With motherhood comes pain. That’s pretty much a given, and all moms-to-be jump into it with enthusiasm, although perhaps also with a bit of naïveté.
And never is the pain more intense as when the new mom is pregnant and then gives birth for the first time. After all, it’s at this time that she doesn’t know what to expect. True enough, these pains are so intense that many veteran moms will look you in the eye and say that they were the worst, the most painful things they’ve ever experienced in their lives.
Fortunately, we now know more about the human body than we ever have in the history of mankind. And we have better access even to the most exotic of remedies to boot. As such, the modern mom has an entire arsenal of pain remedies to help address every single bit of pain that she experiences.
We’ll run through fifteen simple, but amazing, ways to help relieve pregnancy pains, just so mom and the family have a few tricks up their sleeves when needed. Many of these pain-killing techniques are often readily available in the average woman’s house. Or, at least, a quick trip to the convenience store. Yet others require a professional, but these services are becoming increasingly accessible to women everywhere.
Do note that we’re focusing primarily on home remedies here. For pain that goes unrelieved even after trying everything in the book or those that come with alarming symptoms, it’s always best to consult the doctor.
15 Elevate The Feet
Experiencing pregnancy foot pain? We’re not surprised. Given the extra weight that both causes an imbalance in mom’s center of gravity and increasing pressure on the feet, expecting moms are prone to getting foot troubles. In addition, the water retained during pregnancy also means that mom might get edema as gravity pulls down the fluid faster than the circulatory system can pump it back to the heart. As such, mom’s feet are prone to getting sore and irritated.
Moms all around the world manage this with a simple trick: just elevating their feet after a long day’s work! Using a footrest or a chair to keep them up while mom sits down can help. This allows the extra fluid to go back to the circulation, reducing edema and therefore the risk of injury. Elevation also takes the pressure off the feet, providing much comfort to the tired, hard-working mom.
It may seem painful to get out of bed for an early morning jog. But research has found that regular exercise does wonders for helping moms-to-be manage pain. Women who experience back pain, in particular, are likely to benefit from exercise. Of course, pregnancy is not a time for extreme exercise. It’s important for mom to listen to her body and pace herself so that she gets all the benefits of exercise without overexerting her body.
One reason why it’s so effective is because exercise floods the brain with happy hormones, helping mom cope with pain and discomfort. It also keeps the muscles in tip-top shape and improves blood circulation, promoting healing and proper body function. The best benefit of all is that regular exercise, especially those that focus on the abdomen and the pelvis, can help reduce mom’s labor time so she doesn’t have to push so much during the big day!
13 Good Posture
Speaking of back pains, one way to help combat them is good body posture. This allows mom to balance her weight so that there is much less strain on her feet and back. The trouble with this is that, during pregnancy, the center of gravity shifts. As such, her regular pre-pregnancy posture just doesn’t work.
As such, mom may have to relearn how to stand, how to sit and how to walk in a way that ensures that there is as little amount of pain as possible. This often means taking a wider stance. There are many jokes about the pregnancy waddle, but it’s actually a great way to make sure that there is a wide base of support and, thus, better balance and less pain. It’s also best to avoid situations that involve bending down at the waist. If mom must pick up something from the floor, the right way to do it is to bend the knees, allowing the torso to come down, and then picking up the item.
If mom is truly in pain, sometimes the best way to handle it is simply to get some rest. This applies in a variety of situations. If mom’s feet begin to hurt, let them relax for a bit to give them time to recover. If her back hurts, lying down with support can help ease the pain. And, most of all, if she gets those pesky Braxton-Hicks contractions late during pregnancy, she’ll know it’s not the real thing if they go away with rest. Or, if she’s already at rest, if they go away when she walks around for a bit.
This may seem like advice from Mr. Obvious, but it’s stunning just how many moms fail to follow it. Moms all over the world tend to overwork themselves, as there’s just so much to do. Between a full-time job and chores around the house, her list of things to do just doesn’t run out.
11 A High-Fiber Diet
One common cause of pain during pregnancy is constipation. It’s no wonder, too, as during this time the body secretes a hormone called relaxin which, as you might guess from its name, keeps the smooth muscles relaxed. This is because the uterus has a layer of smooth muscles. If these muscles contract, there is a possibility that mom might lose the pregnancy. As such, the hormone is basically the body’s way to prevent miscarriage.
However, the catch is that other smooth muscles in the body – including those in the gastrointestinal tract – will also remain relaxed through the pregnancy. As such, digestion will be a bit slower. And we all know that the slower the digestion, the more water gets absorbed into the body, resulting in drier, harder stools. Eating a diet high in fiber can help bulk up the stool so that it remains soft even if it doesn’t have as much water.
10 Lots Of Water
Since we’ve already brought it up, drinking plenty of water can also help out with pregnancy constipation. Extra water in the intestines helps moisten stool, allowing it to go through without much trouble. In addition, getting hydrated can also relieve many other pregnancy problems. This is because the body’s fluid requirements actually increase during pregnancy, given that the body needs to produce extra blood to keep everything pumping along to support both mom and the baby.
Headaches can be caused by dehydration. As such, sometimes only a glass of water is what mom needs to get rid of that nagging lightheadedness. And even though it may seem counterintuitive, keeping well hydrated actually helps relieve pregnancy edema. This is because too little water in the body actually encourages water retention. If mom is getting enough, the body will gladly pee out the excess so it’s much easier for water in edematous tissue to get out of the circulation.
9 Wear A Support Stockings
If mom is plagued by leg pain, edema and leg cramps, she might want to consider wearing special support stockings. Also called compression stockings, these improve blood flow through the veins. As you might know, the arteries often have greater pressure within them as they are the part of the cardiovascular circuit that is directly connected to the heart. The veins, however, have to rely on valves to keep things moving along. But with the extra load of blood during pregnancy, it can be tough.
Compression stockings help prevent the stasis of blood in the veins, thus improving circulation overall. Not only do they help relieve pain and edema, they can also prevent a serious and painful problem during pregnancy: deep vein thrombosis. DVT is common in pregnancy because at this time, the blood’s clotting mechanisms are on overdrive, perhaps to prevent blood loss during childbirth. DVT can lead to heart problems or stroke if a clot gets dislodged from a vein.
8 Heating Pads
Whether for pregnancy backache, leg pains or early labor pains, heating pads can be a lifesaver for the mom in pain. This is especially effective for lower back pain, as heat dilates blood vessels and increases blood flow, as well as relaxes strained muscles. This results in much-needed relief, especially in areas where the muscles have been overworked. During labor, some women even like to alternate them with cold compresses (which we’ll discuss separately.)
We’ve known that heat is a great way of managing pain for a long time. After all, doctors have been prescribing hot baths for years! Aside from the benefits listed above, some scientists theorize that the sensation of heat distracts the body from painful stimuli. A word of caution, however. Do not use heat therapy on places where there is inflammation. That is, if the area is warm and irritated, perhaps put away the heating pad and opt for a cold compress instead.
7 Cold Compresses
As we’ve mentioned earlier, cold compresses are often used in conjunction with heating pads in order to relieve pain. They’re sometimes used alternately, especially in cases where the pain is caused by muscle tension. However, in other cases the general rule is that if the area is cold to touch, use heat, and if it’s warm to touch, use cold.
Unsurprisingly, cold pretty much has the opposite effect of heat. It constricts the blood vessels and reduces circulation to the area, thereby making it a wonderful treatment for inflamed or irritated areas. Like with heating pads, it also provides a distracting sensation, which helps reduce mom’s perception of pain. Cold packs bought from the store are great options. However, if only ice is available, make sure to wrap it first in a Ziplock bag, and then in a layer or two of cloth so that mom doesn’t get a cold burn from it.
For women who want extra relief, but still don’t want to down a pill for the pain, there’s always the ancient Chinese remedy of acupuncture. To the unfamiliar, this is basically inserting thin needles into certain points in the body to stimulate the nervous system. Many moms find that it can relieve morning sickness, lower back pain and even labor pains.
Make sure, however, to get an acupuncture practitioner who is trained in the treatment of pregnant women. This is because there are certain acupuncture points that must be avoided, as triggering these can cause premature labor or miscarriage. Also, a good acupuncturist will always use brand new needles for each new client. That is, needles that touch mom must not touch any other client, and needles that have touched another client must never touch mom. This is to prevent any cross-infection. Needles must also be sterilized in between use.
Sometimes there’s just nothing that can relieve pregnancy pain like a good massage. This is the perfect alternative for women who aren’t comfortable with the idea of someone sticking needles into their skin. As with acupuncture, however, choose a massage therapist or a special spa that is trained in the treatment of pregnant women. While not as invasive as acupuncture, massage may also trigger pressure points that are dangerous during pregnancy. Those who are well-trained, however, know which spots to avoid. For moms who plan to use it for labor pains, make sure to learn the pressure points that work from your therapist. It’s important, also, to use mild massage oils that are pregnancy-safe.
Massage works because, like hot and cold, it causes an alternative sensation, in this case touch. In addition, it increases blood flow and eases muscles. Finally, the soothing nature of massage can help mom relax and take her mind off the pain.
Meditation is yet another method that many moms find effective in dealing with all kinds of pain. Meditation is basically focusing the mind and listening to the body. For reasons that are still unclear, it better helps people deal with pain. Some suggest that it could be because meditation relieves anxiety. And we all know that anxiety and stress can magnify a person’s perception of pain.
In the beginning, it may be difficult for mom to stay focused while meditating. It’s notoriously difficult to control one’s thoughts, after all, which could be all over the place for those who aren’t used to it. As such, it’s best to get a trainer while starting out. Many meditation trainers are available locally, from midwives who teach guided imagery to professional yoga instructors. If mom is having difficulty finding one, however, she might want to opt for online meditation sessions. Once mom has learned the methods, she can then use meditation to relieve pain on her own.
Sometimes, the best remedies are the simplest. Deep breathing exercises are among the primary interventions that health care and alternative medicine practitioners alike will encourage mom to do to relieve pain. Moms all over the world have used it to ease everything from back pain to labor pain, so it’s also pretty versatile!
This is mostly because many of us don’t actually breathe properly. As funny as it may sound, some of us are chest breathers rather than abdominal breathers. Chest breathing is often shallow and does not encourage as much gas exchange as abdominal breathing does. When breathing from the abdomen, mom gets more oxygen, making her feel more refreshed and relaxed. In addition, focusing on breathing during painful moments helps mom’s mind to latch onto something. This distracts her from the pain and allows her to handle it better. In addition, learning proper breathing could be invaluable in keeping mom from hyperventilating during childbirth!
2 Sterile Water Injections
Having excruciatingly painful back labor, but don’t want to go as far as an epidural? Perhaps sterile water injections are the just the thing! It is exactly what it sounds like: injecting sterile water intradermally (kind-of of like those skin tests to test for allergies). Often it’s injected into four different patches of skin. Doctors aren’t exactly sure why this works. All they know is that it does. (Which kind-of begs the question, who thought to try it in the first place?) Studies show that it’s far more effective than a placebo in providing pain relief for mothers experiencing back pain.
Some speculate that placing the water under the skin causes pressure, which causes a blockage in the body’s perception of pain. Of course, like skin tests, sterile water injections can be pretty painful as well. However, if a few pokes with the needle can help relieve mom from hours of back labor, it might just be worth the trouble!
Even if the physical pain is real, sometimes there is an emotional component to it. Anger, sadness and anxiety can cause mom to feel pain more intensely. In fact, numerous psychological studies show that people who are stressed often rate the same level of pain as higher compared to when they aren’t stressed at all. As such, it might be best for moms to process their thoughts and feelings.
For most moms, this can come in the form of talking to family or friends. But each one should consider getting therapy as well. There is a misconception that therapy is only for people who already have problems but, actually, sometimes even those who are not can benefit from it. After all, it’s much better to deal with problems before they happen rather than wait until it all blows up and mom’s emotions are down in the gutter. When mom is better at managing her mental state, it becomes easier for her to manage the physical challenge of pain.