Safe pregnancy pick-me-ups

Natural ideas to banish pregnancy aches and pains

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  • Safe pregnancy pick-me-ups

    You'd be lucky to sail through pregnancy without a niggle. So how to feel better when so many medicines are harmful? We show you some clever fast-fixes to perk you up in no time.

    THE SYMPTOM: Sickness

    Your action plan:

    • Eat toast in bed in the morning to raise your blood sugar levels
    • Wrist-acupressure can help - try acubands or Sea-Bands, £7.99 from chemists
    • Fruit may freshen your palate, and ginger tea can ease queasiness
    • Rest up - tiredness can make morning sickness worse

    See your midwife of GP if you're vomiting persistently, otherwise you may become dehydrated.

  • THE SYMPTOM: Tiredness and difficulty sleeping

    Your action plan:

    • Don't bottle things up. Share any worries with your partner or midwife
    • Calcium has a calming effect on the nervous system, so try yogurt, almonds or seeds at bedtime
    • Don't drink too much before bed to minimise those loo trips, shun caffeine after 6pm, and avoid big meals, which may make you feel uncomfortable
    • Put a large pillow between your legs to support your bump at night

    If you feel really exhausted, you may be suffering from anaemia. Talk to  your GP or midwife - they can assess the problem and may prescribe an iron supplement. 

  • THE SYMPTOM: Backache

    Your action plan:

    • Walking and swimming will help to keep your spine flexible
    • Kneeling on all fours can take the pressure off your spine. Warm baths or a gentle back massage can help relieve aches
    • A maternity girdle can help support your back

    See a physio if pain persists.

  • THE SYMPTOM: Headaches

    Your action plan:

    • Get plenty of fresh air and exercise to keep your body supple
    • Drink lots of water and snack regularly to regulate blood sugar
    • Release tight muscles with a neck and shoulder massage
    • To relieve a blocked nose, pop a couple of drops of eucalyptus, peppermint or tea tree oil into a bowl of hot water and gently inhale the steam

    If your headache is accompanied by swelling, especially if it's sudden, contact your midwife or doctor to rule out pre-eclampsia, a potentially serious pregnancy condition that's characterised by high blood pressure. 

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  • THE SYMPTOM: Heartburn

    Your action plan:

    • Avoid rich, high-fat, spicy or acidic foods, chocolate and coffee
    • Sipping peppermint tea can help
    • Opt for small meals and eat little and often - this gives the stomach less time to build up acid
    • Gaviscon is safe to take during pregnancy - but do double-check with your midwife first
    • If worse at night, avoid eating for three hours beforehand and sleep in an elevated position, propped up with pillows. Gravity will help keep stomach acids where they should be 
  • THE SYMPTOM: Mood swings

    Your action plan:

    • Exercise releases feel-good endorphins, so stay active
    • Keep your blood sugar levels stable with regular meals, and swap chocolate and sugary sweets for wholesome alternatives
    • Write it down - offload your anxieties on paper, or write a blog on Babyexpert.com to share your emotions with others going through the same thing 
    • Relaxation and regular treats are good for the soul - think pedicures and a new lipstick!

    If you constantly feel down, angry or anxious, it could be antenatal depression. Don't suffer alone - see your GP or health visitor and get help. 

  • THE SYMPTOM: Swollen legs and ankles

    Your action plan:

    • Avoid too much salt and processed foods, such as ready meals
    • Massage your legs from the ankle upwards - or better still, ask your partner to do the honours!
    • Potassium-rich foods, such as leafy veg, bananas and apricots help regulate your body's fluid levels
    • Elevate your legs when you're resting during the day and at night - use a pillow for support

    If the swelling is accompanied by puffy hands or face, or rapid weight gain, see your GP, as these can also be signs of pre-eclampsia. 

  • THE SYMPTOM: Leg cramps

    Your action plan:

    • Watch your footwear - ditch the stilettos for supportive flatties and wear support tights
    • Eat calcium-rich foods such as dairy foods and dark green, leafy vegetables every day - and boost your magnesium intake with wholegrains and dried fruit
    • Stretch your muscles before heading to bed - rotate your legs and wriggle your toes regularly. When spasms strike, straighten your legs and flex your ankles and toes upwards

    Painful cramping in your legs can be caused by clots, known as thrombosis, so make sure you see your GP if the pain continues. 

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  • THE SYMPTOM: Itchy skin

    Your action plan:

    • Help to soothe itchy skin by applying calamine lotion
    • Massage your bump and breasts regularly (try natural wheatgerm oil, available from health food shops)
    • Swap fragranced soaps and bath products for unscented products

    In rare cases, severe itchiness in the third trimester (especially when it's your hands and feet) can be a symptom of a pregnancy-related liver disease called obstetric cholestasis. Other symptoms include loss of appetite or nausea. See your GP if severe itching persists. 

  • THE SYMPTOM: Piles

    Your action plan:

    • Drink plenty and eat fibre-rich foods (for example, lots of veg, oats and dried fruit, such as figs and prunes)
    • Anusol is generally considered safe to use during pregnancy, however, check with your midwife before using it
    • Exercising can help keep your bowel movements regular
    • Soothing witch hazel or ice packs can make you feel more comfortable
    • Try to lie on your side regularly during the day to help reduce pressure on your backside 
  • THE SYMPTOM: Varicose veins

    Your action plan:

    • Go for regular walks to help improve your circulation
    • Wear support tights every day - pop on a pair before getting out of bed in the morning
    • Nutritionists say a diet rich in vitamin C (citrus fruits, strawberries, kiwis and green, leafy vegetables) helps keep your veins healthy and elastic
    • Rest with your feet and legs raised against the wall for 15 mins a day 

Last updated on 8 August 2008

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