Head-to-toe relief for the growing
pains of pregnancy
By Karen Miles
Before you became pregnant, you probably thought that you
had an understanding with your body: You were good to it, it
was good to you. Now that youre expecting, however, you
find that all bets are off. Your little bundle of joy is calling
the shots, and your body is straining to accommodate. Feet are
swelling, ligaments are stretching, veins are bulging, and hormones
are raging. Simply put, you need help. Fortunately, Relief
is just a page away.
The BT Guide was written by Karen Miles.
LITTLE CURES FOR BIG DISCOMFORTS
As your skin stretches, it can become dry and itchy.
- Relief: Slather on moisturizer or cocoa butter after
bathing, and avoid harsh soaps, which remove your skins
Your growing uterus presses on your bladder.
- Relief: By four months, the uterus moves up, relieving
the pressure. Meanwhile, keep drinking liquids and dont
wait to urinate it can lead to a urinary tract infection.
You may retain some fluid especially around your ankles
- Relief: Put your feet up, switch standing and sitting
positions often, and dont cross your legs. If your rings
get tight, put them on a chain and wear them as a necklace.
Valves that propel blood start to soften, causing the blood to
pool and form painful bulges.
- Relief: Avoid crossing your legs, standing in one
position for too long, or wearing anything that cuts off circulation
(like knee-high stockings). Support hose may also help soothe
Hormonal havoc and the energy it takes to create a baby sap your
- Relief: Rest often and avoid sugar and caffeine.
Sluggish circulation causes painful knots.
- Relief: Gentle massage or stretching (with toes flexed,
not pointed) can help relax the muscle. Try stretching your legs
Your ligaments stretch to support the growing weight of your
womb, causing sharp pains from the top of your uterus down to
your pubic bone.
- Relief: Get off your feet, and support your belly
with a pillow when youre lying on your side. Warm baths
are soothing too.
These swollen rectal veins result from hard-to-pass bowel movements.
- Relief: Try ice packs, sitz baths, or witch hazel
compresses, and ask your doctor about a stool softener or suppositories.
Your shifting center of gravity and the increased natural curvature
of your spine strain your back.
- Relief: Stand up straight, and be careful lifting.
While sitting, elevate your feet, and use a pillow for the small
of your back.
INCREASED VAGINAL DISCHARGE
A clear to yellowish secretion, known as leukorrhea, helps flush
bacteria from your vagina.
- Relief: Wear a light panty shield in your underwear
to help you feel fresher, but dont douche or wear tampons.
Pregnancy hormones slow some bodily functions, resulting in constipation,
indigestion, bloating, and gas.
- Relief: Eat a diet high in fiber (whole grains, raw
fruits and vegetables), drink plenty of liquids, and try to take
a walk every day.
So-called morning sickness nausea that ranges from mild
queasiness to frequent vomiting can last all day.
- Relief: Eat small, frequent meals high in protein
and carbohydrates, and keep a few crackers by your bed to help
settle your stomach before you get up in the morning.
Your uterus presses on your stomach, causing acids to back up.
- Relief: Even when youre ravenous, eat slowly.
Avoid greasy foods and stay upright after meals. Also, try eating
yogurt or chewable calcium tablets.
As your breasts rev up for breastfeeding, they may be slightly
swollen and feel sensitive or painful to the touch.
- Relief: Buy a comfortable and supportive bra (without
underwire is best).
The sudden surge of hormones may cause migraines.
- Relief: Try hot and cold compresses, temple massage,
and fresh air. Acetaminophen is considered safe for pregnant
women, but talk to your doctor before taking any drugs.
High levels of estrogen and progesterone increase blood flow
to the mucous membranes, causing them to soften and swell. Your
sinuses may feel extremely dry.
- Relief: Use a humidifier to loosen congestion, and
lubricate the inside of your nose with a little petroleum jelly.
IN THE MOOD FOR
LOVE OR NOT
Early in pregnancy, levels of estrogen and progesterone soar
increasing blood flow and sensitivity in the breasts,
vagina, labia, and clitoris which may turn you into a
sexual dynamo. On the other hand, when youre dealing with
nausea, fatigue, and moodiness, you may find sex as appealing
as your annual exam. The key for you and your partner is to expect
fluctuations in desire, so that when it wanes, you can stay intimate
in other ways by holding hands, snuggling, or giving each
By the way, theres no reason to fear that youll
harm the baby during intercourse. Shes well-protected in
her amniotic bubble, and unless youre at risk for miscarriage
or preterm labor (in which case, you should seek your doctors
advice), sex generally poses no danger whatsoever.
THE EMOTIONAL ROLLER
Consider yourself hormonally challenged: During pregnancy,
estrogen can climb to 60 times its normal level. In general,
higher levels of both progesterone and estrogen can make you
feel good, but sometimes the huge fluctuations can also puncture
the euphoria. In fact, a wide range of emotional states is perfectly
normal quiet and withdrawn, scared, anxious, elated and
excited, easily angered or tearful, ambivalent, worried, and
happy. But you can try to stay on an even keel with enough rest,
exercise, and communication with your partner.
On the other hand, if your symptoms include prolonged weepiness,
anxiety, sleeplessness, guilt, anger, pessimism, or detachment,
talk to a professional about pregnancy-related depression. This
potentially serious condition can last anywhere from weeks to
months, and it can be treated safely with therapy and medicine.
Women who experience severe depression during pregnancy are also
at high risk of postpartum depression, so this is one condition
you dont want to wait out.
WHEN WOES ARE SERIOUS
With everything your bodys going through during pregnancy,
it can be tough to tell which changes are simply uncomfortable
and which are dangerous. Dont hesitate to call your doctor
when in doubt. And be sure to talk to her if you experience any
of the following symptoms:
A possible sign of anemia, or iron deficiency in the blood.
PERSISTENT VOMITING OR DIARRHEA OR A HIGH FEVER LASTING
MORE THAN 24 HOURS
Any of these conditions can cause dehydration, which in turn
can damage the babys developing organs.
A possible sign of a miscarriage or of placenta previa.
CONSTANT ABDOMINAL PAIN OR CRAMPING
Symptoms that may indicate an ectopic pregnancy or pending miscarriage.
SEVERE HEADACHES OR SUDDEN, EXCESSIVE SWELLING OF THE HANDS
Possible signs of pregnancy-induced hypertension, and preeclampsia.
This is one time when everyone will let you enjoy a much-deserved
break. Take advantage!
- Light some candles and soak in the tub.
- Get your hair washed at a salon.
- Make a "baby tape" of your favorite music.
- Rent a tear-jerker and cry your eyes out.
- Buy yourself flowers.
- Get a pedicure even if you cant see your feet anymore.
First published in BabyTalk magazine, June/July