10 Ways To Have a Pain-Free Pregnancy
When you’re pregnant, there’s no shortage of incoming advice—though there’s nothing about pregnancy that’s particularly uniform or predictable. Part of the process is really a lesson in relinquishing control, and trusting that your body will see you and the baby through. That said: There are ways to make the experience a little bit more comfortable. We asked Vicky Vlachonis, our resident pain expert, for her tips on getting through the 40 weeks with as little inflammation as possible. (For more pregnancy remedies check out her book, The Body Doesn’t Lie.)
Don’t massage your lower back.
A common complaint among pregnant women is lower back pain. But that area is also rich with nerve and blood supply to the ovaries and uterus and, as such, a do-not-touch area until the end of pregnancy. Instead of focusing directly on the lower back, have your partner or massage therapist work your gluteus (butt) muscles to release tension in your hips and low back. Also, be sure to sleep on your side with a pillow between your knees to take any extra pressure off of your lower back.
Also try cranial sacral therapy. Skilled therapists know how to detect and release any blockages in membranes and fluid that surround the brain and spinal cord. These treatments allow the cerebrospinal fluid to flow freely, nourishing not only your brain and nervous system, but that of your baby as well.
Do a figure 8 with almond oil.
Even if you don’t have a genetic predisposition to stretch marks, pretend you do—slather yourself in sweet almond oil at every opportunity. I bathed in the stuff! Do your morning dry brushing and shower off, then use copious amounts of sweet almond oil on your belly, thighs, and breasts. Apply the oil in an infinity symbol or figure 8 pattern around your breasts to help stimulate lymphatic drainage and relieve any chest ache or discomfort.
Get reflexology on your feet—but don’t go near your ankles.
We’re often cautioned not to get massage on our feet or legs during pregnancy—but a treatment from a skilled, certified reflexologist will ground you and can be a godsend to your aching feet. Again, skilled reflexologists will know to avoid your ankles (several pressure points there connect to the uterus and can trigger contractions), but the bottoms of your feet need just as much love as the rest of you.
The closer you get to the birth, the more time you should spend on all fours…
While not the most dignified of positions, hanging out on your hands and knees can help in many ways. First of all, the baby’s weight is not pressing down on your pelvis, but hanging forward in the belly—much less pressure and easier to sustain during exercise. Secondly, if you’re sitting a lot, you’re squeezing your tummy, which can cause your diaphragm to lock up. Yoga poses such as chakravakasana (cat/cow stretch) take strain away from your diaphragm and stretch the back. Any time you think of it, drop onto all fours, rock your pelvis in figure 8s and do circular movements with your hips for a few minutes.
…and spend the rest of your time in the water.
No matter where—your bathtub, a pool, or the sea! The pressure against your belly equalizes and you feel weightless, which also calms the baby. Also, the crowd that hangs out at the pool tend to be so kind and sweet when you’re pregnant! Lots of maternal old ladies will cluck over your belly—a much less aggressive or judgmental energy than at the gym.
Stick to an anti-inflammation diet.
It’s really difficult to resist relaxing your vigilance over food when you’re pregnant—and depending on the pregnancy, you might find that you’re either insatiable, or are piling on the pounds, even if you’re exercising restraint. But, you will feel less pain in your body if you can stick with the weight gain doctors advise, which is just 2.2 pounds per month. This means an anti-inflammatory diet is more important than ever! During pregnancy, your ligament laxity increases, so your entire musculature has to work harder to support your mass, making things harder on your back and your whole body. Especially toward the end of pregnancy, every additional pound adds exponential pressure on your spine and pelvis.
From the very beginning of your pregnancy, remind yourself that you don’t need a ton of food to sustain your baby.
What you do eat can help aid digestion….
Constipation, and resulting hemorrhoids, are the bane of many pregnant women but can be minimized or avoided with a few key foods. To get your digestive system going, eat some bananas, steel cut oats, or brown rice. Grapefruit can be a magical cure for that mysterious mouth-watering nausea in early pregnancy—and it will also improve your appetite and relieve indigestion. Drink warm water with lemon first thing in the morning and ginger tea all day—both will help with digestion issues and morning sickness.
And what you don’t eat can help you avoid heartburn.
Stay away from cow’s milk dairy, rich fatty meats, pork, roasted peanuts and peanut butter, concentrated fruit juices (especially orange and tomato), and all wheat, sugar, and sweeteners. All these foods increase systemic inflammation (translation: hip and joint pain, swollen gums and feet), and all can give you a raging case of heartburn.
Stress and pregnancy do not mix, at any stage.
Stress makes every part of pregnancy more difficult: You’ll have a harder time getting pregnant; your pregnancy will be less pleasant and more exhausting; and your birth will be more difficult than it needs to be. Meditate, take baths, get lots of naps in. In the first trimester, do not fight the fatigue! Sleep it off, even 12 to 14 hours a day, if you can. Listen to soothing music or affirmations. Spend time with people who calm and support you. Get acupuncture or cranial sacral treatments. Try to manage your work for maximum relaxation time off the clock. Surround yourself with “happy” essential oils, such as neroli, grapefruit, lemon, mandarin, and bergamot. (I swear by Young Living oils.) Avoid lavender until the final week of pregnancy, as herbalists use it to stimulate contractions.
Above all, try not to stress out, about anything, period. Which brings me to the most important point….
Let go of perfect.
Do not spend time trying to have the “perfect” pregnancy or plotting out the “perfect” birth plan. I’ve seen it time and again—the mothers who are most anxious and neurotic have the most difficult births. Yes, it’s important to think about how you’d like your delivery to go, whether or not you’d prefer an epidural, etc. But once your labor begins, try to just let go—release the need to control the process because, believe me, you are not in control. And that’s a good thing!
Mother Nature knows just what to do—and she will do it with or without your approval. Trust your body to fulfill its primal biological destiny, and trust that your OB or midwife knows how to help. Don’t get so hung up on the particulars of the process—natural lighting! water birth! Gregorian chants!—that you forget to appreciate the absolute miracle that’s about to happen. Your body is more powerful than you can imagine. Soon enough, you’ll be a blissed-out mom with an adorable baby in your arms.