Doing all the right things for your growing baby is important, but make sure you take care of yourself too with these handy tips for staying comfortable during pregnancy.
To the casual observer, being pregnant might not look like much more than carrying a developing baby around, but growing a person is hard work and inside every pregnant woman is a raft of complex physiological changes that can affect health and general wellbeing in a variety of ways. Try these simple ideas to help you feel your best as you wait for your tiny bundle to arrive.
It’s normal to feel tired in your first trimester as hormonal upheaval begins and your body prepares itself for what lies ahead, so if the urge to crash strikes at 7.30pm don’t fight it. Your energy levels should return in the second trimester, but dip again in the third as baby gets into some serious final growth spurts. Ironically, as your need for sleep increases it can be harder to achieve.
Calming tea There’s a wide range of herbal teas available that are suitable or specially designed for use during pregnancy. It can be soothing to have a warm cup of tea before bed, but may also require an extra trip to the loo!
Pregnancy pillows You’ll need to sleep on your side for the majority of your pregnancy and as your belly expands it can be hard to get comfortable enough to fall asleep. Strategically placed pillows make a world of difference. Lie on your left side with your knees bent and put one between your knees, one beneath your belly and one behind your back for support.
Or buy a specially designed pregnancy pillow, which is easier to move in one go when you turn over.
Eating smaller meals Heartburn can be common in pregnancy as the hormone that relaxes your muscles to accommodate your growing baby also relaxes the stomach valve that keeps acid out. Avoid it by eating smaller meals more often, sip water throughout the day and don’t eat just before bed. If you’re really struggling, talk to your pharmacist or GP about an antacid that’s safe to take during pregnancy.
Aches and pains
The growing weight of the baby coupled with your body shifting and expanding can all add up to an aching back, pelvis and legs.
Quick tricks Get on all fours and let your belly drop down, shifting the baby’s weight away from your organs. Sit with a warm wheat bag against your lower back, or indulge in a long shower and let the warm water run down your back.
Massage and acupuncture There is a wide range of ‘mum-to-be’ massage treatments available. You could also ask your partner to massage tired feet and legs, but leave any massage around your belly to a professional. Specialist pregnancy acupuncture or acupressure is believed to assist with nausea, fatigue, swelling and pelvic pain.
Belly band This is a wide piece of stretchy fabric that covers your growing belly and can offer a little extra support and warmth in cooler months. It is also useful as a ‘wardrobe extender’ as you can wear it to bridge the gap’ in trousers or skirts that no longer do up comfortably.
TENS machine TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation and these little battery-powered devices send tiny pulses through pads attached to the skin to disrupt pain messages to the brain. They can be useful in combating early labour pains and are readily available for hire online.
The prospect of becoming a parent can be a combination of joy and apprehension; it’s normal to feel a bit overwhelmed or anxious at times about what lies ahead, but don’t let it build up.
Yoga Pregnancy yoga is widely regarded as an effective way of alleviating discomfort and creating a sense of calm through awareness of breathing (and is handy for labour and birth too).
Rescue Remedy This homeopathic remedy can be used safely during pregnancy, labour and breastfeeding to relieve feelings of anxiety and agitation and bring a sense of focus and calm.
Identifying the cause Ask yourself what you’re most worried about. Identifying the root of the stress is the first step to moving past it. Make a list and then work out how to address each point. If it’s finances, sit down with your partner and draw up a new post-baby budget. If you’re working, read up on paid parental leave and talk to your employer about maternity leave. If you’re worried about having everything you need for baby, check out our handy list of newborn essentials online at treasures.co.nz. If the idea of giving birth is alarming you, discuss any concerns with your midwife and read up on various scenarios so you are more informed. Talking to your partner, a friend or family member can help a problem feel a little less overwhelming.
Counselling It might sound extreme, but there’s nothing wrong with seeking professional help if you feel you’re struggling to cope or that you and your partner are having troubles. It’s much easier to get help before the baby arrives, rather than leaving a problem to fester.
Give your body the best chance of being at its best during pregnancy and beyond.
Supplements Your nutritional requirements soar when you’re pregnant as your baby needs them to grow and will simply take what it needs from you. Boost your vitamin and mineral intake with a daily supplement like Elevit, which is specially designed for pregnancy and breastfeeding. It’s common to experience lower iron levels later in pregnancy too, which can cause fatigue. Lean beef and lamb are good sources of iron, as are leafy greens. Your LMC may recommend an iron supplement as well.
Snacking often Hunger and pregnancy are a lethal mix. Avoid the hanger monster by eating small meals often. Stash muesli bars in your handbag or tuck a packet of crackers and a jar of Marmite in your desk drawer at work for emergencies.
Eat a high fibre diet Eating plenty of fibre (found in fruit, vegetables and whole grains) and drinking lots of water will promote a healthy bowel and help avoid haemorrhoids (another common side effect of pregnancy). Witch hazel is a natural and effective remedy – soak a cotton wool pad in chilled witch hazel and press against the haemorrhoid to reduce swelling. Or your GP may be able to recommend a topical ointment that is safe to use during pregnancy.
Dry crackers Around 80 per cent of women will experience some degree of morning sickness during pregnancy. It usually starts around week four and can last anywhere from a few weeks through to (for an unlucky few) the entire duration. Common symptoms are nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite usually first thing in the morning, but it can occur at any time of day. Strategies include eating plain dry crackers before getting out of bed; eating small meals more often; drinking water between meals, not with them; avoiding garlic and onion; having ginger in tea or biscuit form to help alleviate nausea; and acupuncture to reduce nausea.
Stay comfy at work
- Sit on a Swiss ball (also handy at home) with your feet flat and apart. This supports your pelvis and helps to strengthen your lower back.
- Get a box or small stool to prop your feet up on under your desk. Elevating your legs will help relieve swelling.
- Say goodbye to heels. Your lower back will thank you for it.
- Walk around frequently to help circulation and prevent swelling. (Regular loo trips are a good reason).
- Stretch often – raise your arms above your head, clasp your fingers and reach up. Then stand, place your hands on the desk and lean forward to stretch out your lower back.
- Remind yourself to breathe deeply. It can be easy to fall into shallow breathing habits as your belly expands.
- Wear layers. Your body temperature can fluctuate dramatically during pregnancy, so be prepared for any eventuality, especially around office airconditioning.
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