Safe remedies for pregnancy illnesses, aches and discomforts

A guide to safe and effective treatments for common ailments like colds, through to pregnancy aches and pains


At some point during your pregnancy you’re likely to feel nauseous, tired and achy. But which remedies are both safe and effective for pain relief and recovery? It’s important to know what you’re able to take, so read on for all you need to know.


Headaches and sinus pain

During pregnancy, these can be caused by hormonal changes, poor posture and dehydration, which can be a problem for women suffering from morning sickness.

What can I take?

“The safest painkiller throughout pregnancy is paracetamol,” says GP Dr Roger Gadsby. “For sinus problems, try breathing in steam from a bowl of hot water.”

What else can I try?

Osteopath Simone Ross says, “Keep an eye on your posture – heavier breasts can cause rounded shoulders, which may lead to neck and head pain.”

“My midwife suggested Breathe Right strips for nasal congestion (from British Snoring & Sleep Apnoea Association) which I wore at night,” says Bea, 25, mum to Jake, 10 months, and 30 weeks pregnant.

“They look unsightly but they hold your nostrils open and provide instant relief,” notes Bea.

Coughs and colds

Your immune system can suffer during pregnancy, making you more susceptible
to runny noses, achy limbs and coughs.

What can I take?

Dr Gadsby says, “Paracetamol eases pain and lowers a high temperature. For coughs, Simple Linctus is safe throughout pregnancy. If you have a persistent temperature or cough up thick, green mucus, you could have an infection, so see your GP as you may need antibiotics.”

What else can I try?

“Aim for one or two portions of fruit or veg each time you eat to boost your immune system,” says nutritionist Yvonne Bishop-Weston.

“For coughs and colds, mix 1 tsp of honey with 2 tsp of lemon juice, top up with hot water and drink every four hours,” says Helen, 27, mum to Patrick, 10 months. “It’s comforting and it works.”


Anaemia is common in pregnancy because your body needs more red blood cells. A shortage of these cells can cause excessive tiredness and breathlessness.

What can I take?

“If you think you’re anaemic, see your midwife or GP for a blood test,” says Dr Gadsby. “You may be prescribed iron tablets. Don’t buy them over the counter as they may contain other substances.”

What else can I try?

Nutritionist Yvonne Bishop-Weston says, “Eat iron-rich foods, such as apples, apricots, asparagus and bananas. Combine these with vitamin-C rich foods, as this helps double the iron absorption.”

“Once I hit six months pregnant, I always become tired and breathless,” says Jess, 35, mum to Gregor, 4, David, 2, and 28 weeks pregnant. “The iron tablets really help but they can cause constipation so I up my water and fruit intake.”


This searing pain in the chest is caused by the hormone progesterone relaxing the valve at the top of your stomach, which causes stomach acid to rise into your oesophagus.

What can I take?

“GPs often recommend Gaviscon for heartburn. Different foods affect different people, but in general avoid acidic and fried foods,” says GP Dr Roger Gadsby.

What else can I try?

“Lying on your left side with your head elevated keeps the stomach low and stops acid rising. A glass of water can help ease the burning too,” says nutritionist Yvonne Bishop-Weston.

“My husband-to-be rubbed my back as though he was winding me. It worked wonders,” says Harriet, 22, mum to Sim, 7 months.

Constipation and haemorrhoids

Constipation and haemorrhoids (piles) are caused by an increase in the hormone relaxin and the resulting slowing of digestion.

What can I take?

“Try to increase your intake of water and fibre,” says Dr Gadsby. “If necessary, your GP may prescribe a gentle laxative or cream and suppositories for piles.”

What else can I try?

Tina Burchill of the Society of Homeopathy, says: “Sepia and sulphur are helpful, but visit a registered homeopath to work out what’s best for you.”

“To avoid constipation, I drank as much water as I could – eight glasses a day – and had fruit with every meal, and that did the trick,” says Anna, 42, mum to Rose, 5, and Andrew, 19 months.

Abdominal pain

This can be a general feeling of tummy discomfort or sharp pains. A number of factors can be to blame, including rib pain, stretched ligaments and constipation.

What can I take?

“If it’s purely muscular, rest and relaxation are best,” says Dr Gadsby. “If it’s persistent or accompanied by other symptoms, vomiting or bleeding, see your GP.”

What else can I try?

“As your baby gets bigger your diaphragm gets more restricted, making rib pain more common,” says osteopath Simone Ross. “An osteopath can help with exercises, and a lot of mums try yoga which can be a big help as it aids breathing and relaxation.”

“As I got bigger, I felt more and more uncomfortable,” recalls Kim, 24, mum to Harvey, 17 months. “However, I found that doing a few stretches and then having a nice warm bath really helped settle everything down.”


This is likely to trouble you more at the end of the day during pregnancy, as the weight of your baby stretches all your ligaments.

What can I take?

“Use paracetamol as a painkiller,” says Dr Gadsby. “Or try applying a hot water bottle to the affected area.”

What else can I try?

Osteopath Simone Ross says, “Put an ice pack on the affected area for 10 minutes each hour. It’s also important to sit right back in chairs so your back has as much support as possible.”

“I visited my local chiropractor,” says Madeleine, 36, mum to Suki, 3, and Jacob, 10 months. “He did some gentle manipulation which helped ease the pain, and he also taught me how to lift things properly.”

Itchy skin

Lots of mums-to-be get dry, flaky, irritable skin, which is caused by hormonal changes.

What can I take?

“Keep your skin hydrated with moisturisers,” advises Dr Gadsby. “If your usual products don’t help, talk to your midwife or GP who may prescribe emollient creams.” If the itching is really severe, it could be a more serious condition called obstetric cholestasis [link], and you should contact your midwife or GP.

What else can I try?

Tina Burchill says, “For really dry skin, try Barefoot Botanicals’ SOS Face & Body Cream – it’s really soothing.”


“Putting baby oil in the bath and trying to drip dry instead of using a towel made a real difference,” says Louisa, 33, mum to Rowan, 2


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