You’re probably feeling excited about the arrival of your little bundle of joy, but the symptoms of pregnancy can sometimes quickly overshadow these happy feelings. Morning sickness, fatigue, heartburn, haemorrhoids, constipation, and headaches can make you feel like a mess!
The good news is that complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) can help alleviate pregnancy symptoms. In fact, the use of herbal and alternative medicines by pregnant women is common. No matter what stage of your pregnancy you’re in, and no matter how big your little bub is growing, using herbs can be a great way to ease your symptoms and give yourself the extra vitamins and minerals that you’ll no doubt be in need of. The herbs that are most commonly use include peppermint, ginger, garlic, aloe, and chamomile. As for alternative medicines, these include aromatherapy, meditation/relaxation, yoga, acupressure, acupuncture, and chiropractic remediation.
If you’re suffering from morning sickness, heartburn, or headaches, try these natural remedies for pregnancy symptom relief.
Morning sickness (nausea and vomiting) is caused by several factors, including hormonal changes, strong smells, and low blood sugar. You usually get morning sickness only in the first trimester, but some women experience it throughout their pregnancy. Here’s what you can do:/p>
- Eat smart – To prevent nausea and vomiting, eat bland, easy-to-digest foods, and have a balance of carbs (toast, crackers) and protein (milk, cheese, yoghurt) to maintain blood sugar levels. Also avoid fatty, spicy, and salty foods.
- Eat small meals – When you eat several small meals instead of three big ones, you won’t end up too full that you feel like vomiting.
- Suck on lemon or peppermint drops – These flavours and their smell can help reduce nausea.
- Drink between meals – This can help prevent your stomach from becoming too full when you eat so you don’t feel like vomiting. Try drinking ice-cold/sparkling/soda water, peppermint tea, red raspberry leaf tea, or lemonade. These can also decrease nausea.
- Consume ginger – Ginger can help neutralise stomach acids, so consider drinking ginger ale or tea, adding fresh ginger to your food, chewing on crystallised ginger, or taking ginger root in capsule form. The smell of ginger can also ease your symptoms.
- Avoid strong odours – The smell of coffee, garlic, and meat can cause nausea, so avoid these.
- Wear sea-bands or psi wristbands – These acupressure wristbands alleviate nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy by stimulating acupressure points on the wrist.
- Try aromatherapy – Pour lime, orange, mandarin, and grapefruit aromatherapy oils into your bathwater to help alleviate nausea. You can also rub your belly with peppermint or chamomile oil.
- Take vitamin B6 – You can take prenatal vitamins with vitamin B6 to reduce or stop nausea and vomiting.
Fatigue is common during the first trimester when your baby’s organs and life support system are forming. In fact, being pregnant puts increased pressure and strain on your bones and muscles. But there are some things you can do to reduce fatigue
- Exercise – Although you may be exhausted, exercising can help restore your energy.
- Take mini naps – Taking short naps of 10-15 minutes throughout the day can help refresh you.
- Eat a balanced diet with extra calories – A well-balanced diet and eating an extra 300 calories a day can help boost your energy levels
- Get enough iron – Iron deficiency can cause extreme fatigue, so eat more foods with iron, such as red meat, pork, poultry, seafood, beans, spinach, raisins, apricots, and peas.
Heartburn is a burning sensation in the throat and chest. It occurs when a) the pregnancy hormones released in your body soften the valve between your stomach and oesophagus, and b) your body makes room for your baby. In both cases, stomach acids pass into the oesophagus and settle there, causing heartburn. Here are some tips to reduce and prevent heartburn:
- Avoid trigger foods and drinks – These include soft drinks, sparkling water, fruit juice, alcohol, coffee, and spicy, fatty, fried, acidic, and sweet foods. Make sure to avoid these if you don’t want to get heartburn.
- Eat five or six small meals a day – This beats the burning sensation that comes after overindulging. It’ll also prevent heartburn by reducing the amount of stomach acids that go up and settle in your oesophagus.
- Wear loose clothes during and after eating – Loose clothing can prevent your stomach from getting squished and passing up acids into your oesophagus.
- Chew sugarless/naturally sweetened gum after a meal – Chewing stimulates the saliva for an acid-neutralising effect.
- Consume fennel and garlic – Chewing fennel seeds or drinking herbal tea with fennel can reduce irritation, and taking garlic capsules can soothe heartburn.
- Take a soothing drink – Add honey to a glass of warm milk to soothe your heartburn. You can also take ginger tea, peppermint tea, chamomile tea, lemon tea, coconut water, or plain water.
- Apply Aloe Vera gel to your chest, throat, and abdomen – Aloe Vera can treat inflammation, reducing heartburn and acid reflux symptoms.
- Take slippery elm bark – This is helpful in relieving heartburn as its gummy consistency coats the intestines and soothes digestion.
- Sleep properly and at the right time – Wait several hours before you lie down after a meal, and prop your head with a couple of pillows when sleeping.
- See a chiropractor – A chiropractor can shift the oesophageal valve into a better working position, relaxing the muscles and in turn stop acids from making their way back up.
In the third trimester, your expanding uterus puts increased pressure on your pelvis, which can cause haemorrhoids (swollen veins in the anus or rectum). As your baby grows bigger week by week, the impact on your pelvic region can get more and more intense, so it’s important to monitor how you’re feeling when you go to the toilet. Constipation can also cause or worsen the condition because of straining during bowel movements. Here’s how you can alleviate your discomfort and prevent haemorrhoids:
- Get fibre in your diet – Fibre will soften the stools and make them easier to pass, which can reduce pressure on or prevent haemorrhoids. Good sources of fibre include fruits, vegetables, flaxseeds, chia seeds, beans, wheat, oat bran, whole grains, and prune juice.
- Drink lots of water – This can also keep things moving and prevent haemorrhoids.
- Go to the toilet immediately – If you feel the urge to defecate, don’t wait, or stool can back up and lead to increased pressure and straining.
- Take a warm bath – Sitting in warm water for 10-15 minutes a few times a day can help ease the pain, itching, and swelling. You can either sit in the bathtub or take a sitz bath (a small plastic tub placed over the toilet seat).
- Use plain, moistened toilet paper – This means it shouldn’t contain dye or fragrance and must be a little wet to avoid irritating the rectal area.
- Cool it off – You can use witch hazel wipes on the affected area or apply a cold compress or ice pack to bring cooling relief, and reduce pain and swelling.
- Sit on a soft cushion or pillow – This can help ease pressure on the rectal area, reducing the swelling of existing haemorrhoids and preventing new ones from forming.
- Do Kegel exercises – Kegels can increase circulation to the area affected by haemorrhoids.
You can get constipation due to hormonal changes and increased iron intake from prenatal vitamins. Follow these tips for reducing constipation:
- Exercise regularly – Exercising on a regular basis such as walking briskly for 20-30 minutes a day can help stimulate bowel function.
- Eat fruits and veggies – Healthy food is easier for your stomach to break down, preventing hard stools from forming.
- Drink plenty of water – Water can soften your stools, making it easier to empty your bowels.
Hormonal changes, fatigue, and blood-sugar swings during pregnancy can give you headaches. Try these natural remedies to ease your pain:
- Eat small meals – Eating small, frequent meals during the day can prevent blood-sugar swings, and in turn reduce or stop headaches.
- Get enough rest – Consider lying down and placing a cool compress on your forehead. Resting can reduce fatigue and ease your headaches.
- Get a massage – Ask your partner or a friend to give you a neck and shoulder massage. This’ll help your body and mind to relax
- Practice relaxation techniques – Yoga, meditation, or deep breathing can soothe your headaches.
- Give acupuncture a go – Acupuncture can ease your headaches and ensure that you rely less on medication for headache relief.
Alleviating symptoms so you can enjoy your pregnancy
While the above natural remedies are considered safe during pregnancy, if you want to try other ways to relieve your symptoms, it’s always best to check with your doctor first, to ensure the health and safety of you and your baby. However if you want to experiment with taking a more natural path, why not try some of these remedies to help reduce the impact of common pregnancy symptoms; you might just find one that works perfectly for you.