Although some lucky Moms just breeze through pregnancy, most have to deal with some degree of discomfort as the body adjusts to accommodate a growing baby and prepare for labor. While some aches and pains are natural, there’s no need to suffer…There are many gentle and effective ways to ease your pregnancy discomforts.
What Causes Pain During Pregnancy?
As your baby grows and develops inside you, the abdominal wall and abdominal muscles stretch. These muscles can’t maintain normal body posture, so the lower back ends up carrying much more than usual. Changes in posture can cause hip pain, shoulder and neck pain and abdominal pain.
Hormone shifts can lead to pain and swelling. Specifically a hormone called Relaxin (appropriately named) relaxes the joints in the pelvis to enable birth. Unfortunately, relaxin cannot pick and choose which muscles and tissues it affects, so other joints in the body loosen, too. This often causes unstable joints, leading to inflammation and pain.
Finally, it would be a disservice not to mention the effect of stress and emotions. During pregnancy, shifting hormones may cause you to experience your emotions more acutely, and the impending lifestyle shift of having a new baby can certainly provoke some stress. It’s no coincidence that phrases such as, “The weight of the world on my shoulders,” Twisting my arm,” and “I can’t stomach that” exist! Observe the way stress and emotions settle into your body. Sometimes awareness of the burden is enough to lighten the load a bit.
Common types of discomfort and pain during pregnancy include:
- Lower back pain is common as the abdomen expands, weight is put on, and your posture begins to change.
- Pain in the hips and pelvis occurs as hormonal changes relax the joints in the pelvis to facilitate birth.
- Abdominal pain occurs as muscles and ligaments in the abdomen stretch and thicken to accommodate and support the growing uterus.
- Sciatica occurs when a nerve becomes irritated in the buttocks causing low back pain that often radiates sharply down the leg.
- Neck and shoulder pain is another result of relaxing uterine ligaments, changes in posture and hormonal changes.
- Carpal tunnel and wrist pain results from swelling and fluid retention. Carpal tunnel causes numbness, pain or tingling in the wrists or fingers.
- Headaches and Migraines. Whether you’ve experienced them before pregnancy or not, sometimes headaches come with the flux of pregnancy hormones.
Treating Pain During Pregnancy Naturally
Natural treatments are often more effective as well as safer than medications for treating pain during pregnancy. Here’s a few things to try:
- Acupuncture has been used to relieve pain during pregnancy for centuries, including lower back, sciatic, hip, and pelvic pain; neck and shoulder pain; carpal tunnel/wrist pain; abdominal pain, headaches, and more. Not only is acupuncture a safe way to treat pain, it can also help reduce swelling.
- Chiropractic care involves adjusting misaligned joints in the body. Chiropractors trained in working with pregnancy can safely and effectively reduce back, neck, and shoulder pain. A chiropractor also can use a method called the Webster Technique to help align the pelvis for the baby’s descent through the birth canal.
- Massage is a great choice for treating sciatica, hip and lower back pain, especially during the final trimester. Find a therapist well trained in meeting the needs of a pregnant woman. Just because you’re carrying a baby doesn’t mean you can’t have deep tissue massage if that’s what you’re craving!
- Heat can be helpful for persistent pain, and if ice is used to reduce acute inflammation, be sure to follow with heat to encourage blood flow and healing.
- Gentle Exercise can decrease muscle spasms and improve spinal function, and this can reduce back, neck, shoulder and hip pain. Most women find gentle stretching, walking, biking or other mild cardiovascular exercise is very helpful for reducing pain and discomfort. Swimming or water aerobics will feel particularly good, as extra weight and pressure seem to float away while you’re in the water.
- Rest and relaxation can help reduce the pain associated with pregnancy, especially in combination with gentle exercise. Getting off your feet can help alleviate sciatic and lower back pain as well as restore flow and ease throughout your body.
A combination of natural treatments is usually the best approach for treating pain during pregnancy. By reducing your pain, you’re likely to feel less stress and anxiety as well- opening the way for a more enjoyable pregnancy, birth, and transition into motherhood.