Parent Time

Common Pregnancy Pains and How to Get Relief

Something you may not have expected when you became pregnant was to experience pain well before your delivery date. But a certain amount of discomfort during pregnancy is normal, as the body attempts to adjust to weight increase, changes in balance and swelling in joints. When you’re pregnant, your center of gravity changes, making every muscle in your body work differently. As your baby grows, your abdomen enlarges, creating stress on the lower back, and possibly affecting your legs as well. Foot and calf cramps, shin pain, back pain and abdominal pain are some of the usual pains associated with pregnancy. Other complaints include hemorrhoids, sore feet and aching arms as you try to compensate for your bodily changes by doing things differently—putting stress on new muscle groups.

Pain During Early Pregnancy

The earliest pain in pregnancy may be implantation pain—a cramping feeling that takes place over a few days when the embryo is embedding in the uterine lining. Late in the third trimester, rib or side pains, or tingling and numbness around the ribs can occur when the baby is resting high in the uterus, with the weight on the intercostal nerve, which runs between the ribs. Abdominal or pelvic pain can be caused by the ligaments near the uterus stretching from the increased weight, pressing against nerves in that region. Sciatic nerve pain is also fairly common; as the hormone relaxin starts to loosen the connections between pelvic joints, muscles tense to take the added weight, putting pressure on nerves in the legs. Sciatic pain can often be reduced by exercises, changes in posture, or seating and sleeping positions. Consult with a reputable chiropractor or physical therapist for solutions. (Remember—a sharp, sudden pain shouldn’t be ignored!)

Stomach and Abdominal Pain

Stomach discomfort isn’t unusual in pregnancy; gas, tummy ache and bloating are normal accompaniments to the body-wide changes experienced by pregnant women. A mild but effective herbal remedy is peppermint: try a Lifesaver candy or a drop of essential oil in a glass of water before moving on to stronger solutions.

Pregnancy Back Pain

Back pain is one of the most common pregnancy problems; the Mayo Clinic estimates that 50% of pregnant women experience back pain. In fact, most women probably expect an aching lower back, but the right exercises can help prevent or reduce back pain. Wearing the right shoes is crucial to back pain prevention: you need support, and insoles with some padding can help cushion your feet and legs. With your feet taken care of, you also need to pay attention to things you’ve always taken for granted: the chairs you sit in, the pillows you use and the angle of your posture. Ergonomics plays an important part of keeping the back straight and supported; try a body pillow for sleeping, sleep with your knees bent, and avoid sleeping on your back.

Exercise Offers Relief From Pregnancy Pain

Exercise can also help prevent back pain, as keeping your muscles strong lessens the chance of strains, or of losing your balance as your weight gradually shifts to the front. Join a pregnancy exercise class; walk, swim or dance to keep fit, but pay attention to your altered form. When you’re pregnant, be especially careful when lifting things or squatting down; you’re more prone to injury because your joints are softening and you’re muscles are working harder. Don’t push your limits!

Remedies for Relief

Back ache relief can come in several forms: sometimes, just getting off your feet can help relieve the tense muscles and associated pain. Hot or cold packs, either alone or alternating, can help. Heat warms the muscles and increases circulation; cold reduces swelling, which can cause pain by adding pressure to nerves. Try them both, and go with what works for you. Sometimes, a warm bath is all you need to relax and take the strain off. Massage is relaxing and therapeutic: treat yourself to an occasional rub-down.
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