The Pains Of Pregnancy

Although individuals will each experience pregnancy differently, most women will confront some level of discomfort during pregnancy.

There are many factors that influence pregnancy discomfort, such as hormonal changes, Baby’s position, and the change to your centre of gravity as you gain weight. Sister Lilian outlines the common causes of pain during pregnancy, and how you can manage these.

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Ligament pain
Ligament pain is common in the back, navel area, groin, hip bones, pelvis, pubic bones and thighs. It may feel like a stitch, twinge, burning, pulling, tightening or aching. Two types worth noting are:

  • Intercostal pain: Intense burning in the ligaments between ribs, aggravated by baby’s kicking, possibly causing inflammation
  • Round ligament pain: A needling sensation in a very specific ligament in the pelvis which helps support your growing uterus

Try these self-help tips for effective relief:

  • Exercise regularly to improve strength of ligaments.
  • Correct your posture, which will put less strain on your ligaments.
  • Sleep with a pillow between your knees to relieve hip pain.
  • For aching in your lower abdomen, cup your hands around the lower part of your growing belly and lift it gently for instant relief.
  • To soothe pelvic pain, go down on all fours, rest your head on folded arms so that your buttocks are higher than your chest.
  • Massage painful areas with arnica oil.
  • Take the tissue salts Calc fluor and Ferrum phos, as well as calcium supplements.

See your midwife or doctor if there are any symptoms like an abnormal vaginal discharge, fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, inexplicable constipation or bloating.

Backache is often a form of ligament pain and is mostly experienced from mid-pregnancy as your back’s ligaments relax and stretch. Also, your centre of gravity and posture change during pregnancy, putting additional strain on your back. Strain on the joints between your pelvis and hip bones may contribute to lower backache too.

Try these self-help tips for effective relief:

  • Alternate periods of rest and movement, and do regular back-strengthening exercises.
  • Focus on maintaining good posture.
  • Go down on all fours for instant but temporary relief.
  • If you have a desk-bound job, sit on a ‘birth ball’ to correct posture and ease pain.
  • Wear a pregnancy band in the third trimester.
  • Ask you partner to give you a back massage using arnica oil.
  • Take the tissue salts Calc fluor and Ferrum phos.

See your midwife or doctor if there is backache in early pregnancy associated with pelvic cramping or abnormal vaginal discharge; you have a fever; your urine smells; or you have any accompanying signs of labour before your due date.

Cramping muscles
Cramping in your feet and legs is common due to the extra magnesium and calcium requirements of pregnancy, and demands on the circulatory system. This is most frequent in the last trimester but can occur at any time. Cramps are usually most severe at night.

Try these self-help tips for effective relief:

  • Increase foods rich in magnesium (nuts, seeds, bananas and leafy green vegetables) and calcium (avocados, dates, grapes, guavas, kiwifruit, lemons, mangoes and dairy products in moderation).
  • Pull the toes of the affected side up toward your knee and massage the cramping muscles.
  • Take the tissue salt Mag phos to help improve assimilation of magnesium from food and supplements and to give rapid relief during cramping.

See your midwife or doctor if there are pronounced varicose veins in the affected leg, it feels hot to the touch or you find the pain unbearable.

The sciatic is the largest nerve in the body and arises from the spinal column in the lower back. Pressure on this nerve will lead to pain and inflammation, called sciatica. The softening of ligaments due to increased progesterone levels may lead to a slump in your posture, placing pressure on the sciatic nerve. In pregnancy, the body’s centre of gravity changes, further contributing to compression and irritation of this nerve.

The common symptoms include a dull ache in the buttock, sharp shooting pain down the back of the leg and in the foot, a lame or numb feeling down the leg, burning or tingling in the toes and certain areas of the leg, sensitive skin, and limited range of motion in the foot of the affected side. Occasionally, inflammation of this nerve may be caused by other conditions and chronic sciatica can lead to loss of muscle power and size.

Try these self-help tips for effective relief:

  • Good muscle tone will help prevent this.
  • Rest frequently while symptoms are acute to help alleviate inflammation of the nerve.
  • Massage the affected area with arnica oil to relieve pain, inflammation and the burning ache.
  • Wear a pregnancy band to support the entire abdominal and lower back region, contributing to less pressure and better posture.
  • Take the tissue salts Ferrum phos to relieve inflammation and burning pain, and Kali phos and Mag phos for soothing nerve pain, repairing nerves and treating muscle cramps.

See your midwife or doctor if symptoms persist or are unbearable.

Braxton Hicks contractions
These are rhythmic contractions of the womb’s muscular wall without being in labour, and are often referred to as ‘practice pains’. They may be very short, or as long as 15 minutes of abdominal wall tightening might be felt. Braxton Hicks contractions may be experienced as irritability rather than pain, or might be quite intense.

Anxious and tense women, and those whose abdominal muscles are very toned, experience more Braxton Hicks contractions. Baby’s every movement may trigger a Braxton Hicks contraction too, especially in the third trimester.

Try these self-help tips for effective relief:

  • Rest regularly.
  • Take a warm bath for rapid relief.
  • Massage your abdomen gently with a light oil.
  • Take a safe homeopathic remedy if you’re prone to anxiety and have a low pain threshold.

See your midwife or doctor if you have simultaneous vaginal bleeding and contractions.

Generally, if headaches occur early in pregnancy, they’re not serious. Pregnancy supplements are sometimes the cause. Try to avoid taking medication, but if you’re desperate, take a half dose of paracetamol.

Try these self-help tips for effective relief:

  • Take the tissue salt Mag phos at least three times a day, followed by a warm drink.
  • If anxiety underlies the headaches, take a homeopathic remedy for stress and anxiety.
  • Avoid caffeine and rich, fatty foods.
  • Keep a good posture.

See your midwife or doctor if you get headaches in the second half of pregnancy, to have your blood pressure checked, especially if you find that you are swelling a lot, experience nausea, are short of breath or have visual disturbances.