The pregnancy experience can vary wildly from one woman to the next. I have seen cases where pregnancy was a 9-month breeze with hardly a discomfort until labor, and cases where the entire thing is a trying nightmare.
Most women of course will fall somewhere in between those two extremes, and some pregnancy discomforts are very common. Three of the common discomforts during pregnancy: nausea, heartburn and anemia, can be navigated with some tips and tricks, or even better, they can possibly be avoided.
Common Pregnancy Discomforts
The dreaded nausea of pregnancy is the most classic symptom and one normal discomfort of pregnancy we all automatically think of. While for most the queasiness subsides in the second trimester, it can linger for others. Regardless of how long it’s around, nausea is hardly a pleasant state to live in.
So, how can you manage pregnancy nausea? Try these three ways to find some relief.
- Reach for ginger. It's the classic herb for nausea, pregnancy or otherwise. It’s very safe, and well researched. There are teas, chews, crystallized root, and capsules for you to choose from on demand. As a tea, you can drink it along with dandelion root and chamomile for a great overall digestive tonic.
- Take some Vitamin B6. This vitamin is well-studied for its ability to quell pregnancy nausea, and is also safe to take at the recommended dose of 25mg every 8 hours. It may not be that high in your prenatal vitamin, so look for a separate bottle of just B6.
- Eat your meals. While eating may be the last thing you want to do when you feel like vomiting, it is very important to try and manage frequent small meals throughout the day, with some emphasis on protein and fiber, and of course avoiding your nausea triggers. Do your best to keep a little bit of something in your stomach always, to your tolerance. Try protein smoothies, and sip at them gradually to stay nourished and hydrated. Overeating could over-tax your sensitive stomach, and tip the nausea over to vomiting.
After the nausea subsides in the second trimester, it’s easy to think that you’re out of the gastric woods but, many pregnant women have the nausea replaced with heartburn as the uterus grows and pushes on the organs. The same ‘Eat Your Meals' anti-nausea recommendation applies to fighting heartburn plus, here are four more helpful tips to put out the fire:
- Adjust your position. Staying more vertical can help prevent your stomach acid from splashing up into your esophagus. Use pillows to prop yourself up comfortably in bed if you find that your heartburn is worse at night. Try to avoid eating too close to bedtime, or napping after meals.
- Avoid your triggers. The foods that act as heartburn triggers vary from person to person. Common triggers are oily/greasy foods, spicy foods, caffeine, and alcohol (though you’re already not having that.). If you’re not sure what triggers your heartburn, keep a food journal with a heartburn score and see if you can find some patterns. Other potential triggers can be dairy and gluten.
- Take these herbs: Marshmallow root and slippery elm are two safe herbs that have mucilaginous properties, meaning they coat irritated tissues to bring soothing relief to tummy discomfort during pregnancy. You can find these herbs as teas or even lozenges. Chamomile and mint tea can be wonderfully soothing as well.
- Try these foods. Slowly chewing on some raw almonds may help, and if dairy is not one of your heartburn triggers, some high quality 2% Greek yogurt may be helpful too.
Anemia is relatively common in women, and pregnancy puts extra demand on your body for oxygen-carrying hemoglobin. The early symptoms can cause you to feel tired, weak and generally unwell. Iron deficiency is the most common type of anemia, and can be best managed or avoided by getting enough iron – either through food or supplementation (or both). A prenatal vitamin will have some iron in it, but I find that having a separate supplement is effective, especially if you’re going into your pregnancy low in iron to begin with. Try building up your iron with these two tips:
- Eat some meat (or many more greens). Meat is the dietary source of iron that is best absorbed by your body. Your protein requirement goes up in pregnancy, so you may be eating some more meat already, such as fish, poultry, and occasional grass-fed beef. Vegetarian and vegan sources of iron are dark leafy greens, nuts, and seeds (though you have to eat more of them to get the meat equivalent).
- Try Iron bisglycinate. This is a type of iron that is much less likely to cause issues with constipation, another frequently encountered pregnancy compliant, that can be managed naturally. Find a formulation with Iron bisglycinate and some extra vitamin Bs and vitamin C for improved absorption, and take it with meals.
There are a number of options to help you ease these common pregnancy discomforts. Try a few to find the tips that work for you, to minimize the symptoms and feel your best while pregnant. Above all else though, don't hesitate to speak to your health care professional about how you are feeling and share your symptoms and any discomforts with them.
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