A fish belongs in water. The Eiffel Tower belongs in Paris. And stomach acid belongs in your stomach. Unfortunately, pregnancy hormones affect the sphincter that forms a barrier between the esophagus and stomach, allowing acids to percolate upward. The plot thickens as your growing uterus crowds your digestive organs. To help douse the fire:
- Eat smaller, more frequent meals.
- Chew your food thoroughly. Eat every bite as slowly as possible.
- Avoid spicy or greasy foods.
- Remain upright for at least an hour after eating.
- Keep your upper body as upright as possible when you sleep by propping yourself up with pillows or elevating the head of your bed.
- When heartburn strikes, have some milk or yogurt.
- Ask your doctor about taking calcium-based antacids.
4. Constipation and hemorrhoids
These two nuisances often work in tandem. Pregnancy hormones, abetted by certain vitamin and iron supplements and, sometimes, a nausea-inspired diet of crackers and milk, can make your digestive tract sluggish. Then constipation begets hemorrhoids, which can develop from straining. Your burgeoning uterus also may contribute to hemorrhoids by decreasing the amount of blood flow into and out of your pelvic region. To keep things moving:
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Eat lots of whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Prunes, however unglamorous, really do work.
- Eat yogurt to aid digestion.
- Don’t delay when you get the urge to move your bowels.
- Avoid straining during bowel movements. Keeping your feet on a step stool or box will help.
- When hemorrhoids flare up, use flushable wipes instead of toilet paper, and sit in a shallow tub of very warm water.
- Do Kegel exercises regularly to increase blood flow to your pelvic area.
- Ask your doctor if a change in your iron supplement might help.
Pregnancy hormones loosen your joints, while your ballooning breasts and belly play havoc with your center of gravity. No wonder backaches are among pregnancy’s most common complaints. “There’s some controversy as to whether you can tone up a stretched muscle, so it’s important for women to start building their abdominal muscles [which support the back] early in pregnancy, before they get stretched out,” says fitness trainer and childbirth education specialist Bonnie Berk, R.N., founder of Motherwell Maternity Health and Fitness in Carlisle, Pa. Additionally:
- When possible, don’t stand or sit for prolonged periods.
- When you do stand or sit, rest one foot on a box, stool, low shelf or a couple of telephone books. In the kitchen, pull out a low drawer.
- If you sleep on your side (the left is preferable during pregnancy to allow for maximum flow of blood and nutrients to the placenta), keep your knees bent and put a pillow between them; tuck one under your abdomen, too, if it needs support. If you sleep on your back, use pillows to support your thighs and back.
- Get massages. (Make sure you find a qualified therapist.)
- Stick to flat-heeled, supportive shoes.
- Bend at the hips, not the waist, and lift with your legs bent so you’re not using your back.
- Do pelvic tilts.
- Berk’s tip for toning abs: Walk through water deep enough to cover your belly. “The resistance of the water helps tone the muscles,” she says.
- Consider a “belly bra” or other supportive device.