The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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The problem>feeling heavy
Why it works>In bodies of water, a pregnant woman feels weightless; the water’s buoyancy lifts the burden of gravity and helps shrink swelling. “The pressure of the water against your skin forces much of the extra fluid—usually gathering in your legs and feet—back into the bloodstream,” says Cincinnati physical therapist Gail Wehrman, who specializes in women’s health. From there, the excess fluid heads to the kidneys, you urinate it out and thus, the swelling goes down. “But to get the most of this effect, you must dwell in the deeper end of the pool,” Wehrman says, “where the water can press against every part of your body that is swelling.” And you must move around. Try deep-water aerobics, water Pilates or the bikes that some gyms now offer in pools.
Why it works>Scientists aren’t sure why walking alleviates nausea—they just know it does, says exercise physiologist and prenatal fitness expert Renee Jeffreys of Covington, Ky. (It could be that a moderate walk shunts blood away from the midriff and out to the limbs, where it’s needed for movement.) Whether you’re up for a long, short, fast or slow walk, just get outside—or on the treadmill—for five or 10 minutes and see how it feels. If you feel better, continue for 30 minutes more. If your nausea worsens, though, or if you experience other symptoms, call your doctor.
The Problem> Upper thigh pain
The solution>hip-flexor stretch
Why it works>Pain that radiates through the upper thighs and sometimes down the calves often is the result of hip dysfunction ushered in by the pregnancy hormone relaxin, which loosens and widens the hip joint in preparation for childbirth. The hip-flexor stretch can relieve tension and help move loosened muscles back into alignment. But if you’re suffering from calf cramps of the Charlie-horse variety, you could be deficient in potassium or calcium. Talk with your doctor about your diet and/or supplements; in the meantime, try sitting in a chair and flexing your toes upward to relieve pain.
The move>Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding the back of a chair or couch. Bend your right knee to bring heel toward your buttocks. Hold your right foot, knees together, buttocks contracted [A]. Tilt pelvis down and pull right leg back until you feel a mild stretch in your upper right thigh [B]. Hold for at least 30 seconds, then switch sides. Repeat as needed.