need to exercise caution with herbal remedies. However, you can rest easy. Here’s our guide to easing your pregnancy discomfort naturally.
A misnomer, as it can affect you morning, noon and night, and is one of the most common complaints of pregnant women. It is thought to be caused by high levels of HCG and oestrogen flooding your body in the first trimester. The good news is that it usually settles by week 14-16 of pregnancy (but there’s the unlucky few who have to contend with it until baby is born).
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Those suffering may find relief through snacking on ginger products or sipping ginger tea – the main ingredient gingerol contains anti-inflammatory properties that neutralise stomach acids. Other tried-and-tested remedies include sniffing a cut lemon or lemon rind, drinking peppermint tea or ice cold water, chewing mint gum or munching salted crackers. Protein-rich foods like a yoghurt or milk can calm the tummy down too.
Other tips – keep hydrated and cool, and store dry crackers by your bedside so you can eat something before you get up. Eat small meals frequently and steer clear of spicy or fatty foods, and of course odours that make you gag! Some expectant mums wear Seabands on their wrists to keep nausea at bay, or swear by acupuncture.
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Making a little human being is tough work! Extreme tiredness is common in the first three months of pregnancy as the body builds the placenta, and this tends to return around the seventh month.
First things first – get some decent shut-eye. You need your sleep more than ever, so listen to your body and go to bed early, or take a cat-nap during the day if needed. If you’re having problems sleeping, make your bedroom as cool and comfortable as possible, and practice relaxation techniques like meditation or deep breathing. If you are physically uncomfortable, place a pillow between your legs and at your lower back.
And don’t be tempted to go rushing for a caffeine fix. Too much is bad for you and baby, and can be dehydrating. Sugary foods are also bad news. Eat protein and complex carbohydrates instead. Energy superfoods include oatmeal, eggs, apples, salmon, lentils, pumpkin, peanuts and hummus. Iron-rich foods like leafy greens and red meat are particularly recommended during the second trimester.
Also get moving – just ten minutes' walk a day can increase energy levels, or try some regular swimming or yoga.
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Indigestion and bloating
Extra progesterone causes the muscle at the top of the stomach that usually prevents digestive acids from backing up into the oesophagus to relax, causing that uncomfortable burn and bloat. Your stomach has less room due to your expanding uterus, and so feels fuller than normal.
It is doubtful you will escape indigestion completely during your pregnancy, but you can help avoid it by shunning triggers such as spicy and greasy foods, alcohol, caffeinated and soft drinks, tomato products, citrus juice, onion, garlic and chocolate.
Wear loose, comfortable clothing that doesn’t restrict your stomach, eat slowly and don’t gulp liquids, or lie down straight after eating. Reduce your stress levels and eat little and often.
Constipation and haemorrhoids
You can blame an increase in progesterone again for this one. It relaxes smooth muscles throughout the body, including the digestive tract, meaning that food passes through the intestines more slowly.
That’s why it’s imperative to get lots of fibre and roughage into your diet, and to stay hydrated by drinking at least eight glasses of water daily. Good sources of fibre include fruits and vegetables, flaxseeds, whole grains and beans. If you are really having problems, try a glass of good quality prune juice to get things moving, or for a more appealing option, try a kiwi fruit – they are packed with fibre.
And get moving yourself – you might find it easier to go to the bathroom following a walk.
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All down to hormones, hormones, hormones, oh and changes in blood pressure (and fatigue, hunger, dehydration and stress). Ease a pounding head by controlling your blood sugar (eat small, frequent meals throughout the day), exercising regularly, and getting enough rest. Also try applying hot or cold compresses, or having a gentle shoulder and neck massage. Some sufferers find reflexology helps.
Sinus problems or rhinitis are common during pregnancy, causing headaches or pain behind the eyes. Dairy foods like cheese, milk and yoghurt can make these symptoms worse, but speak to your doctor or midwife before cutting them out, as they provide a great source of essential calcium. Make sure your surroundings are well ventilated, and try a steaming shower or saline nose drops for relief.
Your immune system changes during these nine months, making sure your little inhabitant has all the protection that’s needed. As a result, you can become more susceptible to colds, coughs and even flu. More sure you get enough nutrition by eating a balanced diet. If you do succumb to a cold, gargling with salt can soothe a sore throat, and using a Neti pot will clear your nasal cavity of any lingering bugs. Drink comforting warm drinks like hot ginger and lemon or chicken broth, and use Vapo-rub on your chest to help you breathe a little easier. Remember – always treat a fever with paracetamol and contact your doctor if your temperature does not subside.
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Many women first develop varicose veins during pregnancy. As your uterus grows, it puts pressure on the large vein on the right side of your body (the inferior vena cava), which in turn increases pressure in the leg veins. You can help avoid them by sleeping on your left side to relieve the vein of the weight of the uterus, and improve circulation by exercising daily. Elevate your feet and legs where possible, and don’t cross your legs or ankles while sitting.
Special support tights can help, as can avoiding high heels, eating a high-fibre, low-salt diet and watching your weight.
Oh my aching back! There are a couple of reasons for this discomfort at this time, particularly in the lower back. Your added weight is mainly distributed around the belly, which causes your centre of gravity to tilt forward, and the pregnancy hormone relaxin does its bit by softening the ligaments throughout the body, causing abnormal motion. You can help yourself by maintaining good posture as much as you can – stand up straight and tall (envision an imaginary cord pulling your body up from above your head). When sitting, place a lumbar support pillow between the chair and your lower back. Enrol in a prenatal yoga class or learn a few basic yoga poses and/or stretches that you can do at home. Sleep on your side, squat and don’t bend from the waist when picking things up. Use a maternity support belt if necessary, and apply heating pads or ice packs to ease pain. Chiropractic treatment can also help to realign the body.
And the most important natural remedy? Remembering to relax and enjoy this special time when you can. These discomforts are temporary, and will be completely forgotten when you are holding your little treasure in your arms!
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"For mild headaches, I would use a 'cool n soothe' patch. If it was a very bad headache, I would go to bed with a cold compress. I tried to ensure I kept my water intake around two litres a day so I wouldn't get dehydrated as that causes headaches. I had morning sickness on all pregnancies, but the same remedy didn't work on all. Ginger ale and ginger biscuits helped on my first. Sucking lollipops helped on my second along with eating mashed potato. On my third, I used a recipe for a ginger and lemongrass tea. It was like magic.
I also suffered very bad with symphysis pubis dysfunction (pelvic pain) and had to use crutches. I wore pregnancy support underwear and used support belts too. I used to put ice packs on my pubic joint and heat packs on my lower back to ease the pain. I also had a Dream Genii pillow for bed. As the pain got so bad, I was prescribed pain relief and was eventually given a nerve block. I did aqua-natal classes and they helped a bit as the water took the weight." - Naomi Casey
Do you have other ways to ease your pregnancy discomfort? Tell us how in the comments below.