Some women blissfully glide through those nine months of pregnancy. For others, it’s a all pregnancy body aches in the form of pains in the fingers, calves, feet and even butt.
Those pains are triggered by your changing, growing body and the 50% increase in blood volume to all those circulating hormones and the extra weight you’re putting on. The result: body aches, twinges and cramps all over.
Here are doctor-recommended tips on how to handle them.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in Pregnancy
Blame anatomy for the pain, numbness, tingling or burning in your fingers, palm or wrists.
People have a ligament that’s like a bracelet around their wrists called the carpal tunnel, and through it runs the median nerve, which goes from the forearm into the hand. Swelling caused by weight gain and water retention puts pressure on this nerve.
Carpal tunnel can occur in one or both hands and the pain may get worse at night or in the morning. That’s because fluids accumulate in hands while sleeping.
Another trigger: sleeping on hands or with them flexed.
Wear a wrist brace at night. “[That’s] the best way to relieve the pain. And it keeps you from flexing your wrists for long periods while you snooze. Braces are available at drugstores.
Stretch your hand muscles. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) recommends this exercise: Curl your fingers into a fist and then bend your wrist toward your forearm. Next, straighten fingers and stretch your wrist in the other direction. Do 10 repetitions at least once a day.
Take computer breaks. The repetitive motion of typing and clicking a mouse may aggravate pain, because hands weren’t designed to perform the same motions for long periods. Take breaks every 1-2 hours to prevent overuse. If you have an adjustable keyboard, position it so you’re not bending wrists and compressing the nerve when you type.
Cut back on salt. Reduce water retention by eating natural diuretic foods like grapefruit and asparagus. (Taking diuretic pills, aka “water pills,” during pregnancy isn’t recommended because some animal studies suggest they may cause harmful side effects.) Less swelling may mean less pressure on the nerve. This can be beneficial in other form pregnancy body aches.
Edema in Pregnancy
Sure, your belly’s swollen. But so are your hands, ankles and feet. That’s a sign of edema, caused by a “50% increase in blood volume when you’re pregnant and a lot of extra fluids accumulating. Edema typically crops up in the third trimester and often seems worse in the afternoon and evening, in warm weather or if you’ve been standing a long time.
Mild swelling is common in about 75 % of pregnant women, according to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG).
But see a doctor if your face gets swollen or if swelling increases suddenly. That’s a sign of a possibly serious condition such as preeclampsia (pregnancy-induced hypertension), which can have complications such as kidney and liver damage.
Elevate your legs. This defies gravity and prevents fluid from pooling in your feet.
Wear compression stockings. (They’re available at drugstores.) These promote circulation in the body.
Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water. This actually helps flush out your system and reduces water retention
Wear loose-fitting clothing. “Tight garments can restrict the flow of blood to and from the legs.
Leg Cramps as Pregnancy body aches
These oh-so-painful muscle contractions are common in the second and third trimesters, often occurring at night and lasting a few minutes. They’re triggered by fluid build-up combined with the hormone progesterone.
Stretch before bed. To relax contracting muscles, straighten the leg and flex the ankle and toes slowly toward your body several times.
Apply heat. A heating pad or hot-water bottle can loosen muscles and improve circulation, preventing cramps.
Take deep breaths. “Sometimes cramps are caused by anaerobic respiration – a lack of oxygen in the muscles. Deep breathing can help.
Sciatica in Pregnancy
Like carpal tunnel syndrome, sciatica is caused by a pinched nerve, but in your back, not wrist. It causes an excruciating pain that shoots from your lower back down the hip and leg, triggering numbness.
Your growing uterus can throw off your posture and compress the sciatic nerve, which branches from the back through the pelvis to the hips and down your legs.
Stretch your back. Stand facing a wall and, with both hands on the wall, lift the right leg behind you to the count of five. Switch legs and repeat. Do this 2-3 times on each side at least once a day to “relieve pressure on the nerve.
Apply heat. Use a heating pad or hot-water bottle or soak in a warm, but not hot, bath. This can soothe and relax tight muscles.
Exercise. Gentle back exercises can help by strengthening back muscles and promoting better posture, which reduces back pain.
They’ll not only ease back pain but also help prepare you for labor and delivery, according to the ACOG.
Also, stretching legs is key, since tight hamstrings tug at the lower back and cause pain.
Backache in Pregnancy
Back pain is one of the most common problems for mothers-in-the-making, according to the ACOG.
It’s caused by the baby you’re carrying. Plus, your uterus is expanding up to 1,000 times its pre-pregnancy size. Both can shift your center of gravity, straining back muscles.
Also, your abdominal muscles support your back, and they’re being challenged by extra baby weight. If they’re weak to begin with, they don’t provide enough support to the spine.
Pregnancy hormones are a factor too, relaxing ligaments and causing a sway back.
Watch your weight: Doctors advise women to gain no more than 35 pounds because too much extra weight adds to the load on your back.
Wear shoes with good arch support. Get rid of the flip-flops, since they have terrible support and are even worse for feet than high heels.
High heels can also throw off your posture, straining the back.
Lift correctly. This means squatting down, bending at the knees (not the waist), keeping your back straight, and lifting with your arms (not your back).
Support your back when sitting. Place a firm cushion, small pillow or rolled towel behind your lower back. (Don’t sit on backless chairs or stools.)
Sleep on your side with a pillow between your legs. This adds back support and takes pressure off your back.
Do back exercises. Here’s one recommended by the ACOG: Sit on the floor with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor and hands clasped in front of you. Twist your upper body to the left until your hands touch the floor, pause and repeat on the right side. Do about 5 reps.
Try a girdle. Maternity girdles, elastic slings or back braces (found at maternity stores) can help support some of your weight and take pressure off your back.
If these pain-relieving tips fail, there’s still hope. Many of these pregnancy aches disappear when your baby is born.
Tags: Pregnancy body aches