By Allison Kennamer, DC
Pregnancy is one of the most beautiful and transformational parts of a woman’s life. But, like everything I have experienced in life, it has its ups and downs. Learning to live with an ever-changing body and the pain and discomfort that often accompany pregnancy is key. Here are a few tips to make your pregnancy more manageable (see: more enjoyable).
Low Back Pain
During pregnancy, low back pain can originate from multiple locations in the lower back, but some of the usual suspects include SI joint pain and sciatica. Here are some common at home exercises to help managing such pain:
Yoga positions, such as Cat (of the well-known cat/cow pose) and Pigeon pose are helpful. Here are some tips for each pose. When performing cat/cow focus on the “cat” or arching your back and avoid “cow.”
Start on your hands and knees in a “tabletop” position. Make sure your knees are set directly below your hips and your wrists, elbows and shoulders are in line and perpendicular to the floor. Center your head in a neutral position, eyes looking at the floor.
As you exhale, round your spine toward the ceiling, making sure to keep your shoulders and knees in alignment. Release your head toward the floor, but don’t force your chin to your chest.
Inhale, coming back to the neutral “tabletop” position on your hands and knees. Do not let your belly drop between repetitions.
Pigeon pose is a bit more complicated to explain here. If you are not familiar with this pose, I recommend that you consult a registered yoga instructor for clear instructions. If you have increased pain the day after you perform pigeon, do not continue to do it. Although pigeon may feel good in the moment, it may inflame the sciatic nerve, making your pain worse the next day.
Pubic Bone Pain
Pubic bone pain also known as Pubic Symphysis Dysfunction (PSD) is pain in the front of the pelvic girdle. It affects 1 in 4 pregnant women. Other common names for PSD are pelvic girdle pain (PGP) and pubic bone pain. My favorite, because it is the most descriptive and just funny is “fire crotch” because that is often how it feels.
To fend off PSD, avoid putting weight on just one leg and avoid excessive or heavy lifting. Furthermore, when you do lift, lift with your legs “glued” together, and avoid “balance poses” in yoga.
My pregnant patients often complain of headaches. Headaches are tricky to diagnose during pregnancy because the origin of the pain can come from any number of factors. The best place to start is to try and figure out what triggers yours. Common causes of headache include tension, stress, and hormonal changes, or dehydration. Practices that relieve stress such as gentle yoga and meditation can be helpful for headaches, as can getting regular chiropractic adjustments and setting aside time for therapeutic massage or acupuncture.
Patients also complain of varicose veins and/or swollen feet during pregnancy. Simple things to try at home include increasing your liquid intake, putting your feet up the wall and practicing exercises such as yoga to increase circulation.
Pregnant women commonly injure themselves doing everyday tasks such as getting in and out of the car incorrectly, funky sleep positions and sitting wrong. The following simple modifications can truly make a difference in the quality of your “pregnancy life” and can possibly positively affect labor and delivery outcomes as well.
In & Out of the Car Basics:
Pre-pregnancy I never gave a second thought as to how to get into and out of a car; it was one easy motion. This habitual one-stepped movement is not easy or beneficial for a pregnant woman with an ever-changing body - especially during the last month or two. To be gentler to your body, break the movement down into 3 parts: swing or twist your body/legs out of the car. Next support your belly underneath with one hand and utilize whatever support you have available (i.e. the door) and your available arm to help push/support while you use your legs to stand. The bending forward and heaving combo are terrible for an already unstable low back. The only thing worse than bending forward and lifting up is throwing in a twist to your low back while attempting to get out of the car.
The key to a good night’s sleep during pregnancy, or shall I say the key to a better night’s sleep, is keeping the body from twisting. I like to imagine my back against a wall, with my shoulders in line with each other, as well as in line with my hips. Solicit friends and forage to find whatever pillows or supports best fit your body. For me, an old Boppy worked great. Place the pillow between your legs, aligning the pillow up the middle of your back (or the sacrum) for support. Then tuck the front of the pillow under your belly (when it is big enough) to give baby a little support too.
The key to keeping your low back healthy during pregnancy is how you sit. Keep your sit bones (the bones you sit on) perpendicular to the seat. Avoid any position or chair that encourages your low back to curve. In other words, avoid recliners. Great alternative chairs include an exercise ball, or a high back or mission-style chair.
Know Your Resources
Here in Athens we are lucky to have a burgeoning Birthing Community with plenty of resources for expectant parents. I am the Chiropractor at Thrive and I specialize in helping women alleviate pain and manage discomfort during pregnancy. I recommend a care-plan for expectant mothers that emphasizes musculoskeletal alignment. This might include Chiropractic adjustments and therapeutic massage. Acupuncture is great for alleviating pain and swelling, as well. Every patient is unique, so know that what is best for someone else might not be best for you. Trust your gut and please feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns about pregnancy or birth. We are always happy to help.