By Dr. Amelia Bailey, Ob/Gyn
Motherhood—as you likely know if you’re reading this—is rewarding, but not the bed of roses it’s often portrayed as. In fact, it can be pretty uncomfortable, painful or occasionally embarrassing, too. Here are a few conditions we can run into as we grow our little human, along with some ways to cope.
#1 Morning sickness
First of all, the person who named it morning sickness obviously never suffered from this condition. It is actually morning, noon and night sickness. And it’s worst from 6-11 weeks of pregnancy. Try to eat small meals throughout the day. As long as you’re not a diabetic, it’s okay to eat more carbohydrates at this stage since that is what the pregnancy needs. Listen to your body, and do not force yourself to eat. Btw, you are not actually eating for two–it is closer to eating for 1.01.
#2 Round ligament pain
This pain can occur throughout pregnancy. It feels like a pulling in your side and can be pretty sharp. This comes from stretching the ligament that runs from the top of your uterus into the vagina, which happens as your uterus enlarges to accommodate your growing baby. The pain will usually go away if you shift positions.
#3 Acid reflux and constipation
Progesterone, the pregnancy hormone, slows your bowels down in order to extract as many nutrients as possible from the food you eat. This is great for baby but tough for you (like so many other things). Drink plenty of water to help with constipation; but do this early in the day to minimize reflux. Also, avoid consuming caffeine, chocolate, and acidic foods, which can worsen reflux. Raise the head of your adjustable power bed or sleep on several pillows to help with nighttime reflux.
This symptom worsened for me during both of my first trimesters. I would drink plenty of water and eat something as a first step. Those may help, but occasionally I had to take Tylenol, which is safe in pregnancy as long as a doctor has not told you to avoid it.
You may have difficulty sleeping due to hormone shifts during the first trimester, and you certainly will have insomnia due to physical discomfort in the third trimester. Make your room as conducive to sleep as possible (dark, quiet, perfect temperature), and give yourself an extra hour to fall asleep. This will allow you to not become anxious if you have insomnia. Also, try listening to soothing music or a meditation to help you fall asleep. Or just wait a few months—you will have no trouble falling asleep once the exhaustion of the newborn period sets in. During the third trimester, adjust your bed or use a pregnancy pillow to improve comfort while your body houses your little miracle.
#6 Stretch marks
I start using lotion on my tummy during the second trimester. Cocoa butter or an emollient cream works well. These do not have to cost hundreds of dollars—I bought mine at the drugstore. Apply a thick layer all over the front and sides of your tummy before bedtime. I smelled like Easter candy while using the cocoa butter, but it worked!
#7 Swollen feet
As if you weren’t uncomfortable enough, during the third trimester your feet will start to swell due to baby’s size. Prop your feet up as much as possible and wear compression stockings. If the swelling is rapid, you should go see your Ob/Gyn immediately as it could be a sign of increasing blood pressure.
#8 Breast tenderness
This is a normal part of your pregnancy hormones surging, but it can be very uncomfortable. Wear a tight-fitting but comfortable (think: no underwire) bra, maybe even a sports bra or camisole with shelf bra. I even wore mine overnight to keep my anatomy in place while sleeping.
#9 Lack of balance
Your belly is growing (beautifully!), your hip bones are shifting, and you are exhausted. It’s the perfect recipe for losing your balance, which could of course be dangerous to you and to baby. When going from lying to standing, do so slowly. Relax in a sitting position for a few minutes before getting up to minimize the risk of dizziness. Staying well-hydrated is helpful, too.
#10 Recovery from delivery
Your body has just endured the greatest work-out it will ever have, or you have just had major abdominal surgery, or both if you labored prior to a c-section. Plus, you just finished growing another human. Be kind to yourself! Ask others for help taking care of your needs and baby’s needs. You may want to hold a pillow over your tummy while coughing or getting up after a c-section. An adjustable power bed can also help you get out of bed without stressing those sore abs. If you had a vaginal tear during delivery, which is common, ask the hospital for a squirt bottle (squirt room temperature water before, during, and after urinating) and some numbing spray, and consider getting a donut-shaped pillow to sit on for a few weeks.
Housing and then having a baby is not easy, but it is worth every sacrifice. Best of luck, mama. You can do it!
Dr. Amelia P. Bailey is a Harvard-trained reproductive endocrinologist and infertility (REI) specialist in Memphis, Tennessee. She is the Director of Minimally Invasive Surgery for her practice and an Assistant Clinical Professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. As the mother of two young children, she knows how important it is to get a good night’s rest and has used the Reverie Sleep System throughout both of her pregnancy and postpartum periods with excellent results.