"Pregnancy is amazing- except when it's not."
Pregnancy can be exciting and joyous, but it doesn't come without its fair share of aches and pains. Throughout those 40 weeks, your body goes through a myriad of physical changes resulting in pregnancy discomfort. Your body undergoes additional transformations in its chemistry and function, as well as changes in weight and body shape. The heart works harder; there's a slight elevation in temperature, a rise in body secretions, enhanced flexibility in joints and ligaments, and a shift in hormonal levels. With all these changes comes a fair amount of discomfort. Each trimester brings unique challenges, from morning sickness to back pain. You may be asking yourself- how can I ease my pregnancy discomfort?
At Case Integrative Health, we believe in a holistic approach and recognize that combining traditional medicine and complementary therapies can offer the most effective relief. In this blog, we'll explore various common discomforts of pregnancy and delve into integrative strategies to alleviate them.
Morning Sickness: Soothing Nausea
Many expectant mothers find morning sickness, a common discomfort early in pregnancy, challenging. However, integrating various strategies can help alleviate this queasiness + stomach pain and promote a more comfortable start to your day. To soothe feelings of nausea naturally, you can try having ginger in the form of tea or candies, as it is known for its anti-nausea properties. You can also try taking one pill of B6 for nausea three times a day. Additionally, acupuncture and sea bands (the motion sickness bands you find at a pharmacy) may be helpful.
Beyond this, consider adjusting your eating patterns by incorporating small, nutrient-dense meals throughout the day. This helps manage morning sickness and ensures a steady supply of essential nutrients for you and your growing baby. Staying well-hydrated is equally crucial, as dehydration can exacerbate feelings of nausea. You can even try experimenting with different fluids, such as ginger-infused water or herbal teas, which might further contribute to easing stomach discomfort. However, severe morning sickness, or hyperemesis gravidarum, must be treated by your physician or midwife, as you may need IV fluids and medications. If you have severe nausea, are vomiting more than three times a day, and are losing weight, don't hesitate to get in touch with your medical team for more support.
Fatigue and Pregnancy: Boosting Energy
When do women typically experience fatigue in pregnancy? Women often experience the most prevalent pregnancy fatigue during the initial and final trimesters. Don't worry- pregnancy fatigue is completely normal! However, there are proactive measures you can take to counteract this fatigue and infuse your days with a little more energy. First, embrace short naps during the day, allowing your body to recharge and helping you stay more alert. Gentle exercises, such as prenatal yoga, are great tools to boost energy levels. These exercises enhance physical well-being and provide a mindful and rejuvenating break, offering a holistic approach to combating fatigue. Beyond these practices, managing pregnancy fatigue is impossible without adequate night-time rest. Try to adopt a regular sleep routine (I know- easier said than done), and keep your bedroom calm, dark, and quiet.
Personally, I still enjoy my coffee and chai tea throughout my pregnancy. I like a hot drink (particularly during these chillier months), and it helps me feel a bit more awake. Plenty of evidence shows that consuming caffeine during pregnancy is perfectly safe, and it helps me get through the day. I wrote about caffeine during pregnancy in a previous blog, so if you'd like to learn more, click here.
Back Pain: Finding Comfort in Movement
As your body undergoes the changes associated with accommodating a growing baby, you may experience back pain (unfortunately) and wonder how you can alive ate back pain during pregnancy. Statistics suggest that over half of women experience a certain level of back discomfort during pregnancy. Physical transformations inherent in pregnancy, such as hormonal shifts, alterations in the center of gravity, and changes in posture, cause this back pain. Generally, this pain worsens as pregnancy progresses.
Integrating good posture practices into your daily routine is fundamental to reducing back pain. You can significantly alleviate strain on your back by maintaining a neutral spine alignment and being mindful of your posture while sitting, standing, and lifting. You can also relieve pressure on your lower back and support your growing belly by using a pregnancy support belt. Alternatively, you can ask your partner to stand behind you with his or her arms under your belly, supporting it. 10-15 minutes of this can really go a long way to rest your back.
Lastly, you can find relief by taking a modified Epsom salt bath.. To ensure it's safe, you'll want to make sure the water is probably cooler than you'd ideally like. Hot tubs or scalding baths during pregnancy are a no-no, as they aren't safe for you or your baby. However, warm baths are perfect to help soothe an aching back and can help with your energy levels and sleep. You can even add essential oils to help yourself relax. Peppermint, lemon, orange, sandalwood, and rosemary oils are all great choices!
Heartburn: Soothing the Fire
Heartburn, a frequent discomfort during pregnancy, can be effectively managed with a combination of lifestyle adjustments and natural remedies. One key strategy is monitoring portion sizes, opting for smaller, more frequent meals to prevent digestive system overload. Steering clear of spicy and greasy foods can also minimize symptoms, as these may exacerbate heartburn. Additionally, incorporating herbal teas, particularly chamomile, into your routine can provide soothing relief. Chamomile is known for its calming properties and can help alleviate the burning sensation associated with heartburn. Slippery elm is another excellent option that's available in tea form to help with heartburn. Another helpful practice is elevating your upper body with extra pillows while sleeping. This position helps prevent stomach acid from flowing into the esophagus, reducing the likelihood of heartburn discomfort.
I've struggled with heartburn with this pregnancy- and I've tried it all to find some relief. For me, a good combo has been a pinch of loose, slippery elm, a tea with peppermint, ginger, cloves, marshmallow, lemon balm, and peppermint. I like to add a little bit of oat milk to mine. Another (delicious) cheat I've found is that a little bit of ice cream at night really helps my heartburn, particularly as mine was affecting my sleep. While this isn't something I would typically indulge in, in this case, I'm giving myself the freedom to use the tools I can to help support my symptoms!
Swelling and Water Retention: Easing the Puffiness
It is normal that you will experience swelling during pregnancy, especially in the legs, ankles, feet, and fingers. This swelling tends to become more pronounced towards the end of the day and as your pregnancy progresses. There are a few things you can do to mitigate the puffiness:
Stay well hydrated. While it may seem counterintuitive, proper hydration helps the body regulate fluid balance.
When administered by a trained professional, prenatal massage can target areas prone to swelling, providing relief and relaxation.
Avoid standing for long periods, and elevate your feet when you can (particularly after walking long distances). Compression socks can also help, especially if you need to be on your feet.
Lumbrokinase is an enzyme that helps reuce sticky blood, is pregnancy-safe and can help reduce swelling. Take 2-4 pills per day on an empty stomach.
While you may experience some degree of swelling during pregnancy, it's important to distinguish between common pregnancy-related swelling and symptoms that may indicate a more serious condition, such as preeclampsia. If you experience sudden or severe swelling, especially accompanied by high blood pressure, headaches, or vision changes, it's crucial to seek out prompt medical attention to rule out conditions like preeclampsia, which require immediate medical intervention. Regular prenatal check-ups and open communication with your healthcare provider are essential to monitor any concerns related to swelling (or otherwise) during pregnancy.
Navigating pregnancy discomforts requires a unique and individualized approach, and it's crucial to have a medical team you trust to help you navigate those nine months (and beyond). At Case Integrative Health, we utilize an integrative approach that combines traditional and complementary therapies to help you find the relief that suits you best. Ultimately, wellness is personal, and the key lies in finding the best approach that resonates with you.
For appointments with Dr. Casey Kelley, visit caseintegrativehealth.com and fill out the "appointments" form, or call 773-675-1400. Case Integrative Health is proud to serve patients in the Midwest, Chicago and the US.