Pregnancy aches and pains

Pregnancy aches and pains explained. During pregnancy, each twinge or cramp can be frightening. Read on for reassurance

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No matter how stoic or dismissive you are about illness or pain in ‘real’ life, when you’re expecting a baby, it’s only natural to feel anxious about every little niggle.

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Is it normal? Does it mean there’s something wrong with the baby? Have I done something I shouldn’t? ‘The reality is that most women suffer with aches and pains at some point during their pregnancy,’ says Prima Baby’s midwife Nikki Khan. ‘Most are completely normal and nothing to worry about. If you’re at all worried, however, seek medical advice straight away.’

Aches

  • Leg Cramps: These are common during pregnancy, especially during the second or third trimester, and are caused by carrying extra weight. They often occur at night. Some experts believe that too little calcium or too much phosphorus are to blame. Increase your calcium intake and cut down on processed meats and fizzy drinks, which contain phosphorous. Drinking plenty of water may also help. To alleviate a cramp, flex your toes back toward your shin, or ask your partner to massage the cramping muscle.
  • Backache: You’re more likely to experience back pain if you had it before conceiving, but even previously pain-free mums-to-be can be afflicted. It’s often worse in the evenings, as your ligaments have stretched slightly due to the extra weight you’re carrying. To strengthen and stretch your back muscles, try this yoga pose. Get down on your hands and knees and straighten your back. Breathe in and, as you breathe out, squeeze in your pelvic floor muscles and pull your belly button in and up, arching your back like a cat. Hold and squeeze for between five and 10 seconds. Relax and repeat as often as you can.
  • Wrist aches: Although carpal tunnel syndrome is associated with repetitive strain injury, some pregnant women experience similar aches and numbness in the wrists, hands or even as far up as the shoulders. Swelling and fluid retention put pressure on the nerves that control movement in the hand and cause the pain. It usually begins or worsens in the second half of your pregnancy, as that’s when you retain most fluid. If the pain is severe you could try wearing a wrist strap. Try the website support4physio.co.uk.

Pains

  • Period-like cramping pains: In pregnancy, as long as these are mild and don’t last, it’s usually nothing to worry about – it could be wind or constipation. This can be caused by hormones that slow your digestion, coupled with the pressure of your growing uterus on your stomach and intestines or rectum. They can occur anytime but are most common during the first trimester. This is when your body is experiencing massive hormonal changes as the placenta implants. Increase your fluids and try eating little and often to minimise indigestion.
  • Cramping pains: These could also indicate a urinary infection. If it persists, see your GP.
  • Ligament pains: A sharp stabbing pain or a dull ache on either side of your lower abdomen could be ligament pain. This occurs when the ligaments that support your uterus in your pelvis thicken and stretch. You usually feel these in the second trimester. Midwife Eleanor Copp suggests pregnancy yoga, which can help strengthen your muscles. ‘And it may sound obvious,’ she adds, ‘but rest and relaxation is the best remedy.’
  • Walking pains: Finding it painful to walk? This could be symphysis pubis dysfunction, also known as pelvic girdle pain. The symphysis pubis is the point where two bones meet at the front of your pelvis. These are held together by ligaments and aren’t designed to allow movement. However, during pregnancy your body produces the hormone relaxin, which loosens these ligaments and allows the pelvis to open slightly when you’re giving birth. Sometimes the ligaments loosen too much, or before you really need them to, so the pelvis moves. If this happens you’ll probably feel some pain in the pubis, the groin or in the inner thigh, hips or buttocks. If you’re really having problems, midwife Nikki Khan suggests asking your midwife to refer you to an obsteric physiotherapist or taking anti-inflamatory medication, and alternative treatments, such as osteotherapy and acupuncture, can help. For more information, visit the Pelvic Partnership website at pelvicpartnership.org.uk.

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