Pregnancy is a time of great miracle and great strain. Our muscles are pulling in new ways to support new weight, joints become strained, circulation changes, and it all adds up to a bundle of pregnancy aches and pains. Staying active and taking care of your growing body will help to keep some of it at bay. The real key is to understand what’s at the heart of your pregnancy discomfort so that you can best address both the cause and the symptoms. Your body will still tell you what it needs -- you just need to listen a bit closer than before.
Back Pain in Pregnancy
Let’s start with what might be the most common pregnancy discomfort: back pain. The image of a pregnant mama with her hand on her lower back is familiar to us all, as a shared pregnancy discomfort for so many. That’s because the back carries the most strain during pregnancy, thanks to weight, ligaments loosening, and muscles stretching.
Because of these changes, your back needs extra love while you’re growing your little one, even if you haven’t felt any pain at all. To ease or prevent back pain in pregnancy, start by focusing on the care of your back.
Posture is a major contributor to back pain and a good place to focus on prevention and relief of back pain. As ligaments loosen to allow for the stretching of pregnancy and process of birth, we have a tendency to exaggerate the arch in the lower back and stretch that belly outward. This actually puts a strain on the lower back, weakening the muscles that have more to hold. Tuck your pelvis, straighten your upper back, and pull your belly button toward your spine. Sitting on a cushion on the floor rather than a slouchy couch can help to improve posture and strengthen muscles, as well.
Good posture alongside gentle exercise will help to counter the stretch of ligaments and pull of new weight with stronger muscles. In the meantime, soaking in herb baths, asking your partner for a gentle massage, and resting with cold packs or heating pads can help to bring some relief.
Pregnancy Related Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful condition that affects the wrists and hands. Usually, carpal tunnel is triggered by repetitive movements such as excessive typing, but in pregnancy it’s connected to the changes in fluid levels that may occur. Other pregnancy related swelling is common in feet and ankles or sometimes the fingers, but the same fluid that makes your ankles swell up (edema) can fill up the passageways in your wrists.
Carpal tunnel syndrome can include sharp or aching pain, numbness, and tingling in the hands and wrists.
Pregnancy related carpal tunnel syndrome can be connected to weight, predisposition in your family or in previous pregnancies, circulation issues, or general fluid build up. Drinking plenty of water and eating a good mix of fruits and vegetables can provide the nutrition support your body needs to balance fluid levels properly. Exercise is another component that will help improve circulation.
You may find that a chiropractor, acupuncture/acupressure, or massage visit will improve circulation and relieve pain, as well. Ask your practitioner for good hand-exercises to relieve the pain of carpal tunnel syndrome and open circulation once more.
Pregnancy Cramps or Charlie Horses
Pregnancy cramps and Charlie horses can range from annoyances to harsh pain. The good news is that waking up in the middle of the night with a sharp cramp in a hip, calf, or foot is far more unsettling than waking up to a hungry baby will be. The bad news is, you’ve got to make it there still.
Charlie horses don’t have a clear cause, but usually we connect them to a mineral imbalance. Potassium is considered the first line of prevention against cramps, and you should find enough in extra bananas (freeze banana chunks to add to fruit smoothies for extra nourishment and flavor!) and a good food-based prenatal along with trace minerals. Another set of minerals that might help is the calcium/magnesium duo. Even if these minerals aren’t the cause of your Charlie horses, it won’t hurt to make sure your mineral intake is on par. Aside from supplementation, a good herbal pregnancy tea such as Lady in Waiting can help to cover both hydration and nutrient intake. Nettles and Red Raspberry Leaf are high in iron to build your blood. Oat Straw and Red Raspberry Leaf are also high in calcium and magnesium to build strong bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments.
Round ligament pain is another common and completely normal source of pregnancy discomfort. It can feel like a sharp grabbing sensation, or as a steady aches due to over stretching of the ligaments in the abdomen. A similar issue is that of symphysis pubis dysfunction, which is pain in the pelvic area thanks to the pelvis separating prematurely. A chiropractor, massage therapist, and pelvic rocks can all provide some relief and prevention of these painful conditions.
Easing Pregnancy Discomfort
The aches and pains of pregnancy are not glamorous, but they are common. You’re not alone in your pregnancy discomfort, and you’re likely to find good support and commiseration on our Facebook and Instagram pages. Feel free to share there what helped you get through your aches and pains or what discomforts you’re facing now. In the meantime, here are some things you can do to relieve the general discomforts of pregnancy:
- Visit a chiropractor. A chiropractor who is experienced in prenatal care can help with back pain a great deal. Not only can they adjust your spine, hips, and pelvis as everything shifts during pregnancy, but they can help you improve posture and spot alignment and weakness issues before they get out of hand.
- Get relief with ice and heat. Cold packs, heating pads, and soothing herbal and epsom salt baths can all help to reduce inflammation and relax inflamed muscles and ligaments. A massage from a partner or a professional prenatal masseuse can work wonders for a mama’s tired back, too.
- Keep moving. I know you’re tired, but moving more will actually help you to feel better. Stick with the exercise level you were accustomed to pre-pregnancy, and listen to your body’s cues. Walking, swimming, pelvic rocks, and prenatal yoga are all gentle but effective ways to keep your body relaxed, strong, and more prepared to adjust to all of the changes that pregnancy has in store.
- Practice deep relaxation. Emotional and mental stress stores up in our bodies and can manifest as pain. When we practice intentional, deep relaxation, we work toward letting that stress go. Meditation, quiet times, and good sleep are all vital components.
- Get your minerals. Eating dark leafy greens, drinking nourishing herbal teas, taking trace minerals, and eating a healthy diet high in calcium, iron and protein will nourish your growing muscles, stretching ligaments and shifting bones.
Not every moment of pregnancy will be sunshine and roses, but that’s okay. Your body is working hard at producing a miracle. Allow yourself the space to feel discomfort, and feed, move and rest your body in the ways that it needs so you can get through it.