Pregnancy may be classified as one of the most beautiful and natural events in a woman’s life. However, growing another human being inside your body could also be uncomfortable and difficult.
Many struggles during pregnancy revolve around a woman’s changing body and pain related to pelvic health.
Here are the five most common pregnancy complaints and what you can do about them.
1. Back Pain and Sciatica
The most common complaint of all pregnant women is back pain. During the third or second trimester, the weight of your baby bears down on the pelvic bone and compresses the sciatic nerve. This results in a sharp pain extending from your back, down your legs and to the buttocks.
This is also due to your body’s way of compensation for the added weight on your front by releasing a cocktail of pregnancy hormones that relax your abdominal ligaments and muscles to relax.
Because of this, all the weight is carried by your back muscles, leading to poor posture and back ache.
To relieve back pain, you can try:
● Practicing proper posture with your shoulders stretched back and your pelvis tucked in
● Avoiding to bend on your waist when lifting heavy stuff and bending at your knees while keeping your back straight instead, or not lifting anything heavy at all
● Placing a rolled towel or a pillow behind the lower back when sitting
● Not standing or sitting for very long periods of time
● Sleeping on your side with pillows under your belly and between bent knees
● Doing yoga stretches several times per week
● Considering wearing a belly support across your abdomen that takes pressure off your back
● Regularly attending a special pregnancy exercise class
● Avoiding picking up children to cuddle or comfort them. Sit down or squat in their level, or put them on your lap while sitting down instead.
● Not wearing high heels as these can worsen your posture.
● Visiting a pregnancy masseur or a women physiotherapist.
● Discussing any sharp or irregular pain with a healthcare specialist because it may be due to a different condition.
2. Urinary Tract Disorders
Based on a study of the March of Dimes, almost 10% of all expecting mothers acquire a urinary tract infection or UTI somewhere along their pregnancy. This can cause pelvic pain, sudden urges to pee, a painful burning sensation when urinating, blood in the urine, or abdominal pain, says Dr. Linda Chambliss, St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center’s chief of obstetrics.
Dr. Chambliss adds that UTIs while pregnant can progress to kidney infections and increase the risk of preterm labour. However, when caught early, this is easy to treat using antibiotics. This is why ob-gyn doctors always check your urine every time you visit: to look for UTI-causing bacteria.
Another urinary problem during pregnancy is kidney stones. This can manifest through severe pain on your side that may intensify and diminish repeatedly.
According to an obstetrician, Dr. Suzanne Merrill-Nach in San Diego, the protocol for kidney stones in pregnant women is just to keep them comfortable while waiting for the stones to pass.
Try these tips to relieve and prevent pelvic pain due to urinary tract disorders:
● Never take a hot bath and opt for a warm shower instead, allowing the water to hit your back.
● Wear shoes with good arch support.
● Avoid sharp turns or quick movements.
● Get a prenatal massage.
● Exercise regularly especially if your body is used to working out before your pregnancy.
● Stay hydrated and avoid coloured drinks and salty food.
● Talk to your doctor if you suspect a UTI, kidney stones, or anything serious.
3. Constipation and other digestive disorders
Pregnancy leads to many hormonal changes that cause the gut wall to relax. This makes bowel movement more difficult, which in turn causes constipation.
In addition to this, higher progesterone levels slow down digestion while excess iron from prenatal supplements or vitamins hardens your stool. This can even lead to swollen veins in the rectum that cause burning, bleeding or itching haemorrhoids.
This is most common in the latter part of your pregnancy when the womb is large enough to constrict blood flow and the veins to enlarge or burst.
Other digestive tract conditions that can occur during pregnancy are gastroenteritis (a viral infection), irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, or appendicitis.
To help avoid these problems:
● Consume a high-fibre diet consisting of vegetables, grains, and fruits like prunes, figs, or apricots.
● Participate in light exercises and regular walks.
● Drink at least eight glasses of water each day, and a warm beverage upon waking up to stimulate digestion.
● Ask your doctor for safe, mild laxatives, stool softeners, or bulking agents.
● Take a couple of FiberCon tablets every day when nauseated, as recommended by the maternal-fetal specialist, Dr. Tessie Tharakahn from the Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital in New York.
● Avoid delaying your toilet breaks and go as soon as you feel the urge to.
● Avoid straining yourself in the toilet as this can cause haemorrhoids.
4. Vaginal and Pelvic Pressure
As your baby grows, the volume of your blood and the pull of gravity on your belly also increase, leading to pressure on the pelvis and vagina.
This not only occurs during the last trimester, but you may also feel a certain heaviness during the first and second trimesters.
Though this is normal, the exact cause is hard to pinpoint and diagnose. However, these are the likely causes:
● The increasing weight of your baby that pushes on your pelvic floor muscles that support your bladder, small intestine, uterus, and rectum.
● The baby pushing against your pelvis, hips, and internal organs.
● The hormone relaxin that loosens your ligaments as you near childbirth. This can affect the pubic bone, pelvic joints, and the legs, causing instability or pain.
The remedies for these are the same as those for preventing back pain, especially wearing a supportive garment on your belly.
Because of the combined effect of hormones and the baby weight, your pelvic muscles become weak leading to stress incontinence (involuntarily peeing yourself when you sneeze, jump, cough, or laugh) and general incontinence.
Weak pelvic muscles reduce the support received by your internal organs, negatively affecting your bowel and bladder function. This is also known as pelvic floor dysfunction, wherein the muscles of your pelvic floor lose control due to strain or damage.
To avoid and reduce your risk of developing incontinence or pelvic floor dysfunction:
● Strengthen your pelvic ligaments, muscles, and joints by doing regular pelvic floor exercises, consult a physiotherapist, or attend specialised pregnant exercise classes.
● Do Kegels and other exercises recommended by a specialist.
● Seek expert care as soon as the first symptoms arise to be able to manage them through natural remedies and without medication.
Pregnancy is a beautiful time, despite the physical, mental, and emotional constraints that go with it. The key to overcoming common pregnancy complaints is to eat right, exercise safely and regularly, drink enough water, and don’t be afraid or embarrassed to call your doctor whenever you feel something wrong.
And, above all, just always remember that in the end, it will all be worth it.
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