Staying Comfortable in Pregnancy: The Natural Way

Morning Sickness

“Morning Sickness” is the term commonly used for nausea and/or vomiting that can occur at any time of day and may even last all day. It is a common symptom of early pregnancy, and can begin as early as the first missed period. Nausea and/or vomiting typically starts during the fifth or sixth week of pregnancy and persists until the 14th to 16th week. Some women only experience nausea, but no vomiting, and some women don’t experience these symptoms at all. For some women, nausea and vomiting continues throughout the entire pregnancy. Hyperemesis gravidarum is the name given to more severe cases. Dehydration and malnutrition are serious concerns, and persistent severe vomiting requires medical attention. If you are vomiting, be sure to drink lots of water or hydrating fluids to avoid dehydration. Avoid highly sugared and caffeinated beverages, as these can actually worsen dehydration. Safe remedies to consider for nausea and vomiting in pregnancy include:

  • Acupressure or motion sickness bands (Sea Bands) may be beneficial.
  • For nausea first thing in the morning, try keeping crackers at the bedside and eating one or two before your feet hit the floor.
  • Get up slowly, as dizziness is common in pregnancy and can cause nausea.
  • Dry foods chewed slowly. Try rolled oats, crackers, or whole grain ginger biscuits upon waking.
  • Low blood sugars are associated with nausea and vomiting. Eat small snacks frequently throughout the day, and aim for foods high in protein and fiber. Dried fruit, fresh fruit, nuts, crackers, cereal mix, and cheese are often helpful.
  • Maintain high protein intake throughout day. Additionally, a high-protein snack at night can help prevent low blood sugar in the morning.
  • Avoid strong smells that may make you nauseous.
  • Drink hot water with a squeeze of fresh lemon to promote alkaline balance in your body.
  • Herbal teas and nutritional supplements can be helpful:
    • Ginger root tea: Simmer 2 tsp. of grated ginger root in a saucepan of water for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and strain. Add honey and lemon to taste. Drink hot or cold as desired.
    • Fennel seeds: eating these can help balance the digestive tract.
    • Yeast supplements and yeast products are thought to worsen morning sickness.
    • Vitamin B6 is known to help.

Fatigue

Tiredness is a very common symptom during the first and last trimester of pregnancy. In early pregnancy, the hormonal fluctuations and increased blood flow can be exhausting as your body adjusts to these changes. In later pregnancy, carrying the extra weight demands much more energy. Many women, however, say the first three months of parenthood are the most tiring of all! These are recommended strategies to cope with fatigue in pregnancy:

  • Get plenty of sleep, ideally 8-10 hours, with as many hours as possible before midnight. This is when your body best recovers from exhaustion.
  • After the first trimester, take an aromatic bath before bed, using 2 drops each of lavender, neroli, and mandarin essential oils. As a precaution, AVOID using essential oils in the first trimester.
  • Use extra pillows to support your tummy, low back, and legs, especially in the last trimester.
  • Drink 2-3 liters of water daily to encourage digestion. Constipation is a common cause of bloating and fatigue.
  • Exercise increases blood flow and boosts energy levels, and can also relieve constipation.
  • Include complex carbohydrates in your diet to supply adequate energy.
  • Avoid coffee, as it can leave you feeling tired after the initial energy boost wears off.
  • Eat small meals regularly through the day to maintain a balance of glycogen and insulin levels. These are the hormones that regulate your blood sugar levels. Carry healthy snacks with you, and eat small meals every 2-3 hours.
  • Peppermint tea is refreshing and boosts energy levels naturally.
  • Meditation and yoga are energy-boosting practices that reduce stress and improve mood.

Backaches

Pregnancy hormones soften the ligaments that connect your skeletal bones, and this makes it easier to strain all major muscles. Your abdominal muscles also separate during later pregnancy, forcing your back muscles to take on extra work. As your baby grows, increased weight alters your posture and places pressure on your spine, which can inhibit blood flow and nerve signals to your organs and tissues. These changes make low back pain a very common complaint in pregnancy. Here are some suggestions to alleviate back pain and discomfort in pregnancy:

  • Deep tissue massage and chiropractic or osteopathy work well together to alleviate chronic back pain and improve posture.
  • Assess your posture in front of a mirror:  Stand tall, facing forward with your feet hip-width apart and parallel. Drop your shoulders and pull them back. Lengthen your spine by elongating your neck and tucking your tailbone under. Avoid the sway-back posture of pregnancy by keeping your growing tummy closer in over your hips.
  • Sit up straight without slouching, and, whenever possible, sit with your legs elevated.
  • Stretch your back in cat-cow postures.
  • Sleep on a firm, supportive mattress and use pillows to improve comfort.
  • Sleep on your side with one knee bent and your upper leg supported on a pillow.
  • Wear flat, comfortable shoes.
  • Use proper body mechanics when lifting objects – bend at the knees and lift with leg muscles.
  • Encourage toddlers to stand on a chair before you pick them up.
  • Avoid dehydration – drink 2-3 liters of water daily to keep your muscles working optimally.
  • Low backache can signal constipation – eat small meals throughout the day, drink plenty of water, and get lots of physical activity to promote regular bowel movements.
  • Swimming is a low-impact activity that is highly recommended to relieve backache in pregnancy.
  • Freshly squeezed pineapple juice helps eliminate lactic acid that accumulates in overworked or cramped muscles. Blend with fresh ginger for a tasty refreshment!
  • Pregnancy girdles can help support your abdomen and improve posture during pregnancy.
  • Apply heat, cold, or pressure to sore areas to provide relief.

Leg Cramps

Leg cramps are quite common in pregnancy and can occur in response to carrying extra weight, changes in circulation, or mineral deficiencies. These suggestions may offer some relief:

  • Discuss supplementation with liquid calcium/magnesium with your care provider.
  • Walk daily to promote circulation, muscle strengthening, and relief of cramping.
  • Stretch your calf and thigh muscles by standing with legs straight and then flexing your toes up toward your head without bending your knees.
  • Massage cramped muscles while flexing your ankles and toes up toward your head. Full-body massage improves circulation throughout the body as well as to cramp-prone leg muscles.
  • Elevate your feet while sitting/resting at home and at work. Be sure to rest frequently if you stand on your feet for long hours during the day.
  • Wear low-heeled shoes.
  • Soak feet in hot water – add Epsom salts if desired. Also try applying low heat to affected area with hot water bottle, heated rice bag, or heating pad.
  • Increase water intake to 2-3 liters daily.
  • Eat foods high in calcium and magnesium – spinach, broccoli, tofu, dairy products, sardines, tahini, cooked egg yolks, watercress, dried figs, cashew nuts, parsley, and chard are all good sources.
  • Try sleeping with your feet elevated above your heart. You may wish to add padding or pillows at the food of your bed, or incline the bed itself.

Swelling of Ankles & Feet

Water retention in body tissues causes puffiness in the feet, ankles, hands, face, and vulva. Mild swelling in the extremities is a common discomfort of late pregnancy. Sometimes, however, significant or generalized swelling can be a sign of preeclampsia, especially if it occurs with other symptoms including high blood pressure, reduced urine volume, and high levels of uric acid in the blood. To prevent or alleviate swelling, try the following recommendations:

  • Drink 2-3 liters of water daily – increased water intake actually reduces water retention by the body tissues.
  • Include brisk walking in your daily routine to promote circulation and lymphatic drainage.
  • Avoid standing for long periods and rest your legs regularly, with your feet elevated higher than your waist.
  • Eat fresh, wholesome foods and avoid pre-packaged meals that are high in sodium, which promotes fluid retention.
  • Fresh watermelon juice is a good kidney tonic and diuretic to flush excess fluid from the body. A combination of cucumber, carrot, and celery juices helps reduce fluid retention.
  • Many body therapies reduce swelling and promote circulation and elimination of excess body fluid – reflexology, massage, pressure-point therapies, shiatsu, and acupunctures can all help.
  • Supplementation with vitamin B6 has proven to help reduce swelling due to fluid retention.
  • Swelling is often worse at the end of the day and reduces overnight. Raising the end of your bed can help fluid circulation and drainage.
  • Avoid commercial diuretics, as they often make the problem worse.
  • If your hands or face become puffy, call your care provider, as this could be a sign of a more serious complication.

Join guest host Dr. Amber Moravec, DC on the Mom Show this Sunday, April 23rd at 10am as she further discusses ways to naturally alleviate the most common discomforts and complaints in pregnancy!