Today I conclude my 2-part blog on physical problems a Mum-to-be can encounter during pregnancy.
These are not to worry you but rather to provide the necessary information you need. If you are aware of any potential problems and can recognise the signs, then if they persist you can visit your your Healthcare Provider. They can then give you and baby the once over.
So next up minor physical problems.
So here are minor physical problems you may encounter…
Also known as the reflux action, this can increase during pregnancy due to hormonal influences and the size of baby. So you may experience heartburn more than normal.
For some, the symptoms can be minimised by avoiding certain foods. However, for other Mums-to-be the symptoms can be both constant and uncomfortable. Certain exercises may exacerbate the problem so will need to be adapted. For example, doing abdominal hollowing on all-fours or lying on you side to do side leg raises may increase your heartburn and discomfort.
General moderate exercise is recommended to help alleviate symptoms, as well as eating foods rich in calcium and fibre. Avoid eating junk foods, spicy foods or large meals before lying down or going to bed and try to avoid consuming too much in one go. Some would recommend liquid antacids, but you may also wish to consider natural remedies in the form of homeopathy (check out my Meet the Team page to find out more about Uli Holzer).
Burning or a stitch-type sensation around the ribs is very common during pregnancy. There a few causes for this. For example, abdominal stretching and/or compensatory rib cage flaring connected with respiratory changes. Or it can simply be down to your baby wanting to have more room and pushing upwards into the ribs!
To alleviate try sitting or standing with a well-balanced comfortable base. Then lift one arm up towards the ceiling so it feels like you are lifting your ribs upwards and away from the hips and lean, ever so slightly to the opposite side. Remember to breathe normally and hold this position for a few seconds, repeat the other side if required.
Getting in the pool can also help. Another way is to try walking in water. Or if you want to float whilst treading water use a ‘woggle’ (large foam roll) or a body belt (large flotation device that fixes to the upper body). Another position to try in the water is to swim on your back, using flutter kicks, whilst holding a float across your chest. Water is a wonderful way to help ease the symptoms as it supports the body weight and may ease your stitch, whilst at the same time increase your circulation, plus provide your heart, lungs and legs with a workout simultaneously!
I remember these well in my first pregnancy! They would hit me late at night whilst sleeping. That unbearable tightness in the lower leg that came calling whilst I was enjoying a wonderful sleep.
Cramp will mostly occur in the calf muscles, and can be eased with regular exercises that help to increase the circulation and stretches straight after to avoid the calf muscle becoming tight. Also before retiring to bed try to elevate your feet and do circling exercises with your ankles. When cramp does happen try flexing your foot so your toes point towards the ceiling or if you have a caring, loving partner get them to help move your foot for you.
Exercises to be mindful of include yoga or Pilates, which may involved some body positions with pointed toes, which sometime can bring on cramp. If this does occur then adapt the position by either relaxing or flexing the foot instead of pointing. Ensure you let your instructor know as to why you are doing this.
I recently posted a video about this subject and, unfortunately, it is a common part of pregnancy and after birth. To help combat this you should pelvic floor exercises on a regular basis. Remember it is never too late or too soon to start them.
There is even an app called Squeezy, designed by chartered physiotherapists specialising in women’s and men’s health. If you spend on anything during your pregnancy I highly recommend you buy this app. It only costs £2.99 and will be your reminder as and when to do your pelvic floor or Kegel exercises.
So many times when I check on my Mums to see how they are progressing with their Kegels, they’ll tell me ‘I keep forgetting’. Or they will go through spurts and then do nothing for a while. Trust me you won’t regret doing them! No Mum wants to leak when they cough, sneeze or when doing exercise during pregnancy or after birth.
If symptoms persist it is worth being referred to a women’s health specialist, who can advise upon the best course of action. Be mindful of high-impact activities in later pregnancy as it may worsen the condition. Some Mums can continue such activities as long as they were doing them before they conceived.
As I have mentioned before, hormonal changes during pregnancy affect Mums-to-be in many different ways. Varicose veins are another symptom of pregnancy.
So what causes varicose veins? Your changing hormones affect the walls of the veins, which causes them to be less effective at pumping your blood in the way they should. As a result, blood will pool in the veins causing swelling and sometimes pain, particularly at the end of the day. Normally they will reduced once your baby is delivered.
Legs aren’t the only area of the body where varicose veins can occur; as you may develop them in the vulva as well. Haemorrhoids (more commonly known as Piles) are just another form of varicose veins that occur in and around the rectum. During your pregnancy, if you do suffer from haemorrhoids that avoid exercises that puts pressure on them. For example, squats or cycling. Or if you want to continue cycling, then use a padded seat.)
Going forward here are a few factors to take into consideration:
- Taking regular exercise will increase your circulation and muscle tone
- Make sure you avoid standing or sitting for long periods of time
- Uncross your legs
- Avoid excessive weight gain
- Consider using support tights, but NOT when exercising
Lower Back Pain
I have already done a series of blogs on posture, core and the pelvic floor. With all that is going one with your bodies when pregnant, is it still any wonder that Mums suffer from back pain? To recap, your joints become unstable as the centre of gravity changes. Your muscles will become stretched and can ‘gap’ (diastasis recti); which means your back goes without its proper support.
I have written articles on how to prevent back pain, and have videos posted on my FB and Youtube Channel helping with this common symptom.
Depending on the level of pain you are experiencing, some of your exercises will need to be adapted. However, if the pain is severe then please don’t hang around to see if it will ‘get better’ by itself, consult your Doctor immediately, who may deem it necessary to be refer you to an obstetric physiotherapist. If you attend a Prenatal class make sure your instructor knows you have this condition as there may well be poses in yoga or Pilates you need to avoid. For immediate relief check out my video on stretches for lower back pain on my FB page www.facebook.com/sueyoubabbeyond.
Tension in the neck and upper shoulders
You don’t need to be pregnant to experience this. Most people I come across carry tension through the neck and upper shoulders. However, there are changes that a pregnant Mum will go through that may exacerbate this condition.
For example, growing breasts can affect the way you hold your posture. Your ever growing tummy throws you off centre of gravity. Without knowing it your body will naturally compensate for this change in balance, hence rounded shoulders with the neck shifting forward. As a result, the muscles at the back of the neck become shorter and will feel tighter, whilst the opposite is happening the front… longer and weaker! Such tightness will cause tension around the neck and shoulders and could even decrease circulation; not on a dangerous level but enough to cause headaches, tension and so on.
To avoid this, engage a good personal trainer or join a specific beginner’s prenatal class. These will provide great advice on maintaining good posture, whilst giving you exercises to help strengthen and maintain the muscles between your shoulder blades and the muscles that stabilise them.
Keep reminding yourself to relax the shoulders. Get your partner to give you a nice shoulder massage… even treat yourself to a special prenatal one!. Try to ensure that you have a good upper-body posture as much as humanly possible. If you train with a specialist, this posture will become second nature; a good habit for during pregnancy, after the birth and beyond. I am always mindful of mine and my youngest is 7 now! Exercise in general will always help.
Last but not least is fatigue.
Together with tiredness, it is common throughout pregnancy. Mums-to-be will often feel tired in the early and late stages of pregnancy. Not surprising considering what your body is going through! It is often recommended that for every hour you are exercising, you should spend half that time resting.
Now I know this may be harder to do for working Mums. But being mindful of the importance of rest means you’ll take it as and when you can. I was still teaching classes when I was pregnant. Luckily most of my classes were in the morning with a few in the evening, and I would rest during the afternoon, even if there were chores to be done. I would lay down and listen to my favourite music or just read. Sometimes I would nap, other times I wouldn’t – in a way it was time for baby and me. We would chat as in the later stages he would be bouncing around inside, which I felt was him responding.
When he was born and I couldn’t get him to sleep I would play the music I listened to when he was snug and safe in the womb and he would drift off much to our relief! One of those songs was by U2 of all bands. It explains why both of my kids don’t like nursery music because I didn’t play that at all!!
Rest, like exercise, is just as important for both you and baby. When I first start working with a Mum, I always ask about their self-care. In our modern world, we have many varied roles we play… wife, Mum, daughter, sister, worker, the list is endless. But one thing that comes through loud and clear is the lack of self-care. We need to get better at this because a tired, overworked Mum is no good to anyone, especially herself. If you are pregnant keep reminding yourself that you are very busy creating, growing and providing for your baby-to-be. This is going to be one of the most important and physically demanding things there will ever be.
That’s All Folks
So this concludes my blog series on Major and Minor Physical Problems you may encounter during your pregnancy!
As I said at the beginning, this is not to worry you but instead inform you. Should a condition arise, this knowledge will help you recognise the symptoms and, if needs be, consult your HCP.
Happy Body, Happy Mind, Happy You!