How to Cope with the Discomforts of Pregnancy
Here are some ways to help with the common discomforts of pregnancy:
Heartburn can become a real problem during pregnancy, especially in the third trimester. As the uterus increases in size to accommodate the growing baby, it applies pressure on the diaphragm from below. Also, the rise in progesterone levels throughout pregnancy relaxes the tone of the smooth muscles in the walls of the intestines. The decreased muscle tone and the increase in pressure from below can result in the contents of the stomach flowing back up the throat.
You may experience relief from heartburn in the last few weeks when the baby “drops” into your pelvis and pressure in the abdomen is reduced. The baby’s descent into the pelvic outlet is known as “lightening.”
Antacids aren’t the best way to treat heartburn as they contain bicarbonate ions that have to be eliminated by the kidneys. The more antacids you take, the harder your kidneys have to work to restore your body’s equilibrium. Instead, take liquid calcium to relieve heartburn. Calcium is a natural antacid and by using it in liquid form instead of antacids, your symptoms are relieved quickly and you increase your intake of a mineral that your body needs.
As most women already know, fluctuating hormone levels can result in moodiness. Mood swings can be especially noticeable during pregnancy, because the hormones that support pregnancy are produced in your body at much higher levels than are found in a non-pregnant state. Add the lack of quality sleep, the difficulty in moving a large belly with you everywhere and the fact that you’re peeing fifteen times a day, it’s no wonder that pregnant women can feel irritable from time to time.
If you notice that your moods seem out of control, take a break from your life to focus on you. Have a warm bubble bath, take a walk in the park, go for a massage or a pedicure, or try anything that will help you to reduce your stress levels. Take a look at your diet. Have you been eating enough quality protein? Have you been eating too much sugar or salt? Have a light protein-rich snack and drink lots of filtered water to see if it makes a difference. If that doesn’t work, take your calcium supplement drink some raspberry leaf tea and go to bed early, rest can help.
Constipation can become a concern for pregnant women, especially in the last trimester. The culprit here is the hormone progesterone that your body produces throughout pregnancy. Progesterone relaxes the muscle tone in the walls of the intestines, which slows down the process of digestion and promotes constipation. To remedy this, drink lots of filtered water and eat high fibre containing foods, especially whole grains and vegetables.
Prescribed prenatal supplements such as Materna have the type of iron that can cause constipation for some women. If your maternity supplements contain iron and you are frequently constipated, switch to a vitamin supplement from natural sources that doesn’t include iron. Then add a liquid iron supplement that doesn’t promote constipation. Vitamins from natural sources and liquid iron supplements can be found at most health food stores.
Morning Sickness or Nausea
Nausea, or morning sickness, doesn’t just happen in the morning. For those who are experiencing nausea, it isn’t comforting to know the causes aren’t exactly understood. Nausea is linked to elevated estrogen levels; however, there is a strong connection between nausea and low blood sugar levels.
Simple Things You Can Do To Help Relieve Morning Sickness or Nausea
Add protein to every meal and have protein-rich snacks between meals. Ensure that you are eating at least every three hours so that your blood sugar levels remain high.
Before bedtime have a snack high in protein.
Have soda crackers handy and eat a few before getting out of bed.
Decrease your intake of cooking oils, fried foods and spicy foods.
Take a Vitamin B supplement that includes all of the B vitamins, especially Vitamin B6. You can also eat more foods that contain Vitamin B6. Please refer to our list of foods rich in vitamin B6 on page 6, and add more of them to your diet.
Vitamin B6 injections can help to reduce nausea. Consult with your naturopath or medical doctor for more information.
Acupressure wristbands – you can find these in some health food stores and travel agencies that offer cruise vacations. They look like wristbands, but they have a plastic disk that lies against the skin on your wrist. Pressure against these points helps to relieve nausea. In one study, 71% of the pregnant women in the intervention group reported both less intensive morning sickness and reduced duration of symptoms.
Herbal Teas that Help to Reduce Nausea
Here are three herbal teas that have been known to help with nausea:
Red Raspberry Leaf helps to relieve nausea and has many beneficial properties for pregnant women. Raspberry leaf tea contains vitamins A, B complex, C, E, absorbable calcium, iron, phosphorus and potassium. It tones the uterine muscles, it helps to encourage the uterus to work more effectively, and it reduces labour pains. Use 1 to 2 teaspoons of dried herb per cup of water and let steep for 5 to 10 minutes. Drink no more than one cup per day until the last four weeks of pregnancy, then drink as much as you like.
Ginger contains an anti-nausea compound, and can help reduce indigestion. Place a few slices of fresh ginger into a teapot of boiling water or green tea, let steep for a few minutes and enjoy!
Peppermint helps to relax uterine muscles and can relieve morning sickness. You can brew a pot of peppermint tea and drink it whenever you feel queasy.
Natural Remedies for Birth
There are two remedies that are especially helpful labour, birth and postpartum healing:
Arnica is a homeopathic remedy that dramatically reduces bruising or swelling. The easiest way to take arnica is to dissolve the homeopathic pellets into bottled water that you take with you to your birth. Every time you drink, you are taking arnica to help prevent your perineum from swelling.
Calendula is a tincture that helps to accelerate wound healing, usually by half!!! During labour and birth, a woman can experience tearing of the perineum (the area around the vagina). The easiest way to use calendula is to squirt an eyedropper-full into your peri bottle every time that you use it. The calundula is then regularly washed over any tears that you have, which helps to improve the healing of your wounds.
Tricks to Sleep Easier
Take a Hot Shower or a Warm Bath
Warm water helps to relax tight muscles. Practical experience shows that a bath or a shower just before bed promotes a deeper, more restful sleep.
Extra pillows help a woman feel more comfortable and sleep better. Try placing a larger pillow between your breasts and knees, and another right up close to the small of your back. You’ll experience more support and your back muscles will be able to relax while you sleep.
If a woman is more relaxed just before bed, she’ll have a deeper, more restful sleep. Take a nice warm bath or shower and ask your partner to give you a massage. You can lie on your stomach with the help of 5 or 6 pillows. Stack four pillows on top of each other and place the other two approximately two feet away to support your chest. Lie down with the 4 pillows under your pubic bone and the other two under your chest. The space between the pillows is where your baby should fit comfortably. You might feel silly, as your bottom does stick up a bit, but you can lie on your stomach and it feels fabulous! Add more pillows if necessary to get comfortable and ask your partner to massage your back, your sides, your legs and your buttocks using broad hands and a gentle circular motion.
(Note: Doctors of Traditional Chinese medicine caution against deep massage on your calves, as it can stimulate an acupuncture point that is said to promote uterine contractions and could possibly cause a miscarriage.)
Take Your Calcium Supplement Just Before Going to Bed
It is a great idea to take your calcium supplement before bedtime with milk or soymilk. As your body digests the calcium, you are able to sleep more deeply and you wake more rested. Also, calcium is an essential mineral for any type of muscle contractions, including uterine contractions during labour. Many women start their labours during the night, so if you take your calcium just before bed, your body will have an extra supply available. A study showed that women who took calcium supplements just before bed and during their labour and birth experienced less pain than those who didn’t.
Hopefully some of these ideas help you to feel just a bit better when your body is not adapting well to the physical demand of pregnancy. If you have any other suggestions of things that have helped you cope, please comment below. Your great ideas may help some other mom who is having a difficult time.
Dr. Melanie Beingessner is a pregnancy and pediatric-focussed chiropractor, a breastfeeding counselor, an infant massage instructor and a mom of three awesome kids.