Ask any nurse who works with pregnant women what the top complaints are and you’ll quickly get a short list: fatigue, stuffy nose, leg and back pain (sciatica or joint pain) and sleepless nights. None of these discomforts are unusual, especially given all of the changes your body is undergoing during this time.
As your pregnancy belly grows, your center of gravity shifts and your increasingly larger uterus puts more pressure on your joints and ligaments. Staying active, eating healthfully and getting enough rest help diminish discomfort. Follow these leading expert tips when pregnancy aches strike.
Of course you are, your body is busy growing a baby. As soon as you learn you’re pregnant, start planning for extra rest during your day – even if it’s just 15-minute breaks where you can put your feet up, several times a day. This is not the time to reach for caffeine, rather stay active through walking and other forms of exercise – these are proven energy boosters.
You may be experiencing what experts call rhinitis of pregnancy: your nose is stuffy and your mouth may feel dry. This is due to the extra blood volume and pregnancy hormones circulating through your system. Make sure you’re drinking at least 6-8 glasses of water of non-caffeinated beverages each day, and use a saline spray like Ocean or Simply Saline to keep your sinus passages hydrated. Try standing at least several times a day to take in full, deep breaths, and use a cool-mist humidifier in your bedroom to alleviate stuffiness.
Whether from getting up frequently to use the bathroom or because you simply can’t get comfortable, most pregnant women long for the day when their baby is born and they can eventually sleep again. Try using supportive pillows, like full-body pillows, or propping small pillows between your knees, under your increasing abdomen or against your back for the extra support where it hurts. A warm bath before bedtime will help relax your muscles and joints. Try stress-relieving deep breathing exercises to calm you as you drift off.
Face it, as your belly gets larger you’re just not as agile and graceful as you used to be. Move slower and pay more attention to how you move your body. Don’t stoop to bend, squat by bending your knees to lift items. Wear low-heeled or flat shoes with good support. Warm baths and showers can relax sore ligaments and muscles and consider seeing a pregnancy-certified massage therapist (she or he will change their table to accommodate your belly so that you’re not applying pressure anywhere you shouldn’t). Round ligament pain often develops later in pregnancy; to relieve this pain simply lay on your side with your knees pulled toward your chest and stretch toward the pain. To keep back pain from sidelining you, practice pelvic tilt exercises daily to strengthen your abdomen and support your back. You can do these exercises standing or laying down: simply tighten your abs as you rock your pelvis all the way forwards and then all the way backwards. Move slowly, holding abs tight, for best results.
About the author: Roberta Durham, RN, PhD, is an expert advisor to Healthy Mom&Baby magazine as well as Health4Mom.org.
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