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Healthy Pregnancy Series: Handling Aches and Pains

admin December 1, 2010

When you’re pregnant, aches and pains are par for the course.  There’s the cramping early on (which can freak you out and make you think something’s wrong, which usually isn’t the case), the round ligament pain as your muscles stretch to accommodate your growing uterus, back aches as your posture shifts, pain while sleeping, your baby sitting on nerves, sciatica, and lots more!  Most are relatively minor, but…it’s still no fun!  How do you handle these myriad aches and pains?

First, it’s not advisable to take OTC pain medications during pregnancy.  Many doctors will say that a small amount of Tylenol here or there is fine (ibuprofen is not fine, ever, unless your doctor specifically recommends it, and neither is aspirin).

I worry, however, about Tylenol’s affect on the developing baby, especially glutathione levels (which Tylenol is known to deplete).  I don’t have any medical evidence that it’s harmful in that way, but it is the leading cause of liver failure in adults, and exposing your tiny, developing baby to any chemical substance is probably not the best idea.

So barring OTC medications, what can you do?  Luckily, there’s a lot!

See a chiropractor

We’ll be having a chiropractor guest post on exactly how chiropractic can help pregnant women soon, so I won’t go into too much detail.  But generally, a chiropractor can make sure that your body is properly aligned so the baby has room to grow without hurting you.  I didn’t see one during my first pregnancy, and I had a very hard time getting comfortable and sleeping, especially at the end.  I did see one in my second pregnancy and I only had trouble when it had been a few days since my last adjustment!  (I saw him three days a week in the last month or so.)  It made a world of difference for me.

See a massage therapist or physical therapist

I know, this is expensive.  But some insurance plans will cover it, if it’s associated with a chiropractor and/or physical therapist (ours does).  It’s worth it to go about as often as you go to your prenatal visits — monthly at first, and weekly as you get close to your due date and more uncomfortable.  Especially if you do have sciatica or some other “worse” problem, a massage therapist can help.  If you can’t afford it, a physical therapist can help in a similar way, by suggesting stretches you can do at home to relieve your pain.

Use heat

Get yourself a heating pad, or those rice-filled socks and apply it to the affected area.  This will help to relax your muscles so that you can rest a little easier.

Try arnica

Arnica is a safe, homeopathic pain reliever.  You can take it orally; but better yet, get a cream or a gel and rub it directly into the painful area.  I did this once when I dropped something heavy on my foot, and within a couple minutes, I could barely feel the pain anymore.  If you’re really struggling, arnica will help.

Take a bath

Make sure it’s not too hot, because raising your body temperature during pregnancy isn’t a good idea.  But a bath around 100 degrees is no problem (average hot tubs are 104 – 105, which is too hot).  If you have a jacuzzi at home, just set the water to be a bit cooler than usual and use the jets to help yourself relax, and target the painful areas.

Get some exercise

If you sit too long, you will get stiff.  Get up and take a walk, do some mild stretches.  Keeping active will help to fight off a lot of types of pain, like low-back pain or leg pain.  It keeps fluids flowing in and out of your tissues, too.

pregnancy aches and pains

Get some rest

Don’t overdo it.  If you’re tired, sit down.  Put your feet up.  Lay on your sides and rest for awhile.  Drink plenty of water (dehydration can cause cramping and contractions).  Balance rest and exercise to feel your best!

Use extra pillows

Pillows will become your best friend when you’re pregnant.  Around 12 weeks, I get out my first body pillow to sleep with.  Ben grumbles — “Oh, here comes the pillow…” (because it puts space between us in bed).  But sleeping with a pillow between your knees helps keep your body aligned better, putting less strain on your back.  Later, a second body pillow behind your back, or one of those giant, wrap-around pillows may be a good idea.  You need support from all angles.  When you’re sitting, put a pillow behind your back if you need it.  Do whatever you need to do to support your body properly; it will cause you less pain!

Have a baby

Okay, maybe this is ridiculous, but you’ll eventually get to a point where you’re pretty tired and sore no matter what you do.  There will be a day where, even if you were getting along just fine up until then, you just can’t stand it.  Everything kind of hurts, your head is swimming, your body feels strange…and the only cure is having a baby.  Luckily, when you reach this point, you’re usually just days away from labor.  (I remember waking up on a Monday feeling this way…and had a baby on Thursday.)  Just know that this will not last forever!

What other tips or tricks do you have for relieving aches and pains during pregnancy?

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6 Comments

  1. If anyone has recommendations for preventing pelvic pain due to too-loose/flexible pelvic ligaments (SPD), I'd really appreciate it. I don't know if it can be prevented, but I dealt with it during my first (only) pregnancy, and it made life difficult at the end. Keeping my knees parallel as much as possible minimized the pain, but it didn't solve the problem. It also makes delivery difficult given that spreading your legs is the main thing that exacerbates the problem. I get the impression that many women deal with this, but few pregnancy books seem to.

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  2. I'm not pregnant, but don't ever take Tylenol or Advil. There is a great product I've gotten from a local lady here in Salem, OR, called Emu Oil Plus (by OGEPI, Oregon Grown Emu Products). It's a topical pain-reliever that works for a whole myriad of pains from muscle soreness to headaches and even throat aches (always used externally, not internally). Anyway, it's a great product and I'm guessing there are others like it out there.

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  3. I think I had SPD, or something like it. The OB/GYN just called it sciatica. Whatever it was, it was SO PAINFUL, from about four months on! And it took three months after the baby was born to stop hurting.

    The one thing that helped me the most was watching my position while I was resting. Sitting up straight — rather than leaning back — or sitting/kneeling on the floor tended to help me. Being on my feet all the time did NOT, but I was teaching little kids, so I couldn't really help that.

    I also found it helped to gently stretch my legs each night … pulling my feet up to stretch my hamstrings, touching my toes (or trying), that sort of thing. My husband would give me a backrub, focusing on my hips, which hurt the worst. And, of course, it was very important NEVER to lie on my back. If I accidentally ended up there, I couldn't get up on my own, and it would hurt for days.

    I totally second the warm bath. That and a hot water bottle were the only things that got me through.

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  4. Even when you AREN'T pregnant, having a pillow between your knees when sleeping is a good idea. My husband and I both have leg pillows to alleviate back discomfort. We weren't having back pain, per se, but we both feel better in the morning if our knees separated by a pillow – it is a more natural position for your legs based off of human anatomy, pregnant or not!

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  5. I've been using a Chiropractor and Acupuncture to help deal with Sciatica pain. The results are not immediate, it usually takes a few days to kick in but when it does it completely gets rid of the pain! It's also important to balance exercise and rest. I find when I got for long walks it agitates the pain but also when rest in spot for a long time it also is not helpful but finding a balance has kept me pain free for several weeks into my third trimester. Stretching also helps like bending over to touch your toes (or bending over a bed if you can't touch your toes anymore) or doing some yoga poses like child's pose.

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  6. […] is a joyous time for many women, which ends happily with a healthy baby, through only minor aches and pains (except labor!  But we’ll get to that).  Unfortunately, for some women, there are some […]

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I’m Kate, mama to 5 and wife to Ben.  I love meeting new people and hearing their stories.  I’m also a big fan of “fancy” drinks (anything but plain water counts as ‘fancy’ in my world!) and I can’t stop myself from DIY-ing everything.  I sure hope you’ll stick around so I can get to know you better!

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