Coping With the Aches and Pains of Pregnancy
Every expecting mom anticipates the moment she meets her new baby for the first time. But before she gets to kiss that nose, look into those beautiful eyes or tickle those tiny feet, she has to make it through nine months of pregnancy.
For some women, those nine months are filled with aches and pains they never knew existed. We consulted pregnancy websites and asked pregnancy and childbirth experts from around North Carolina for tips and tricks to help expecting moms get through the ups and downs of pregnancy. Alexandria Montgomery, a certified nurse midwife with a doctor of nursing practice degree who works for Novant Health Nurse Midwifery Associates Langtree in Huntersville; Cara Osborne, a certified nurse midwife with a master's degree in nursing who is chief clinical officer and founder of Baby+Co. in Cary; and Jennifer Ozan, a doctor of osteopathic medicine and OB-GYN for Eagle Physicians in Greensboro, offered the following advice for some of the most common complaints pregnant women experience.
1. Nausea/morning sickness: Eat small, frequent meals. Try starchy foods such as crackers, toast or cereal in the morning before getting out of bed. Increase protein intake with foods like dried nuts, cheese and yogurt. Avoid greasy, high-fat foods. Drink peppermint, spearmint and chamomile teas, and try ginger-based remedies found at specialty stores like Whole Foods. Wear a seasickness band, which you can find at most pharmacies.
2. Food aversions. Studies show that up to 85 percent of expectant mothers experience some kind of food aversion, most often in the first trimester. Protein is a common trigger, but many pregnant women also suddenly dislike leafy greens, coffee, garlic and cinnamon, for example. As you might expect, hormones take the blame, but experts say there is some truth to a pregnant woman craving what her body needs and feeling repulsed by what is not good for her. Look for food substitutes that are appealing to you and that offer the nutrients you need.
3. Heartburn: Eat smaller, lighter meals more frequently. Avoid fatty, spicy foods and drinks with caffeine. Don't lie flat for one to two hours after eating. Don't drink fluids while eating.
4. Constipation: Eat a high-fiber diet of foods containing whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables. Remember "B" — bran, beans and berries. Increase daily water intake. Be mindful that straining may lead to hemorrhoids, another common side effect.
5. Hemorrhoids: Use Witch Hazel wipes, Tucks Medicated Pads and Preparation H. Soak in a warm bath. Increase fluids and the amount of fiber in your diet.
6. Round ligament pain: As your body changes to make room for baby, you may experience pain on one or both sides of the lower pelvis/groin. Avoid changing positions too quickly or making sudden movements. Support your abdomen with pillows when lying on your side. Do stretches, prenatal yoga or core building exercises.
7. Back pain: Maintain good posture and avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time. Wear low-heeled, comfortable shoes. Use a footstool to prop up your feet when sitting. Use knees (not your back) when lifting. Stretch. Back pain may also include sciatic nerve pain that can cause numbness or tingling down the back of your legs or hip. Do stretches to help ease pain or sit on a large exercise ball.
8. Varicose veins: Wear support hose or compression tights. Avoid stockings with elastic bands. Don't sit or stand in the same position for more than one hour at a time. Do not cross your legs. Lie down to rest occasionally and elevate your feet. Take walks.
9. Foot and ankle swelling: Keep legs elevated when sitting and don't sit for long periods of time. If you do have to sit for a long time, get up and move every hour. Do not cross your legs. Decrease salt intake and increase water intake.
10. Leg cramps: Stay well hydrated. Take walks or swim daily. Stretch calf muscles during the day and before bed. Avoid getting too tired, or standing or sitting with your legs crossed for long periods of time. Eat a diet high in magnesium and calcium, and talk to your physician about supplements.
11. Itching: Stay well hydrated. Avoid perfumed soaps and lotions. Try switching soaps or using less soap. Blot skin with a towel instead of rubbing. Rub on cocoa butter. Take warm baths with baking soda.
12. Bleeding gums: Brush gently with a softer toothbrush and floss daily. Eat foods high in vitamin C, such as fruits and vegetables. Contact your dentist.
13. Headaches: Apply ice packs and rub peppermint oil on your forehead and the back of your neck. Do yoga or get acupuncture.
"Be kind to yourself and know that anything you have is something someone else has had too," Osborne says. "You are not alone — lots of people have been through the same things. And if you think something is going on, don't be shy about bringing up your concerns with your physician."
Pregnancy the Second (or Third) Time Around
Just like each child is different, no two pregnancies are ever alike.
"It is amazing how women like to compare one pregnancy to another," says Alexandria Montgomery, a certified nurse midwife with a doctor of nursing practice who works for Novant Health Nurse Midwifery Associates – Langtree in Huntersville. She says that in multiple pregnancies, women may notice pains and discomforts in subsequent pregnancies because they don't have the excitement and fear of the first pregnancy.
Depending on the time between pregnancies, moms may be chasing a toddler so they don't have time to rest like they did with their first. She also says back pain tends to be more common with each additional pregnancy.
No matter how bad the nine months are, remember that it is all worth it when you meet your sweet bundle of joy.
Having a baby is an amazing experience, but it takes time for your body to fully recover. Use the following advice for dealing with aches and pains after baby arrives.
Recovery pain: Expect swelling and discomfort after a vaginal delivery. To help ease the pain, clean the area with warm water using a Peri bottle or by taking Sitz bath, and use pain medication and ice packs as instructed by your physician. If you have a C-section, follow the doctor's orders and take it easy — no heavy lifting. Seek pain relief through doctor-recommended medications. Drink plenty of fluids to help prevent constipation and take stool softeners if recommended by your doctor.
Bleeding: It is normal to experience period-like bleeding for several weeks after having a baby. Expect a bright red, heavy flow of blood for the first few days.
Breast discomfort: As your milk comes in, increased breast size, tenderness and firmness are normal. To help reduce the pain and soreness, apply ice packs following feedings. Wear a supportive bra even if you are not breastfeeding.
Hemorrhoids: Use Witch Hazel wipes, Tucks Medicated Pads and Preparation H®. Soak in a warm bath. Increase fluids and the amount of fiber in your diet.
Swelling: Increase fluids.
Contractions: Don't expect your uterus to shrink overnight. According to mayoclinic.org, you may feel small contractions during the first few days after delivery as your uterus decreases to its normal size post-pregnancy.
Baby blues: Don't be surprised if you experience mood swings, anxiety, sadness, irritability and crying as your hormones adjust post-pregnancy. Exercise, meditate, and reach out to friends and family for support. If symptoms become more intense or you feel you might have postpartum depression, contact your physician for help.
Michele Jonczak, a freelance writer from Raleigh, is a mother of two boys, ages 3 and 5, and a girl, who is 18 months old.