It's normal to have aches & pains during pregnancy—you're growing a baby after all—but when it comes to treatment, not all is safe. Here's what's OK & what to avoid.
There are a lot of creaky, achy pregnant women out there. I received a couple emails with follow-up questions after my article about pelvic pain. Two readers want to know if it's normal to have achy pelvic bones during the first and second trimesters. Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Relaxin, the hormone that softens pelvic cartilage is doing its job to shape the pelvis to hold that growing baby. Another reader has unrelenting lower back pain. She lifted her toddler, yanked a muscle and is now "couched" with a heating pad.
Is it normal to have aches and pains in pregnancy?
It's not abnormal to have aches and pains when you're growing a human being in your belly (in fact, it sort of makes sense unless you're used to being inhabited by an alien) but please remember to ask your midwife or doctor about it too. I don't want anyone missing an important symptom thinking it's nothing. While pain doesn't always signal a problem, sometimes it does. Sometimes it's a direct message from your body that it needs help. Sometimes, however, it's just part of the deal with pregnancy. Muscles stretch, bones spread and babies get heavy.
What to do about all this discomfort? Ibuprofen, Motrin, Advil and other nonsteroidal anti-inflamatories like aspirin and naproxen are on the "no list" except for cases where your physician has specifically prescribed it. They can cause bleeding, stomach irritation and aren't approved for developing fetuses. Tylenol is OK but don't overdo it. Use the lowest possible dose of any medication to achieve relief and tell your doctor about it.
What else can you do? Get a massage if you're past the first trimester. The rules are: stay off your back, avoid excessive heat and fumes. Find a massage therapist with experience and training in prenatal massage.
Is it OK to use massage oils?
Joanne is a massage therapist and asked if it's OK to use arnica and lavender in massage oils. It's common for people to think that just because something goes on the skin, it's not going to affect the rest of the body. Skin has pores that can soak solutions up. Fumes go up our noses and are circulated in our blood streams. Our bodies are quite skilled at absorbing and inhaling substances and you have to be careful about what you expose it to, especially when pregnant. So, Joanne, Arnica's a no and Lavender's a yes.
The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) points out that skin is often more sensitive during pregnancy and certain oils and aromas that you liked pre-pregnancy might now feel or smell horrid. Always dilute essential oils. Direct application is too intense. NAHA supplies this partial list of diluted essential oils that might have less potential for possible adverse effects: chamomile oils, geranium, jasmine, lavender, neroli, patchouli, sandalwood, and ylang ylang.
Is it safe to use a heating pad?
Heating pad's are considered safe during pregnancy because they just warm up the area you apply them to and not your core body temperature. Warm, not hot, baths are also fine but don't soak in the hot tub until after delivery. If you're late in your third trimester and anywhere near as clumsy as I was, ask someone to stand by and help you in and out. Talk about an awkward moment. I was a week over due with my first baby when I got stuck in our apartment-sized tub. I couldn't lift my belly and couldn't turn around. There was nothing I could do until my husband got back from the market and hauled me out. By then, the water was cold and I was pitiful and embarrassed. All the benefits of that soothing bath went right down the drain.
I did not repeat this mistake with my other babies.
Hang in there, ladies. Like I've said, "Yes, it's worth it." That alien is your son or daughter and no finer person has ever been born.