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.
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.
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.
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?