Creating a little human is tough, yet it’s an incredibly rewarding moment for women. Pregnant women pay closer attention to their daily decisions, considering the impact on both themselves and their future children. While pregnancy challenges can be difficult, they are also manageable. Here’s how to handle all of pregnancy’s discomforts in a safe and healthy way.
Foods to Focus On
Pickles, ice cream, chocolate, and cheeseburgers, oh my! The pregnancy cravings that mothers often recall are typically not the healthiest of foods. However, a balanced diet is important for both the mother and the baby’s overall health. In addition to having a positive effect on your baby’s development, a healthy diet can reduce the risk of common chronic diseases such as diabetes.
Brooke Schoonenberg, MS, RDN, LDN, CLT, explains that eating a well-balanced diet can ensure the appropriate amount of weight gain while pregnant. If your BMI is within the normal range (18.5-24.9) pre-pregnancy, experts recommend you gain between 25-35 pounds. Pregnant women should aim for a daily diet combining fiber-rich carbohydrates, lean proteins, and heart-healthy fats, along with adequate sources of iron, folate, and calcium.
Brooke’s recommendations for go-to pregnancy foods include:
- Oatmeal: a fiber-rich whole grain that provides iron
- Beans and leafy greens: Sources of fiber and folate
- Low sugar Greek yogurt: a source of calcium that also provides probiotics
- Eggs: a lean protein that also provides choline, a nutrient needed for fetal neurodevelopment
Wondering which foods can help pregnant women reduce discomfort and feel more energized? Brooke says, “Avoid foods high in sugar and/or fat as these will both leave you feeling sluggish soon after eating–think cheeseburgers, pizza, milkshakes, soft drinks, etc. Try eating smaller mini meals, especially as you get further along in your pregnancy when you may not be able to eat large meals.“
Good snack choices for sustained energy include:
- Overnight oats with berries and nuts
- Apple with almond butter
- Cheese with multi-grain crackers
All of these combine fiber and protein to help women feel satisfied and avoid energy crashes.
Nausea and Vomiting Solutions
One of the most common conditions during pregnancy is nausea and vomiting, with 50–80 percent of pregnant women experiencing these symptoms. Small, frequent meals are often recommended to alleviate nausea. Before automatically reverting to drugstore medication to assist with nausea, ask your healthcare provider to prescribe vitamin B6 (pyridoxine.) This can be taken alone, or with vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and doxylamine. Research has confirmed that vitamin B6 and vitamin B6 plus doxylamine is safe and effective for pregnant women and their fetus.
Exercise During Pregnancy
It’s common knowledge that exercise can benefit our health, but what about during pregnancy? According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), “Physical activity in pregnancy has minimal risks and has been shown to benefit most women, although some modification to exercise routines may be necessary because of normal anatomic and physiologic changes and fetal requirements.”
Therefore, it is recommended that women visit their healthcare provider for an evaluation to identify any medical reasons to avoid exercise. Overall, women with uncomplicated pregnancies are encouraged to engage in aerobic and strength-conditioning exercises before, during, and after pregnancy.
Exercising during pregnancy offers a range of benefits:
- Helps improve or maintain physical shape
- Assists in weight management
- Reduces the risk of gestational diabetes in obese women
- Enhances psychological well-being
- Minimizes constipation
- Promotes better sleep
- Decreases depression risk
Pre- and postnatal education classes are a great way to add physical activity into your pregnancy journey. Joanna Kairdolf, a local fitness specialist, encourages all of her clients to try a pregnancy class. Offering safe strength and cardio exercises, these classes boost mental wellness and promote a sense of community.
“I love the post-birth workout classes because they create a community setting for new mothers,” says Kairdolf. They are allowed to bring the baby until about six to seven months when crawling begins. The classes help with mental health by strengthening relationships with new friends and enhancing the bond with your baby.”
So what happens if you’re a stranger to exercise, but looking to start during pregnancy? Joanna says that she usually eases her clients into exercise with walking activities. Modifications are available for each program, and a small class size offers individual attention to varying needs.
The Power of Acupuncture
Holistic healing has gained popularity in recent years, leading many women to explore non-medicinal options for easing discomfort during pregnancy. Acupuncture is one of these solutions.
Acupuncture is defined as “a traditional Chinese medicine practice that involves the placing of thin, stainless steel needles at certain spots on the body.” Needles stimulate the body’s channels of energy along certain points. Depending on where the needles go, the process may result in a person feeling calmer, sleepy, or more energized. Acupuncture can also lead to subtle physical changes, like a drop or rise in certain hormones or increased blood flow to certain areas of the body such as the pelvis.
Stewart Sommers L-ACDPLOM, a local expert in acupuncture, notes that most of his pregnant patients use acupuncture to help regulate their fertility cycles. Some fertility doctors also recommend acupuncture for their patients to help lower overall stress levels. When stress hormones are high, fertility can be decreased.
Stewart uses acupuncture to help pregnant patients with a variety of other challenges, including
- Poor sleep
- Back aches or pain
- Hormone regulation, particularly for women planning a natural childbirth
- Postpartum depression symptoms
If you have yet to experience acupuncture, it’s common to worry about the pain. After all, it involves needles! Luckily, you can rest assured that the experience isn’t painful. According to Stewart, the process should not hurt. You may feel a tingle or ache, but it should overall create a relaxing experience. The procedure takes about 45-50 minutes after the initial one-hour session. To ensure that the acupuncture is working properly, it’s important to try a handful of sessions.
A chiropractor can also serve as a non-medicinal option for treating pregnancy pain and discomfort. Dr. Joshua Blanchard, a local Chiropractor, says that he sees pregnant women for a variety of reasons, including:
- Treating lower back pain
- Sciatic nerve pain
- Loosening ligaments to address a malpositioned, breech baby
- Improving hip and pelvis alignment to prepare for natural childbirth
- Providing post-baby exercise using pelvic floor muscles
Much like acupuncture, chiropractic manipulation should not be painful.
At the end of the day, it’s important to recognize that pregnancy is uncomfortable for many women. Dealing with these discomforts in a healthy way can help improve the overall pregnancy experience. Joining forces with other pregnant women is also a great way to create a sense of community and relatability. If your go-to solutions aren’t alleviating discomfort, don’t be afraid to explore new options. Every pregnant woman is different, and a little bit of trial-and-error can help you determine the best methods for you.
“I did acupuncture pre-pregnancy for fertility and anxiety. I had a previous loss and was doing everything I could think of to ensure my next pregnancy ‘stuck.’ I did a few sessions late in pregnancy to help with discomfort, sleeping issues, carpal tunnel, and to help induce labor after I was 39 weeks. I went until 40 weeks and 5 days before she was born, so it didn’t induce labor, but I was scheduled to do it the day I went into labor and cancelled last minute because I went to the hospital. I did five to six sessions pre-pregnancy and three during.
As far as pain? Hurt is not the right word. Some placements were more uncomfortable (like a pinch) than others. Some I forgot she even put needles there. I always felt the ones in my wrist but never feels the ones in my legs and feet.” –Leslie R.
“I saw the chiropractor as baby’s arrival neared. It helped ensure that my pelvis was aligned, allowing baby to get into an optimal position for birth. Chiropractic care never hurt, but instead felt great! It helped allow me to have blissful, unmedicated births.” –Taime W.
“When pregnant, you feel so very different in your body. When I took part in prenatal yoga, the instructor helped me to establish comfortable and safe movement which allowed for stretching and the easing of some aches and pains of pregnancy. For me, safety was a huge part of the experience. I learned what I should and shouldn’t do. The teacher, a prenatal yoga specialist, helped to develop a real bond between myself and my baby. There was a lot of conversation around visualizing birth or the baby and learning to let go of some of the emotional or anxiety ridden parts of labor and delivery.” –Jen B.