Menu Close

Tips for an Easier Pregnancy

Pregnancy can be accompanied by some uncomfortable symptoms but there are certainly ways to alleviate and prevent  things like cramps, nausea, insomnia or back pain.

Morning sickness

I am not sure why in English we refer to morning sickness as in my experience women can suffer from it in the morning, in the evening or even all day long!  Recent research at Liverpool University suggests it may be due to diet and certainly Chinese medicine advise to eat more of certain foods (plain whole foods, cereals such as oats and rice, plenty of vegetables, ginger) and avoid others (rich greasy foods, fried foods, sugar, ice cream, etc) . Also, it seems that in countries with diets high in cereals and pulses, there is a lower incidence or “morning” sickness.
In addition to diet, some smells such as smoke or perfume can act as triggers, but one thing that is pretty much a constant is that the nausea is usually worse on an empty stomach, which is why nibbling on dry biscuits can help.

Acupuncture is a popular alternative treatment and there are many reasons why people are sick.  In Chinese medicine you look at the root cause and treat that.  For instance treatment would differ depending on whether the nausea gets better or worse for eating, whether the person is tired and weak, whether there is a lot of acid reflux, whether is is worse at the end of a work day or in the morning upon waking, etc.  Dietary suggestions would differ slightly depending on the symptoms you present with as well.

As with many of the symptoms of pregnancy, indigestion is a consequence of the increased level of hormones relaxing many tissues in the body, including the valve from the stomach to the oesophagus.  It is obviously helpful to work out which foods trigger indigestion in your particular case.  Also, as pregnancy progresses, you may want to start eating smaller meals, especially in the evening, as the problem is exacerbated as the baby gets bigger.
If lying down makes the heartburn or acid reflux much worse, you may want to try sleeping with your head propped up slightly and during the day sitting up straight, rather than slumping.

Back Pain
During pregnancy, the body produces hormones to soften the pelvic ligaments in preparation for birth. Unfortunately, those hormones don’t just get released locally and ligaments then to relax throughout the entire body, including around the spine and sacrum, which can lead to slight misalignment and lower back pain, and in more acute cases sciatica. This, combined with the weight of the baby, can lead to extra strain on the back.
Acupuncture, a great therapy for chronic back pain, can be especially useful if you start getting backache during pregnancy.  However, to prevent it from recurring, it is important to do your bit too so…
–  try and keep a good posture as much as possible and to avoid overarching your lower back (not always easy when you have all the extra weight on your abdomen but it is certainly helpful to consciously try and avoid it)
– avoid things that would make you arch your back such as wearing high heels (especially if you will be on your feet a lot), lifting heavy objects and standing for too long
– do light exercise such as pregnancy yoga and swimming (avoid breast stroke, which makes you arch your back to catch your breath).

Tiredness and Insomnia
In the first trimester you’re exhausted and by the third you’re suffering from insomnia. Tiredness may be nature’s way of telling you to slow down, and if you can you should definitely try to get enough rest.  In the first few months nausea can be made worse if you are tired so resting can actually help you break the vicious circle of nausea/tiredness/more nausea. Later in pregnancy, poor sleep can be simply due to the fact that achieving a comfy position can be tough so use cushions and pillows to find what’s comfortable; you can also use the special pregnancy pillows but normal pillows are usually fine if you play around to find the best position for you.
Acupuncture usually has a relaxing effect so it would help you get to sleep and stay asleep.  In Chinese medicine Blood deficiency is often linked to insomnia so make sure you don’t suffer from anaemia and that you have a good nourishing diet including plenty of Blood nourishing foods.  Floradix iron supplement is great at this stage, also because it boosts iron levels without causing constipation, another common problem in pregnancy.

Fluid retention
“Fluid retention is a result of hormonal changes and the extra blood circulating,” says Gillian Fletcher, former president of the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) and antenatal teacher.  It is important to get moving to get blood and fluids circulating so try walking (and if you are near  the sea a few minutes in the water will do wonders), or if you work at a desk try every now and again to put your feet up and circulating the ankles. It is also important to drink plenty of fluids as you need your kidneys to be working effectively for good circulation. Acupuncture can certainly help although it is often crucial to ensure that you physically relieve your legs, by being active or putting your feet up.

Leg cramps
They can be a sign of sluggish circulation and often doing brisk exercise with your ankles and calf muscles before bed it helps during the night. The sooner cramp is stretched out the better, so lean against the wall and stretch out the calf, or wake up your partner and get them to push your foot flat with your leg extended.
Leg cramps can be a sign of iron, magnesium or potassium deficiency or even dehydration so make sure to drink plenty of fluids, keep your iron and magnesium levels up and try having bananas to keep up potassium levels.