Relief for Common Pregnancy Discomforts

Having babies is not for sissies
by Lynn Siprelle

Pregnancy ain't easy. Oh sure, there's your friend--we all have one--who sails through the nine months smiling, bouncy and glowing and can't wait to do it again. She's never felt better in her life. But most of us are not that woman.

Most of us are more like me. When I was pregnant, my first sign was that my sense of smell went berserk. I could tell what everyone was having for dinner in a five mile radius, and just how good their personal hygiene was. (Bus rides were torture on that last point.) And then came the hip problems, the back problems, blah blah blah.

From the first spells of nausea before you even realize that you are pregnant to the swollen ankles of the third trimester, there are plenty of uncomfortable symptoms that go along with pregnancy. You can't get rid of them, but here are a few tricks to making these pregnancy discomforts easier to manage.

Morning sickness is one of the earliest and most common complaints that pregnant women have. While a very few do not suffer from nausea--I was lucky, I had just a bit--the majority have at least a little, and some go right through the nine months feeling ill.

Pregnancy-induced nausea can be quelled to some extent by keeping at least a little something on your stomach at all times. Having soda crackers on hand to eat right before getting out of bed is a common recommendation that works. An empty stomach seems to cause more nausea, so if you get some crackers into you before you start moving around, sometimes the nausea will go down. An overly-full stomach isn't so hot either, so learn to eat small, frequent meals rather than just a couple of large ones.

Ginger, in the form of real ginger ale, ginger tea, candied ginger or something like it, often helps with morning sickness; it's a good remedy for any kind of nausea, actually. Read the label on any ginger ale you buy. Most of it doesn't even have a ginger root waved over the top of it before bottling, so make sure you're getting something that actually has real ginger, not ginger flavoring.

As long as we're talking about liquids, be sure you're getting enough to drink if you're having morning sickness. Vomiting can dehydrate you rapidly. If you're really throwing up a lot, you have what is called hyperemesis gravida, medical-ese for "extreme vomiting in pregnancy." (It's not a disease, it's a just a description.) Get to the doctor soon. You could dehydrate to the point you'll need IV fluids.

Once your pregnancy gets far enough along that your center of gravity has shifted, aches and pains tend to set in. Most of these are caused by stretching ligaments and muscles in order to accommodate the growing baby inside. Your body will start producing a hormone called "relaxin" (seriously) that loosens your hip joints, and for some of us that happens way before the baby is due. I could barely walk through both pregnancies by about month five, my hip joints got so loose. Chiropractic was a godsend for me and may be for you, too.

Some pains are just the baby pressing on nerves, particularly if you have shooting pains down the backs of your legs. Having a midwife gently encourage the baby to move a bit can make your pregnancy much more comfortable. Other pregnancy pains caused by the baby's position can be remedied by changing your own position. Doing the downward facing dog yoga position is ideal for shifting the baby into a more comfy position. You can also just get on all fours for a few minutes each day to get the baby to move around a bit and hopefully relieve some of the pregnancy pain you are experiencing.

Help your partner! Get The Guy's Guide to the Delivery Room!

Backaches are another thing entirely, caused by carrying all that weight out front! The best way to treat this pregnancy problem is to get your partner to give you a very firm back massage. Support yourself against a wall or bend over a desk and let him really get the heels of his hands into the sore spots. You might need to repeat this each day until the baby is born. Proper posture can also help prevent this common pregnancy pain; try sitting on one of those big balls instead of a chair. You might get double duty from that ball--a lot of women are using them in labor now. If you're really sore, don't hesitate to get a professional pregnancy massage. It feels fabulous, and when you're huge and miserable, every little bit of comfort helps.

Swollen feet are a major problem during the third trimester of pregnancy. Excess fluid builds up in the feet making them puff up painfully. Sometimes this swelling goes all the way up to the knees. If you notice that your face and hands are also retaining fluid, this could be a sign of problems in your pregnancy and you should see a doctor. Feet however, are a very common pregnancy complaint and can be helped by laying with your feet propped up higher than your head, or sit with them in a cool tub of water.

The most common pregnancy complaints usually have a solution. You don't need to suffer more than necessary. If you don't find the solution to your problem here, ask your doctor or midwife for help.


Alicia Maldonado's picture

I'm not too sure on how to use a birthing ball for pain. I am nine mths. Pregnant and have been experiencing lots of back pains, so my husband went to wall mart and got me an Ball. Do you have any hints to give me on how to use it for lower back pains.

Zillah's picture

Hi Alicia

I used a birth ball for lower back pain relief when I was pregnant with my DD3. I found it really beneficial to sit on the ball and roll my pelvis belly-dancing style; tuck my pelvis under - rolling it down one vertebrae at a time and then back up again; also it was very good to kneel leaning on the ball and rock forwards and backwards. It was of long-term benefit to sit on the ball when watching television etc. instead of sitting on the sofa, which tends to encourage your spine into a bad shape. I was practicing pilates a great deal at the time, and you could probably find more detailed information from a good pilates for pregnancy book.

Good luck, lower back pain sucks!


Anhata's picture

My family physician was a D.O. so I was able to get very gentle chiropractic adjustments when my lower back, hips, and pelvis went out during pregnancy. I found that D.O.s give the most gentle adjustments, but that's just my experience.

When I felt nauseous, or when smells bothered me, I scratched the skin of a fresh lemon with my fingernail and sniffed it. It was wonderful for settling my stomach. It's also a mood-lifter. Citrus scents make you happy, aromatherapy-wise. It's something you can carry in your purse, too, just not for long.

I heart pregnancy massage. I had several massages in the last trimester when the aches and pains got more insistent. The massage therapist propped me up with loads of pillows and rubbed everywhere it hurt. It was the nicest thing I did for myself during pregnancy. I lived in the same town as a large massage therapy school. If there's a school like that near you, you may be able to have the students massage you at lower rates. Those who go into pregnancy massage tend to be very lovely people. I don't mind getting student massages, they've been just as good as liscensed MT in my exp.

Those are the only "relief for common discomforts" that i can remember at the moment. I didn't have morning sickness, just some general nausea, heartburn, and complications from the relaxin hormones.


Of all the wonders of nature, a tree in summer is perhaps the most remarkable; with the possible exception of a moose singing "Embraceable You" in spats.

-- Woody Allen

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