The Aches and Pains of Pregnancy

Common Pregnancy Symptoms & How to Get Relief!

 

         For many expectant parents pregnancy is a time of excitement, joy and endless preparations.  For others, pregnancy can introduce symptoms that create some very intense emotions of annoyance, fear and deep concern.  While pregnancy may be smooth sailing for one person, it can be completely debilitating for another.  It is important that we realise and acknowledge the vast differences in each person's pregnancy experience.  

So often I hear from people that they suffered in silence because society so often only focuses on the joys of pregnancy while brushing over or minimising the real pains that many women experience.  I would never want anyone to feel alone or guilty because they weren't enjoying every single second of pregnancy.  If you are experiencing any of the aches and pains of pregnancy below, I hope you find some relief and have access to a local or online community where you can connect with others who are experiencing the same thing!  

 

BACK PAIN

There may be many reasons why an expectant mother could be experiencing back pain and it is estimated that approximately 50-70% of mothers do.  Weight gain during pregnancy, which is normal, plus the extra weight of the baby and uterus puts extra pressure on your back.  This extra weight also puts pressure on the additional blood vessels in the back and pelvis, which can lead to increased pain.  Secondly, the hormone relaxin made during pregnancy encourages more joint and ligament mobility in both the pelvis and spine.  This increased mobility can lead to more instability and pain.  Pregnancy also alters one's center of gravity, especially as the uterus enlarges to accommodate the baby, and can impact one’s posture, creating more back pain.  Injuries prior to pregnancy can often be a contributing factor as well.

 

HOW TO GET RELIEF

  • Exercise-  This can relieve stress, increase mobility and flexibility to provide back pain relief.

  • Heat/Cold-  20 min. of heat/cold may provide pain relief and reduce potential swelling in the area.

  • Support belt-  This can relieve some of the weight/pressure caused by the extra weight of the uterus and fetus.

  • Improve Posture-  Sometimes all it takes is some extra awareness regarding posture.  Sitting straighter, no slouching while sitting and sitting with legs flat versus crossed may all help with back pain reduction.

  • Acupuncture and chiropractic care- both of these alternative treatments can help with lower back pain especially. 

  • Squat to pick up items vs. bending at the back

  • Wear supportive shoes

  • A warm bath/shower

  • Get a pregnancy massage from a professional

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SORE BREASTS

As with back pain, there are a number of things that can cause breast soreness during pregnancy.  Some women experience sore breasts during only part of their pregnancy while others must find ways to tolerate it for its entirety.  In early pregnancy, it is often the increase in the hormones progesterone and oestrogen that are associated with breast tenderness.  Throughout pregnancy one's blood volume and blood flow also increase, which can make breasts feel swollen and tender.  The closer one gets to labour, there many also be an increase in fatty tissue of the breast in preparation for breastfeeding that may make the breasts feel more full and swollen.

 

HOW TO GET RELIEF

  • Purchase a supportive, properly fitted bra

  • Encourage a partner to be aware and cautious during intimacy

  • Take a shower or bath, both for relaxation and pain relief

  • Cold compresses to relieve any swelling

  • Gentle massage, if tolerated


NAUSEA

Nausea is one of the most common pregnancy complaints, especially in the first trimester.  It is often one of the first indicators of pregnancy and it can also be one of the most distressing, particularly if it is leading to malnutrition and dehydration.  While the causes for nausea during pregnancy are not fully known, there are some theories.  During early pregnancy there is an increase in hormone production.  This is when chorionic gonadotrphin (HCG) begins being produced.  This is also the hormone that is detected during home pregnancy tests.  The hormone surges of HCG, along with progesterone and oestrogen, are often associated with nausea.  Other contributing factors include general stress and fatigue during pregnancy and an increased sense of smell which can lead to food aversions and nausea.

 

HOW TO GET RELIEF

Nausea was by far my worst symptom during my second pregnancy and caused a lot of distress for both my husband and I.  At the time my "general nausea" exploded into full-on hyperemesis gravidarum for twenty weeks of my pregnancy and I was willing to try ANYTHING to get some relief.  

  • Avoid foods and smells that increase nausea.  This may mean making sure rooms are properly ventilated or having someone cook for you!

  • Eating before sitting up or getting out of bed

  • Eating smaller meals throughout the day so the stomach is not frequently empty

  • Speak to a healthcare provider about a B-6 supplement

  • Wear motion sickness bands- these are found in many chemists

  • Eat more dry, bland foods

  • Make sure you are hydrated and well rested

  • Speak to an acupuncturist about how they can help

  • Speak with a healthcare provider about anti-nausea meds if symptoms are particularly severe

  • Eating/drinking ginger products or lemon products

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HEARTBURN

Heartburn, or acid reflux, is normally associated with two things that often occur during pregnancy.  The hormone progesterone increases during early pregnancy and can cause the valve between the stomach and esophagus to relax and allow stomach acid to rise.  Secondly, as pregnancy progresses, the growing uterus and baby put added pressure on the intestines and stomach due to limited space.  This can also encourage stomach acid to enter and irritate the esophagus, causing a burning sensation or acidic taste in the mouth.

 

HOW TO GET RELIEF

  • Eat smaller meals throughout the day

  • Do not lay down after a meal for at least an hour

  • Sleep propped up with pillows rather than flat

  • Avoid spicy, greasy and fatty foods or any other foods that are a heartburn trigger

  • Speak to a medical professional about taking an antacid or digestive enzyme

  • Avoid smoking during pregnancy.  Besides this having other documented harmful effects during pregnancy, it also increases the level of stomach acid in the body

  • Dress comfortably and don’t wear anything that is tight at the waste that would create even less space in the abdominal cavity


CONSTIPATION

This is one pregnancy symptom that some clients are reluctant to talk about because they may find it embarrassing.  I think it's important to note that no pregnancy symptoms are "off limits" to discuss.  If you have a symptom, there is definitely someone else who has dealt with it and can offer you some sound advice!  Constipation during pregnancy can be associated with several things, but it often has a lot to do with the slowing of the digestive system.  Because of pregnancy's progesterone surge (are you seeing a theme here?), the digestive system tends to be more sluggish and the intestinal muscles become more relaxed.  As a result, food is digested at a much slower rate and can lead to constipation.  Later in pregnancy when the uterus and baby get bigger, they can add to the slower rate of digestion by crowding the abdominal cavity.  Some women also find their constipation is connected with either prenatal vitamins (with iron) or iron tablets.  Other more general causes of constipation may be stress, low exercise levels and lower fibre intake.

 

HOW TO GET RELIEF

  • Talk to a healthcare provider about possibly reducing, changing or eliminating iron supplements

  • Eat more fiber

  • Increase fluid intake

  • Exercise to help stimulate digestion

  • Over-the-counter products (not laxatives which can stimulate uterine contractions and dehydration) that are safe for pregnancy can help soften stool but prevention may be more helpful and comfortable in the long run

  • Consider starting a probiotic supplement


As with all of my blog posts on health and pregnancy, please do not construe anything above as medical advice.  Please consult a trusted healthcare professional if you have questions or concerns regarding any pregnancy symptoms you are experiencing.