As the months march along, pregnancy can start to feel more like a burden than a wondrous event in the making. Morning sickness is just the beginning. When the new you is someone with heartburn, stretch marks, back pain, swollen feet, and varicose veins, you may even begin to wonder whether this was such a good idea. Every pregnant woman can use some sound ideas, like the ones here, for coping with the challenges.
1. Ease fatigue
• Take a half-hour nap each day. As you slumber, make sure your feet are raised higher than your heart; that helps take pressure off your legs. Don’t feel guilty about needing to rest. Building a baby is hard work.
• Get some exercise every day, as long as your doctor says it’s okay. Aerobic activity, such as walking or swimming, gives you more energy. And labour and delivery will be easier if you’ve been exercising regularly.
2. Deflate swollen feet
• Improve circulation to aching feet with alternating hot and cold footbaths. The hot water summons blood to your feet, and the cold moves it back out. Fill two basins with water—one comfortably hot, the other cold. Plunge your feet into the hot water for 3 minutes, then in the cold water for about 30 seconds. Switch back and forth six times, ending in the cold water.
• After your footbaths, rest for at least 10 minutes with your feet propped up.
3. Get heartburn under control
• When you’re pregnant, the growing pressure on your abdomen can force stomach acid up into the esophagus. Antacids help neutralize this acid. Ask your doctor to recommend a brand.
• Eat almonds. Chemical compounds in the tasty nuts help keep stomach acid in the stomach by strengthening the valve between the stomach and esophagus. Watch out, though: At about 10 calories per nut, almonds are very high in calories. To avoid gaining too much weight, you’ll need to give up some high-calorie food in exchange.
• Avoid foods that relax this valve. They include coffee, citrus juices, fried foods, peppermint, tomato products, and alcohol.
4. Beat back pain
• Avoid standing for long periods, particularly in the latter months of pregnancy. As the baby grows and the joints in your pelvic area soften, backaches become common; standing increases the pain.
• When you must stand for any length of time, keep your weight evenly balanced between your feet. If you cock one of your hips, you’ll put sideways pressure on your lower spine.
• When you’re in a chair, sit up straight. Press your lower back against the chair back and repeat this several times every day to help strengthen muscles that support your back.
• If you’re working at a desk, keep your feet slightly elevated on a footrest or a small stool.
5. Control carpal tunnel syndrome
• Many women are bothered by numbness or tingling in the fingers during pregnancy, typically because water retention causes pressure on nerves in the wrist. To ease the discomfort, exercise your arms and wrists for five minutes or so every hour.
• Don’t bend your limp wrist in an effort to control the discomfort. That will only make matters worse.
• Pick up a wrist splint at a drugstore or medical supply store and wear it to bed. That will keep you from bending your wrists as you sleep.
6. Say so long to stretch marks
Nearly every pregnant woman gets stretch marks—streaks on the skin that turn from reddish to white. They’re inevitable, because the skin has to stretch to allow for the expanding belly and breasts. The stretching occurs in the collagen layer of skin, which is beneath the surface, so skincare products do not help. But if you can avoid putting on excess weight, you’ll keep the marks to a minimum.
7. Defeat varicose veins
• Varicose veins form because you’re building up an extra volume of blood to feed the fetus. To keep them at bay, wear supportive knee-high socks, sold at medical supply stores.
• Minimize the appearance of varicose veins by using a cold compress on your legs. Mix 6 drops each of essential oil of cypress, lemon, and bergamot in a cup of distilled witch hazel. Chill in your refrigerator for at least an hour. Prop up your feet, soak a washcloth in the liquid, and apply it for 15 minutes. This combination of oils helps shrink swollen blood vessels and reduce swelling.
8. Combat constipation
Pregnant women are more susceptible to constipation, so you’ll want to increase your fiber intake. High-fiber foods include beans, bran and other whole-grain breads and cereals, ground flaxseeds, leafy vegetables, and broccoli.