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Relieving Pregnancy Aches & Pains
It’s not pregnancy that causes aches and pains, it’s posture. Posture while sleeping, standing, walking and sitting can cause problems with the lower back, hips, shoulders, headaches and cramps. So before you reach for the bottle of painkillers, or spend a lot of money to see an osteopath, use the guidelines below and see if anything changes.
When you reach 22 weeks of your pregnancy, it is highly advisable to lie on your side (usually your left side) while sleeping. This is because you have a main vein that runs up the right side of your spine, and with the extra weight of your stomach pressing against it when you’re on your back, you and your baby will find yourself short of breath and becomes restricting blood flow to your baby. If you find yourself on your back during the night, don’t worry. Your body has woken you up so you can change positions and be more comfortable.
Many doctors, midwives and physiotherapists recommend placing a pillow between your knees while sleeping on your side to help with hip and back pain. Unfortunately, it is completely pointless. The first problem is that you will put too much pressure on the inside of your leg with the weight of your top leg. Since your blood is thicker and prone to clotting (very normal and healthy; any clots usually dissolve naturally), you don’t want to put extra weight on your legs. You will likely experience pins and needles and cramping from doing this.
The other problem with using a pillow between your legs is that the pillow is rarely stable enough and thick enough to keep your hip joints at the right angle. This will mean your back will twist (causing more mid and lower back pain and also press on your stomach) and your hip will hyperextend while the angle of your leg is pulled down. It’s really not comfortable to lie like this and your sleep will be compromised.
To get a good night’s sleep, I recommend that you either get a sturdy bolster (that doesn’t roll) or a firm pillow from the sofa that is at least as thick as the span of your hand; your thigh should be at a right angle to your hip joint and your foot should be supported (prevent cramps). This will allow you to have a straight spine while you sleep and also give your belly enough room to be comfortable, thus giving baby enough room to move. Your lower back pain will be relieved and you will be comfortable enough to sleep well.
If you turn over at night, don’t worry about the leg pads… put your leg over your partner’s! (If he/she doesn’t mind!!) They are usually just the right height!
You should also put a small pillow under your stomach when you sleep on your side. There are some ligaments from your uterus that are attached to the base of your spine, so any pull on them can cause lower back pain. By placing a small pillow, just big enough to stop the feeling of pulling (so not very thick), you will find that your lower back is much more comfortable and your baby will have more room to move.
To help with any shoulder tension, I suggest placing a pillow parallel to the pillow under your head. Allow your shoulder to fall between the two pillows as you do not squeeze it while sleeping. Having the pillow horizontal will mean that if you fall over, you already have the pillow in place for your other side. I also think it’s a good idea to hug a pillow over your chest (like you would a teddy bear). This prevents your exposed shoulder from stretching when it falls down and will also protect your breasts if they are sore.
Prevention is better than a cure, so even if you are not in pain, please include these pads for a comfortable pregnancy. Going into labor with a sore back to begin with is not a very good way to fully enjoy the birth of your child.
When I mention posture to a client, they immediately stiffen their backs and shrug their shoulders! Here are some great tips to promote good posture the easy way…
When you walk, stand or sit, try and remember to have your feet pointing forward. Turning your toes out or your ankles in will result in hip pain as the bones and joints are rotated. When your feet are pointing forward and the weight of your body is evenly distributed, you should feel a slight pull outwards on your thighs. If you feel that the weight on your feet is uneven (on the front, back or sides), rock back and forth or side to side until you feel the weight is equal.
The weight of your body and correct posture should be kept on your bones and not your muscles. Muscles are designed for movement, and if they are expected to take your body weight for long periods of time, they will start to hurt. Place a finger on your hips (one on each side) and intentionally push your bottom out. You should feel the hip ball roll down and back. Many women stand like this and think they have a big butt and stomach; standing like this will feel like your growing uterus is pulling down. Tuck your bum under so you feel your hips roll up and forward. Only your bottom should move, not your legs and knees. You should now feel the weight being held in your hips and feel a relief from your stomach and back.
If your shoulders are prone to rolling forward, you are likely to cause lower and middle back pain from the muscles that pull, as well as neck pain and headaches. The way you will always be able to tell if your shoulders are rolling forward is by placing your hands at your sides. If your hands are in front of the hem of your pants/skirts, your shoulders will rotate forward. All you have to do to correct your posture is move your hands, palms flat against the leg, behind the hem of the pants. It is really hard to roll your shoulders forward when your hands are in this position. When you walk, remember to swing your hands behind the hem of your pants instead of in front of you. Keep practicing this and you will find that any tension in the shoulder and neck will dissolve very quickly.
Standing and walking with your weight in your hips and your shoulders back will now make you look like a beautiful pregnant woman rather than a beautiful overweight lady. Follow these easy steps and you’ll have more room to breathe, your mood will lift, your energy will increase, and your baby will have more room to wiggle!
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