Discomforts of Pregnancy & Helpful Hints

As always, remember to use good judgement in the application of this information. These are only suggestions. Sources for further information are listed at the end. Being responsible for your own well being may sometimes mean seeking the advice of a health care provider for conditions that persist despite your efforts.

Growing a baby is hard work! Sometimes the process of pregnancy can cause discomforts. Following are some of the more common complaints, as well as some simple measures that may alleviate them. Many of these can be avoided in the first place through proper nutrition, adequate rest, and exercise. (not to mention good genes!)

Nausea Possibly due to hormone production, slowed digestive system, or emotional factors. Most frequent on an empty stomach, it can happen at any time of the day. It usually eventually passes, but can lead to fluctuating blood sugar or dehydration, which can prolong the condition, or even worsen it. The first line of defense is prevention through good nutrition. Take steps to avoid low blood sugar by eating high protein snacks and meals throughout the day, and even through the night if you are up often anyway. Keep a snack like almonds handy at all times. Almonds are high in protein and B vitamins, both of which are key in the prevention of nausea. Be sure to get plenty of clear fluids, especially if you are vomiting often. Frequent, small sips throughout the day are fine if you can't tolerate larger amounts. Try to drink liquids between meals rather than with them. Some women find that a sip or two of soda water helps when they feel nauseous. Electrolyte replenishers may be helpful. If you have trouble keeping fluids down, focus on foods with high water content. Other ideas..crackers in bed 15 minutes before getting up; avoidance of greasy food and foods with strong or offensive odors; accupressure wristband; B6 supplements (10-20mg 1-3 times a day); wild yam root tincture; raspberry leaf peppermint, peach or ginger root tea; walk every day; anise or fennel seed tea in am; homeopathic Ipecac 30x, Vomica 6x or Cannibis 30x (consult a good homeopathic resource). If your feelings about this pregnancy are ambivalent, talk it out with someone you trust. What are you 'sick of', what 'makes you sick' . How you feel emotionally can effect how you feel physically.

Heartburn Caused by relaxation of the stomach sphincter due to increased progesterone, smooth muscle relaxation and less room because of baby. Avoid cigarettes, coffee, spicy foods, greasy foods, carbonated beverages and very cold foods. Avoid laying down for at least 20 minutes after meals. Eating smaller meals more frequently and avoiding liquids with meals may be helpful. Chew cashews, hazelnuts or almonds and swallow them slowly. Herbally, you can try slippery elm bark powder, anise or fennel teas after meals, or papaya after meals.

Fatigue Can be a sign of low iron. Review your diet and see where you can add more iron. Supplementation is not a replacement for good nutrition! Only 10-30% of the iron in supplements is absorbed by the body, leading to constipation and nausea. If you must use a supplement, it should be ferrous fumerate, ferrous gluconate or ferrous peptonate. Iron rich foods include dark green leafy veggies, prunes, raisins, apricots, eggs, liver, whole grains, beets and molasses (in warm milk, the calcium helps with iron absorption). Also, make sure you rest well at night and nap when needed during the day.

Upper Backache Due to enlargement of breasts. Get a good fitting bra. This also helps breast tenderness resulting from enlargement. Talk to your health care provider to rule out kidney infection.

Lower Backache From shift in center of gravity. Try to stoop rather than bend; use good posture; avoid excess bending, lifting or walking without rest; cat/cow stretches and knee/chest twist. Where low supportive shoes. Take advantage of chiropractic care. Use pillows for support while sleeping and use a hard mattress. Some sort of abdominal support may be useful. Herbal tincture of St. John's wort, lemon juice and water (up to six glasses daily), wheat grass juice, nettle or comfrey infusion. Apply heat.

Ligament Pain This is felt as vague pains while walking or moving about (vacuuming, raking, making a bed, etc.). The uterus is very movable, more or less a floating organ. Two ligaments attach it to the pelvis. Pain is cause by the stretching of these ligaments. Relief methods are not always effective, and after your health care provider has ruled out appendicitis, you may just have to put up with it. You can try taking a warm bath, using a heating pad or using a belly support or pillows under your belly and between your knees when lying on your side.

Leukorrhea This is excessive vaginal secretion beginning in the first trimester. It's purpose is to provide protection against infection. Avoid douching. Do keep the area clean and change cotton-crotched panties often.

Vaginal Infections Simple yeast infections are common in pregnancy. As long as the bag of waters remains intact, the following may be used. You can use acidophilus tablets inserted vaginally, or 2 tbsp. of plain, live culture yogurt inserted one a day for a week. Avoid yeasty foods and sugars, and eat yogurt. A white vinegar rinse (2 tsp. vinegar in 1 cup water...dip finger in, insert in vagina, rinse finger in clean water and repeat) or a tea tree oil application (in the same manner as the vinegar) may help. For other types of vaginal infections, such as trichamoniasis, one remedy is the insertion of a peeled, un-nicked clove of garlic. To avoid burning, dip it in vegetable oil before inserting like a tampon. This should be changed twice daily. Any infection that can be passed between partners must be treated in both partners. Some infections ultimately respond only to drug therapy. Your heath care provider can help you determine the organism responsible for the irritation and discuss your options.

Headaches In the absence of other symptoms, this is usually stress induced, hormonal, or due to fatigue. Get rest and try some relaxing teas such as chamomile, peppermint, skullcap, catnip, hops (in combination with red raspberry is an excellent pregnancy tea). Accupressure, massage, chiropractic adjustment, added calcium (450 mg 1-4 times a day) or peppermint oil on the temples are also options. Avoid aspirin or other medications along with coffee, alcohol and MSG. Practice relaxation.

Flatulence Caused by relaxation of the smooth muscles and pressure on the intestines from the uterus. Avoid gas forming food and have a regular pattern of daily bowel movements. Constipation Can be caused by hormones, diet and/or compression of the bowel by the enlarging uterus. Iron supplements can also cause constipation, especially ferrous sulphate. Increase roughage by eating raw fruit, vegetables and grains. take a daily walk. Drink lots of water. Also, when sitting on the toilet, try raising your feet on a foot stool and relax your pelvic floor. A good mixture for constipation is 4 tbsp. yogurt, 2 tbsp. raw bran, tsp.. molasses, 1 tsp raisins eaten 1-3 times a day with a glass of water.

Hemorrhoids Many factors contribute. Straining due to constipation. Enlarging uterus causes pressure. Progesterone and Relaxin causes relaxation of the vein walls. Kegal, Kegal, Kegal! 10 mg of B6 daily may help avoid hemorrhoids. Avoid constipation. If you do get them, applications of lemon juice, witch hazel, baking soda or vit. E may help with pain and swelling. They can be reinserted in conjunction with Kegals. Herbal sitz baths and Epsom salts compresses, as well as bed rest with hips elevated are also options. If homeopathy is preferred, Hamamulis 30X may be tried. Other natural remedies include grated raw potato, comfrey or yellow dock ointment, and plaintain or yarrow ointment. Apply Mullein flower oil.

Leg Cramps May be due to inadequate calcium intake or impaired circulation. Increase calcium in your diet and make sure salt intake is adequate. Elevate legs throughout the day. Try moist heat, massage of the effected area (as long as there is not possibility of thrombosis), exercise to improve circulation and straightening leg by pulling back on the balls of the feet.

Edema In the absence of other symptoms, a benign discomfort. The weight of the uterus and decreased efficiency of the veins which return blood from the legs can cause legs, feet and ankles to swell. In hot weather it is aggravated. Elevate feet frequently. Drink plenty of water, exercise and wear loose-fitting clothing and shoes. Lying on your left side may also increase the efficiency of your kidneys. Total body immersion in water can work wonders.

Pain during intercourse This is called dyspareunia and it may stem from a number of causes during pregnancy. One cause may be due to pelvic/vaginal congestion resulting from impaired circulation due to pressure of the enlarging uterus or the baby's presenting part. The enlarged abdomen of late pregnancy also makes lovemaking more of a challenge. Another factor is the misconceptions and fears of hurting the baby when there is no indication for this concern. Emotional reluctance can lead to physical discomfort. Try changing positions, discussing your fears and alternative ways of sexually satisfying each other.

Insomnia It's often hard to sleep in the last months of pregnancy because of difficulty in getting comfortable, frequency of urination, worries and fetal movement. Try taking a hot bath, drink hot milk or soothing herb teas (peppermint, chamomile) at bedtime. Use relaxation techniques, exercise daily, increase intake of B vitamins. A massage may be helpful and using extra pillow to get comfortable in bed my too. Avoid caffeine and sleeping pills.

Varicose Veins Family tendency. Impaired circulation and increased venous pressure. Relaxation of vein walls from progesterone. try support hose (put on before arising). Avoid constrictive clothing. Avoid long periods of standing. Take rest periods with legs elevated. Keep legs uncrossed when sitting. Sit instead of standing when possible. Maintain good posture. Walk. Eat a superior diet. Supplemental Vit E (should not be used in the last 6 weeks of pregnancy and never more than 400 IU daily). Many women have found relief with poultices of apple cider vinegar.

Tingling and Numbness of Fingers This is caused by the compression of the median and ulnar nerves in the arm that is thought to come from the change in posture. Paying attention to your posture...standing straighter...may give you relief. Simply lying down may help, too.

Supine Hypotensive Syndrome This can occur when a woman is lying on her back (supine) and the full weight of the enlarged uterus is pressing on the inferior vena cava and other vessels of the venous system. The return of blood flow from the lower half of the body is inhibited, which in turn reduces the amount of blood filling the heart, thus lowering cardiac output. This then causes the woman to feel faint and she may pass out. Rolling to the side or sitting up is the solution.

For more information:

Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year, Susun Weed
Healing Yourself During Pregnancy, Joy Gardner
Spiritual Midwifery, Ina May Gaskin
Holistic Midwifery, Anne Frye

More information to come...what would be useful to you? Let me know!

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"Building a Mystery"
Sarah McLachlan