Pregnancy comes with a lot body changes that can be, well, unpleasant. There's nausea, vomiting (also called morning sickness), constipation, and leg cramps, to name a few. The World Health Organization (WHO) even mentions that certain pregnancy symptoms like pelvic pain, heartburn, and varicose veins often worsen as you near your due date.
To help pregnant women around the world, WHO has suggested ways safe and natural ways to find relief from these symptoms. These are included in their recently updated guidelines for pregnant women, which you can read about here.
1. Nausea and vomiting The odds are against pregnant women when it comes to morning sickness. “Symptoms of nausea and vomiting are experienced by approximately 70% of pregnant women and usually occur in the first trimester of pregnancy,” says WHO, and for 20 percent of these women, the symptoms can go longer than three months.
Try: Ginger or luya, yep, like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, WHO recommends it for both nausea and vomiting relief. A subject of a recent study from the U.K.’s NHS (read about it here), ginger promotes the secretion of various digestive enzymes that help neutralize stomach acid and relax stomach muscles.
2. Heartburn Defined as a burning pain in the chest often experienced after eating, heartburn can be triggered by the pregnancy hormone progesterone. Progesterone relaxes the muscles in your stomach and esophagus, which then allows stomach acids to leak and cause heartburn, according to Mayo Clinic. “Symptoms of heartburn occur in two thirds of pregnant women, and may be worse after eating and lying down,” says WHO.
Try: Diet and lifestyle changes can be enough to lessen the severity of heartburn. That means avoiding large and fatty meals. Propping up more pillows under your head when laying down can also provide relief.
The WHO researchers also agree that antacids are not likely to cause any harm to pregnant women. But take it two hours after you have had your iron and folic acid supplements so you can better absorb the said mineral and vitamin. Of course, consult your doctor before taking any type of medication.
3. Leg cramps Why pregnant women get painful leg cramps during the second and third trimesters, often at night, is still unclear, says Mayo Clinic. Unfortunately, WHO found no evidence of the effectiveness of stretching, muscle relaxation, heat therapy, and massages in relieving pregnancy leg cramps.
Try: Magnesium and calcium supplements can possibly provide relief from leg cramps although this doesn’t work for all women, says WHO. Some pregnant women are already prescribed calcium supplements – get the okay from your doctor about taking it for leg cramp relief and the same goes for magnesium supplements. Mayo Clinic also suggests staying hydrated and choosing proper, comfortable footwear.
4. Lower back and pelvic pain According to WHO, “low back and pelvic pain is estimated to occur in half of pregnant women, 8 percent of whom experience severe disability.” Possible reasons for it include the additional weight gain, posture changes, hormone changes, and stress, says WebMD. Your back pain should gradually decrease as you near your delivery date unless you've had back pain even before your pregnancy. Consult your doctor if pain persists.
Try: While you wait for the pain to subside, WHO recommends regular exercise with doctor supervision. In addition, you can also try physiotherapy, support belts or acupuncture, says the organization.
5. Constipation It can be troublesome and worse, it can even be complicated by hemorrhoids. One possible reason why pregnancy causes constipation is again the pregnancy hormone progesterone, which as mentioned, causes muscles to relax including the digestive tract causing food to pass more slowly.
Try: Diet changes can be enough to relieve pregnancy constipation, according to WHO. And there is nothing like fiber to help with this condition. Eat food like vegetables, nuts, fruits and whole grain (look for whole wheat bread, brown rice and whole grain cereal) drink lots of water.
6. Varicose veins and swelling “Varicose veins usually occur in the legs, but can also occur in the vulva and rectum, and may be associated with pain, night cramps, aching and heaviness, and worsen with long periods of standing,” says WHO. Swelling or oedema can also happen anywhere in the body, but it is common in the legs, ankles, feet and hands, says BabyCentre. It happens because a pregnant woman’s body holds on to more fluid than usual.
Unfortunately, it can worsen with hot weather and as the pregnancy progresses. These symptoms should improve within a few months of giving birth.
Try: Compression stockings, leg elevation, soaking the affected areas in warm water and lots of rest.