Coping With Common Discomforts of Pregnancy

Pregnant woman sleeping on her side in bed

Coping With Common Discomforts of Pregnancy

Article Published on September 3, 2017

Ah, pregnancy! A beautiful and transformative journey, but let’s be honest—it’s not without its share of challenges.

From morning sickness to back pain and swelling to fatigue, these common discomforts of pregnancy can turn what should be a joyous time into a bit of a struggle. 

But what if I told you there’s help at hand?

In my 16th year of practice as the principal Melbourne osteopath at Growing Bones, I have dedicated my career to helping individuals become pain-free through osteopathy and movement therapy. My approach, particularly with mums-to-be, involves using gentle and effective osteopathic treatments to alleviate the discomforts associated with pregnancy.

Drawing from my experience, I wanted to put together this article to extend a helping hand to more mums. Consider this your trusted guide for your well-being during this special chapter of your life.

So, let’s dive into how you can find relief and truly cherish this special time.

The Changing Pregnant Body

Pregnancy is like a rollercoaster for your body; it’s a time of remarkable change and adaptation. First off, your hormones are on a bit of a joyride.

Hormones such as progesterone and relaxin surge, softening your ligaments and making your joints more flexible. It’s all in preparation for childbirth, but sometimes it might feel like your body is doing gymnastics!

Your blood volume increases (by up to 50%!), your organs shift to make room for your growing bub, and your muscles—especially in the pelvis and lower back—endure new stresses and strains. It’s incredible, but it’s also a recipe for some common discomforts of pregnancy.

Now, why is it essential to understand these changes? Simple. When we ‘get’ what’s happening inside, we’re better equipped to manage the aches and pains that come our way.

We can appreciate that our bodies aren’t just acting up; they’re adapting in remarkable ways to nurture and protect our growing baby.

Knowing about these physiological shifts is empowering. It’s all about working with your body, not against it, and forming a partnership with yourself that honours the magical process of growing a new life.

But it’s also important to know what pain is “normal” and when to see a healthcare specialist.

Common Discomforts of Pregnancy Explored

1. Lower Back Pain

During pregnancy, your body is constantly adjusting to the added weight and changing centre of gravity.

Hormones are released that allow the ligaments in your pelvis to relax to make room for your growing baby, but this can also cause the ligaments supporting your spine to loosen, leading to instability and pain.

Tips to Alleviate the Pain

  • Maintain Proper Posture: Standing straight and tall with your chest high and shoulders back and relaxed can make a world of difference.
  • Exercise Regularly: Gentle exercises like prenatal yoga or swimming can strengthen your muscles and ease the strain on your back.
  • Apply Heat: A warm shower, warm bath or heat pack can offer relief. Just make sure it’s not too hot!

When to Seek Professional Help

Pregnancy brings about significant changes in the physical body, and it’s important to seek professional help as soon as discomfort and pain occur. Due to increased levels of the hormone relaxin during pregnancy, pain resulting from hypermobility (excessive movement in a joint) can easily worsen.

It’s crucial to consult your doctor in such instances. They may recommend osteopathy or other treatments to safely manage the pain, ensuring both your well-being and that of your growing baby.

2. Pelvic Discomfort

Your pelvis is literally shifting to accommodate your baby, and this movement, though natural, can bring discomfort.

Simple Exercises and Adjustments to Ease Discomfort

  • Pelvic Tilts: Gentle rocking movements that move your pelvis forward and back can help.
  • Sitting Properly: Use a footrest to elevate your feet slightly when sitting, and choose a chair with good lumbar support.

Significance of Pelvic Floor Exercises

Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles is essential. These exercises not only alleviate discomfort during pregnancy but also help in recovery after childbirth.

For more guidance on post-pregnancy exercises, check out our guide on returning to exercise after childbirth.

3. Shortness of Breath

As your uterus expands, it pushes against your diaphragm, leaving less room for your lungs to expand. This is completely normal, but it can make breathing feel more difficult.

Tips to Manage and Exercises to Help

  • Practice Good Posture: Standing and sitting up straight can give your lungs more room to expand.
  • Prenatal Yoga or Pilates: These exercises focus on breath control and can help you manage your breathing more effectively.
  • Slow, Deep Breaths: When you feel breathless, slow down and take deep, calming breaths. Inhale deeply through your nose, allowing your chest and belly to rise, then exhale slowly through your mouth.

4. Swelling in Hands and Feet

Pregnancy increases the fluid volume in your body and changes your blood circulation, often leading to swelling or oedema, especially in the hands and feet.

Home Remedies and Practices to Reduce Swelling

  • Elevate Your Feet: When you can, prop your feet up—above the level of your heart if possible.
  • Stay Hydrated: Drinking plenty of water helps your body shed excess fluid.
  • Avoid Standing for Long Periods: Take frequent breaks to sit and elevate your feet. Additionally, wearing compression clothing can significantly help in reducing swelling. We have a range of compression tights and shorts available at Growing Bones, which can be fitted by our osteopaths during your appointment. These specially designed garments can provide support and comfort, making a noticeable difference in managing swelling during pregnancy.

5. Insomnia and Sleep Troubles

Hormonal changes, discomfort, and anxiety can disrupt your normal sleep pattern during pregnancy.

Tips to Improve Sleep Quality

  • Create a Calming Bedtime Routine: Reading, a warm (not hot) bath, or listening to soothing music before bed can signal to your body that it’s time to wind down.
  • Use Pillows for Support: Placing a pillow between your knees and under your belly can help align your spine and reduce discomfort.

6. Muscular Cramping

Cramps, especially in the legs, are common during pregnancy due to changes in blood flow and stress on your muscles from carrying extra weight.

Effective Methods and Exercises to Reduce Them

  • Stretch Regularly: Gentle stretching before bed can prevent cramps.
  • Stay Hydrated and Eat a Balanced Diet: Proper hydration and magnesium-rich foods (like almonds and spinach) can help.

7. Varicose Veins

Increased blood volume during pregnancy puts extra pressure on your blood vessels, especially the veins in your legs. Hormonal changes also play a role.

Tips and Exercises to Manage and Reduce Their Appearance

  • Don’t Sit or Stand for Too Long: Changing your position regularly encourages blood flow.
  • Elevate Your Legs: When sitting, elevate your legs to help blood return to the heart. Incorporating the use of compression clothing, such as tights or shorts, can further help in reducing swelling.

8. Heartburn and Indigestion

The hormone progesterone relaxes your gastrointestinal muscles, slowing digestion. Plus, your growing uterus presses on your stomach, pushing stomach acids up into the oesophagus.

Dietary Changes and Practices to Alleviate the Discomfort

  • Eat Smaller, More Frequent Meals: This avoids overloading your digestive system.
  • Avoid Spicy and Fatty Foods: They can exacerbate heartburn.
  • Don’t Lie Down Immediately After Eating: Give your body time to digest.

9. Yeast Infections

The hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy can disrupt the natural pH balance of the vagina, making it more common for yeast infections to occur in pregnant women.

Tips for Prevention and When to Seek Medical Attention

  • Keep the Area Dry and Clean: Avoid prolonged wetness, which can create a breeding ground for yeast.
  • Wear Breathable Underwear: Opt for cotton.
  • Don’t Ignore Symptoms: If you suspect a yeast infection, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional who can prescribe safe treatment options during pregnancy.

10. Headaches and Dizziness

Hormonal changes, increased blood volume, and changes in posture can contribute to headaches and dizziness in pregnant women.

Safe Remedies and Practices to Reduce the Occurrences

  • Stay hydrated
  • Practice good posture
  • Apply a heat pack to the back of the neck
  • Some headaches can be associated with muscular tension. In that case it’s a good idea to talk to your osteopath.

11. Bladder and Bowel Problems

Pregnancy hormones can slow down your gastrointestinal system, leading to constipation. Your growing baby also puts pressure on your bladder and lower abdomen, which can lead to more frequent urination.

Tips to Manage These Issues Effectively

  • Stay Hydrated but Sip Slowly: This can reduce stomach pain during pregnancy related to both bladder and bowel problems.
  • Incorporate Fiber into Your Diet: This can help prevent constipation.

12. Breast Tenderness

The hormones progesterone and estrogen surge during early pregnancy, causing increased blood flow to the breasts and changes in the breast tissue, which can lead to tenderness.

Tips and Remedies to Ease the Discomfort

  • Wear a Supportive Bra: Hint: choose one without underwires for more comfort.
  • Apply Cold or Warm Compresses to Your Breasts: Experiment to find which temperature provides relief for you.

13. Congestion and Nosebleeds

Increased blood flow and hormonal changes can lead to swelling in the mucous membranes in your nose during pregnancy. This can result in congestion and even a bleeding nose during pregnancy.

Ways to Manage and Reduce These Symptoms

  • Use a Humidifier: Adding moisture to the air can soothe a swollen nose and reduce congestion.
  • Avoid Dry, Indoor Air: This can exacerbate a bleeding nose during pregnancy.
  • Apply a Saline Nasal Spray: Always consult with a healthcare professional before using any new products during pregnancy.

14. Skin Changes

Pregnancy is often accompanied by a host of changes to the skin, some of which can be surprising. One common issue that many expectant mothers encounter is early pregnancy acne.

This is largely due to the hormonal surge that occurs, especially in the first trimester. These hormones lead to increased oil production, which can cause the skin to become more prone to acne.

But acne is just one aspect; some women also notice a glow that is often associated with pregnancy, while others may develop pigmentation changes, often referred to as the ‘mask of pregnancy’ or melasma.

Tips for Managing Skin Changes

  • Gentle Skincare: Opt for a mild, hydrating cleanser and avoid harsh exfoliants or products with strong acids.
  • Check the labels: When choosing skincare products, check if there’s anything that suggests that pregnant or lactating women should consult a doctor before using.
  • Consult a Professional: Before starting a new skincare product, especially when pregnant, it’s wise to consult with a healthcare professional or a dermatologist who is experienced with treating pregnant women.
  • Sun Protection: For those experiencing pigmentation changes, a broad-spectrum sunscreen is essential. This helps prevent the darkening of pigmentation.

Importance of Whole-Person Care

Osteopathy, a patient-centred approach to health care, plays a significant role in managing the myriad of changes and challenges pregnant women experience. It focuses on improving the body’s function through manual treatment of the musculoskeletal system.

For expecting mothers, osteopathic care can help alleviate back pain, improve posture, and reduce stress, making it a powerful tool to help women navigate pregnancy pains that can often feel overwhelming.

How the Growing Bones Team Collaborates to Ensure Optimal Care

At Growing Bones, we recognise that every pregnancy is unique, and so should be the care provided.

Our team of skilled osteopaths collaborate closely with each other, as well as with other healthcare professionals involved in a patient’s care. This could include midwives, obstetricians, and general practitioners.

Working together, rather than in isolation, ensures that we develop a comprehensive and personalised plan that prioritises the health and comfort of both mother and baby, addressing issues ranging from lower abdomen pain during pregnancy to emotional wellness.

Benefits of Pelvic Floor and Women’s Health Physiotherapy

Preventative care is at the heart of women’s health physiotherapy. We don’t just wait for issues to arise; we proactively work with you to strengthen the pelvic floor and core muscles, educate you on proper body mechanics, and guide you in safe exercises.

This proactive approach sets the stage for a smoother pregnancy, a more comfortable postpartum recovery, and long-term health and well-being.

Addressing and Improving Discomfort Through Osteopathy

From the early days when pregnancy might bring about surprising changes, to the later stages when women may experience significant back or pelvic pain, osteopathy is a steadfast ally.

By employing techniques that improve posture, strengthen crucial muscle groups, and promote optimal fetal positioning, we’re here to help you manage and reduce your discomfort.

Whether it’s the sharp sting of sciatica or the constant ache of a strained neck, our hands-on, evidence-based approach aims to ease your journey through pregnancy, empowering you to enjoy this special time as much as possible.

When to Seek Help

While it’s normal to experience various forms of discomfort during pregnancy, there are instances where symptoms can indicate a more serious problem.

For example, severe lower abdomen pain during pregnancy, significant bleeding, or reduced fetal movements are signs that warrant immediate medical attention. Understanding this difference is vital.

Regular prenatal check-ups are essential. They not only provide healthcare professionals with the opportunity to monitor the health of you and your baby, but they also give you the chance to discuss any discomforts or concerns.

These visits are your safeguard, ensuring that any potential issues are spotted early and managed effectively

Beyond the Discomfort

Pregnancy is a beautiful, transformative time in a woman’s life, but it often comes hand in hand with various discomforts. It’s crucial to listen to your body during this significant period. Those aches and pains? They’re common, but they’re also signals from your body, and there are effective ways to manage them.

Are the aches and strains of pregnancy weighing heavily on you? Don’t endure it alone. 

If you’re near Yarraville, Melbourne, we’d love to help you through our pregnancy osteopathy services.

With a deep knowledge of women’s health and a compassionate approach, we offer tailored strategies to help you navigate the physical challenges of pregnancy. Empowering you to move from enduring this time to thriving throughout your journey towards motherhood.

Your comfort during pregnancy is not merely a luxury; it can be a pathway to a healthier, happier experience for both you and your baby.

This article has been written by Advanced Paediatric Osteopath, Melissa McDougall. The information contained in this article is intended to assist, not replace, discussion with your doctor or health care professional. Melissa McDougall and Growing Bones PTY LTD do not accept any responsibility, and will not be liable for, any inaccuracies, omissions, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in this article.

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