A tense neck, sore back, twinges in your hips, throbbing feet—when you’re pregnant, aches and pains are just part of the deal, right? Not necessarily. “These problems may be the norm in our population today, but that wasn’t always the case,” says Katy Bowman, M.S., a biomechanist in Ventura, Calif., and creator of the Aligned and Well DVD series. “Pregnant women today suffer more than they did 100 years ago.”
It’s reader-question week! Let’s talk about sex, sciatica and smoking.
I know, sex first, right? Wrong, if I wrote about that first, you might not read to the end.
1. You’re losing steam in the middle of the day. Sleepless nights are affecting your daytime performance and causing you to be sluggish, grouchy or forgetful. Plus, you find yourself stressing about all the neglected preparations waiting for you at home.
2. Sitting and standing are uncomfortable. Backaches, swollen legs and feet, and breathlessness are signs that you need more horizontal time, especially if your job requires spending a lot of time on your feet.
Your ever-expanding belly can do more than advertise your pregnancy to the world; it can throw off your normal posture, causing you to arch your back. The frequent result: painful lower-back strain. The simple solution? Exercises that strengthen your back muscles. “Strengthening your back will help you handle some of the back strain that is inevitable during pregnancy,” says Douglas Brooks, M.S., an exercise physiologist in Mammoth Lakes, Calif.
It’s 2 a.m., and you’re on your way — for the fourth time — down that well-worn path in the hall to you-know-where. But on this trip, you are waylaid by a cramp in your calf so crippling that you think you’re trapped in some monster nightmare. You try rubbing the muscle, but it feels as tight as a steel cable. You count to 10, or 20. And that works — sort of.
What if I have a problem during labor? Is my baby healthy? Will my husband still think I'm sexy? Will my body ever be the same again?
Solutions: The best way to silence sleep-killing mind chatter is to work through bothersome problems before you go to bed. If anxieties still keep you awake, talk them through with a friend, your partner or a therapist. Also, perform relaxing bedtime rituals, such as taking a warm bath.
More than two-thirds of pregnant women complain of back pain, but there are nonpharmaceutical ways to manage the discomfort. Researchers reviewed eight studies on pregnancy back pain and found that doing water exercises, undergoing acupuncture and using a special pillow designed to support the abdomen when lying down all reduced pain. Strength exercises and stretching also helped. Most women who stuck with any kind of pelvic or back-pain intervention—stretching the pelvic muscles, strengthening the abdominal and hamstring muscles and increasing spinal flexibility—experienced some relief.