Treating Pregnancy Discomforts and Complaints Naturally
Pregnancy discomforts make it harder to enjoy your pregnancy. Luckily most of them can be solved using safe, natural methods – so you feel great all day. This page covers common discomforts and gives suggestions for naturally treating each one.
Pick your pregnancy complaint below to jump to some suggestions:
Morning Sickness | Fatigue | Heartburn | Tender Breasts
“Rollercoaster” Emotions | Dizziness | Constipation | Swelling
Varicose Veins | Gas | Peeing a Lot! | Shortness of Breath
Braxton-Hicks or “Practice” Contractions | Backache
Leg Cramps | Stretch Marks | Hemorrhoids | Bleeding Gums
During the first trimester you feel exhausted… literally wiped out! You might feel guilty about this, like you “haven't been doing anything.” But your body is working very hard. Your baby's vital systems are all actively developing and your body is adjusting itself to pregnancy.
Many women find relief in the second trimester (though some do not!) Then the third trimester rolls around and again you're exhausted! In the third trimester fatigue comes from carrying around so much extra weight all day long. You also don't sleep as well.
It's important to get enough sleep. Go to bed earlier if you need to. Take a nap every day. If you can't nap during the day, taking a few minutes to close your eyes and relax completely will do wonders.
A guided relaxation helps you fall asleep if you're having trouble (there are some nice pregnancy ones that help you bond with baby, too). A warm bath (not hot!) helps you relax and unwind. A hot cup of herbal tea can soothe, too.
Eating well keeps your energy levels up. Snacks help, especially if morning sickness stops you from eating your regular meals.
If you're excessively tired, or if your fatigue doesn't let up in the second trimester, ask your care provider to test you for iron anemia.
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Some women get horrible heartburn during pregnancy! If you're one of them, here are some natural options for relief:
- Papaya Enzymes: Many midwives and pregnant women swear by them!
- Foods like plain popcorn may help. These can soak up excess stomach acid and many women find them helpful.
- Try coating your throat and stomach with sips of milk or cream. Yogurt with live active cultures can help. This simple remedy works for many women, but others find in ineffective or don't like milk. Some find it makes heartburn worse.
- Try almonds, which also have plenty of protein.
- Peppermint Herbal Tea: this may also help if you have gas.
- Chewable Calcium With Magnesium provides fast relief; consult your doctor or midwife about this, especially if you're using it often.
- Chamomile Tea: This also helps soothe you if you're feeling uptight, nervous, or having trouble sleeping.
- Marshmallow Root: The root forms a soothing gel when mixed with water.
Eat smaller meal – “graze” (it helps with so many issues in pregnancy!). Stay upright or propped up in bed for twenty to thirty minutes after you eat.
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The first sign of pregnancy is often tender breasts. You may be familiar with this if your breasts get tender around the time your period is due. The tenderness may simply be “tender,” or you may wince if something even brushes up against your breasts – nipples also tend to get sensitive.
The tenderness might fade after the first trimester, but it can go through your entire pregnancy. A supportive bra or camisole with built-in support helps. Wear a bra at night if it helps you.
Sore breasts and tender nipples due to pregnancy hormones go away in the immediate postpartum period. Your breasts can be tender postpartum due to your milk coming in, though. Click here for more info on getting breastfeeding started right.
One minute you're ecstatic — the next you're crying inconsolably. This is totally normal during pregnancy! Try and take it in stride… you're going to be more sensitive to things. It's okay, and it's okay to take some time for yourself if you need it.
Ignore people who make rude comments about being “hormonal.” Or laugh with them if you want to! Talk to your partner or someone you can trust if you're upset by someone commenting about your emotions.
If you feel depressed and have a hard time being positive at all, you might be dealing with prenatal depression. Depression during pregnancy happens – it's not just post-partum! Seek help if you feel like you need someone to talk to about persistent depression. Click here to read about my own struggle with depression during one of my pregnancies.
An excellent book to read is Spiritual Midwifery. It discusses positive attitudes and how they influence pregnancy and birth in detail. It also has plenty of inspiring birth stories.
Feeling a little dizzy during early pregnancy is normal. Change positions slowly. Eat frequently – you guessed it – graze! If you normally find you're dizzy first thing in the morning, take a snack to bed with you. A small cooler with whole milk and a piece of cheese, or a cup of Greek yogurt work well.
Drink plenty of water and don't stand or sit in one place for too long. Moving keeps your blood moving well and prevents you from feeling dizzy or faint.
If you feel dizzy, especially in later pregnancy, let your care provider know. Feeling dizzy along with high blood pressure and/or protein in your urine can be a sign of pre-eclampsia. Get your midwife or doctor to rule this out, or to get you the help you need to make sure you and your baby are safe!
Constipation happens when pregnancy hormones make your bowels more sluggish – some think this allows you to absorb the maximum nutritional content from your food. The pressure of your growing uterus also leads to slow-down and lessens your sensitivity to bowel urges (so you may miss a routine bowel movement… which causes build-up) Constipation can also be aggravated by iron supplements.
Keep a regular routine to prevent some of this — early morning usually works. Have a mug of hot tea (such as pregnancy tea) or even warm water, then sit down on the toilet with a good book or magazine. Do this every morning to encourage your body to be regular.
Don't push hard when you're trying to use the bathroom. Consciously relax the muscles around your mouth. Relaxing your mouth like this helps your bottom stay loose (I recommend Ina May's Guide to Childbirth to learn more about how a loose mouth equals a loose bottom! It'll help you during birth) Pull up a small stool for your feet as well – this can help you relax and open so you don't need to strain.
Don't hold back if you need to use the bathroom. Find a bathroom and go! If using public bathrooms makes you uncomfortable, take a “potty kit” in your purse. Include a toilet seat cover, newspaper for the floor (so your clothes don't have to touch dirty tile), and wet wipes for clean up. You can also put a small can of air spray in your kit if that makes you more comfortable. Some women find that listening to music on headphones while in a public bathroom helps.
If you're becoming more and more constipated, ask your doctor or midwife about taking magnesium in the evening. It often helps bring quick relief the next morning.
Some swelling during pregnancy is normal. Many women find that their fingers and feet swell some. Keep drinking plenty of water and sit with your feet up. It may seem strange, but dehydration can cause swelling!
Avoid additives like MSG and artificial sweeteners. Limiting salt intake doesn't do any good — in fact, it's harmful! In late pregnancy your blood volume expands dramatically and salt helps your body keep up with the fluid needed to sustain this. Avoid processed foods, but salt your homemade meals to taste! Your body knows what it needs.
Have any swelling looked at by your midwife or doctor. If you start to swell in your hands or face call immediately! Lots of swelling can be an indication of pre-eclampsia and should be checked as soon as possible.
These occur when the valves in your veins weaken, making it harder for the blood in your legs to move back up towards your heart. It backs up and pools in the veins. These occur most often after multiple pregnancies or if you're overweight.
Don't sit or stand in one place for too long. Walk around if you've been sitting or standing in one place. A brisk daily walk helps. When you do sit, prop your feet up. Also remember not to cross your legs when you sit, as this makes it even harder for the blood to move up your legs. Do not rub varicose veins.
Maternity support hose help many women with varicose veins. Put them on first thing in the morning – even before you get out of bed. Lift your leg up and pull the hose down for the best support.
Vitamin E can help with varicose veins. 400 IU is considered a safe supplementation amount for pregnancy – be sure to check your prenatals for the listed amount.
Hamamelis, a homeopathic remedy may help some as well. It's made from witch hazel and used in treating weak veins. Use a 3x potency.
Some women report that dandelion or nettles teas help them.
Gas can get really painful during pregnancy. The hints on constipation will help, since regular bowel movements should keep build-up from your intestines.
Look at diet first if you've got a lot of gas. Dairy, beans, onions, broccoli, and other leafy veggies can cause gas. Getting your dairy from yogurts, kefir, or other cultured products may help. Soak your beans overnight and changing the soaking water a few times to help “de-gas” your beans. Eat a fermented food, such as kimchee or sauerkraut, along with your meals. The beneficial bacteria in these foods help digest it and lessen gas.
Exercise helps your digestive system to keep working well. A brisk daily walk is a good habit that addresses several pregnancy discomforts. There are also three yoga positions that can help with gas. All are done on all fours:
- The pelvic rock, or “cat” position. This position is done when you arch your pelvic area up like a cat, and then gently drop it down to make a hollow in the small of your back.
- A side-to-side pelvic rock, or “tail wagging” style position. You arch sideways to the right, bringing your head and your bottom close together, then gently arch sideways to the left, as if you were wagging a tail!
- A circular rock position. In this position you roll your pelvis around as if you were belly dancing, but from the all fours position. This position can feel very good and really help to move gas out.
- Doing these three positions one after the other gives you a good stretch, and it can help gas move out of your body. Be relaxed when you do them.
Papaya Enzymes may help gas. Peppermint has also long been used to help with gas. You can find Peppermint caps that are enteric coated – these have a special coating that allows them to pass through your stomach and into your intestines before dissolving, giving you the peppermint where you most need it. You can also make a tea with peppermint leaves.
You're going to have to pee… a lot! There isn't much to do to relieve this annoyance. Do Not decrease your water intake to try and go to the bathroom less. Your pregnant body and your baby need that water!
You can cut down on sodas and other carbonated beverages. This may not help much, but it's good for you and good for your baby.
Go to the bathroom frequently, whenever you feel the need. Don't hold it — that can increase your chance of developing a painful infection. Getting up to go to the bathroom also gives you a chance at movement which will beneficial to your body.
As your hormones balance out during the second trimester you may be relieved to find you need to pee less. But then you may find yourself running for the bathroom again in the third trimester. This is because your baby's bigger body is now pressing down on your bladder.
The first several days after delivery you will probably be going to the bathroom a lot as well. All the fluids stored in your body during pregnancy will be mobilizing, causing you to need to pee and possibly to sweat a lot. After this water moves out, you will not need to pee so frequently.
In late pregnancy it's normal to find yourself short of breath. This happens when your baby is taking up so much room inside you that there isn't as much room for your lungs to expand.
Changing positions can help you breathe more fully. Lie on your left side for a little while, or do some stretches on hands and knees. These positions make your heavy uterus to fall away from your lungs. Eat smaller meals more often (graze!), so your stomach feeling full doesn't make you more uncomfortable.
If your shortness of breath is persistent and you feel like you aren't getting enough oxygen, call your care provider. If you have symptoms of illness along with the winded feeling, call your care provider. Mention even occasional shortness of breath at your prenatal appointment so that your midwife or doctor can rule out any complications.
These are called “practice contractions.” They are small contractions usually felt in the front of the belly (named for the doctor who “first identified” them.)
Braxton-hicks contractions are good for your body. They help to prepare your uterus and cervix for labor, even if there is no visible change in dilation or effacement.
If you are finding them uncomfortable, they provide an excellent time to practice relaxation techniques for labor. Relax and breathe, allowing the contraction to peak and ebb away.
You might also find comfort from placing warm (not hot!), moist heat over your crampy belly. A warm rice sock can be used to soothe cramps (you may like these in labor, too.) Braxton-hicks contractions go away when you change positions. They don't continue for a very long time. If your contractions are persistent and do not go away when you change position or activity, call your care provider.
As your uterus grows to accommodate your baby, you may feel backaches. Try to have good posture. Sit and stand straight, don't slouch. And pull your belly in some, don't let it “all hang out!”
You may find that doing yoga helps your back. Gentle stretches to flex the back may be especially helpful. Some women find the pelvic rock to be the most effective stretch. Taking a walk every day may also help.
Sleep on a firm mattress if you can. Applying heat to the sore area may help (use that labor sock I suggested for Braxton-hicks); as try a soak in a warm bath (hot baths are not good for your baby). You may ask your partner to apply pressure to your back if you find that helps.
Take things easy and remember that backache is only temporary. A literal pain! But a temporary one.
Let cramps are painful. They can be caused by poor circulation and lack of calcium, magnesium, or B vitamins. Be sure that you're moving around a lot during the day. Walking is a great way to keep circulation going.
When you sit, prop your feet up to ensure good blood flow to your legs. Don't cross your legs. If you get a cramp, lift your leg and flex your foot towards you to relieve it.
If you are taking a prenatal, you may want to check to be sure it has a 2:1 calcium:magnesium ratio. If you supplement calcium, be sure to take a supplement that includes both calcium and magnesium. If you eat a lot of dairy products, you may want to ask your midwife or doctor about supplementing some magnesium.
These occur when your skin stretches during pregnancy. It is believed that they are influenced by heredity. Nutrition, skin elasticity, and how quickly you gain weight can also influence stretch marks. They appear on the abdomen, and some women get them on their breasts and thighs.
Eating well may help with stretch marks. You can also try a oil-based formula stretch formula. I prefer a body butter for stretch marks personally! Some women will get stretch marks no matter what they do.
Looking at your stretch marks as signs that you have given life to a child may help you. Let them remind you that your body is amazing and it has nurtured your child within. Eventually some stretch marks will fade.
Hemorrhoids are a vein or veins around the anus or rectum that are swollen and tender. They are very uncomfortable and can make using the bathroom painful.
Hot baths may help. You can try and push the vein back while in a hot bath or sitz bath. Sometimes they will stay. Witch hazel ( available over the counter at the drug store, is a natural astringent. You can soak a cloth with witch hazel and apply a compress to the hemorrhoids.
As with constipation, don't strain when you use the bathroom. Holding your mouth slightly open and relaxed is a good way to relax your bottom. A low stool to put your feet up on can also make going to the bathroom easier.
Eat lots of fiber, fruits, and veggies to help keep your stools soft.
Also called “pink toothbrush,” bleeding gums may be distressing to you. It's a common pregnancy discomfort, however. Your excellent nutrition may help. The best thing to do is to use a soft toothbrush and brush your teeth very gently. You may also want to switch to a very gentle toothpaste.