How to have a safe and healthy pregnancy without medication.
When we are pregnant, we are always worried about what we are putting into our body and how to keep our babies safe. A good way to make it through pregnancy and prepare for childbirth is to take a holistic approach, addressing your nutrition, body changes, mental, emotional and energetic wellbeing in as natural a way as possible, thereby minimising the chances of any complications. When it comes to prenatal healthcare, these are some of the best natural remedies available through the different stages of pregnancy.
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Natural Remedies For Sleeplessness
Many women will suffer some disruption to their normal sleep routine during pregnancy. Normal hormonal changes of pregnancy can, unfortunately, render you not only fatigued during the day, but also quite restless and unable to sleep at night. Some natural remedies include the use of aromatherapy to ease pregnancy symptoms and promote relaxation. Lavender, in particular, can be effective for this, so a scented pillow containing dried lavender or essential oil in a diffuser next to the bed or placed on the skin (mixed with a carrier oil in the case of the latter, such as coconut oil) can help to ease restlessness.
Some women find that complementary therapies such as reflexology and acupuncture are effective coping methods and can also be helpful to promote sleep and overall sleep quality. These more hands-on remedies can be relaxing, though it’s likely that you will need a few sessions before seeing a positive change in your sleep habits. If it’s hunger pangs that are the culprit of your nightly wake-ups, then try having a light but high-protein snack such as turkey or some mixed nuts. These foods are slow to digest and help steady your glycemic levels so you won’t wake up famished at 4am!
Natural Remedies For Backache
General muscular aches and pains are commonly reported by women during pregnancy, with back pain being one of the most prevalent. Backache can come and go during the prenatal period and then worsen in the third trimester. There are a number of unmedicated methods of pain relief that are safe to try during pregnancy to help increase your comfort levels. Many women find the use of a maternity belt useful to alleviate both pelvic girdle and back pain as they can help to encourage good posture and stabilise the body. Maternity belts can be bought over the counter, online or fitted by a physiotherapist.
Swimming also ticks a lot of boxes when it comes to pain relief, with the water easing pressure on joints and supporting your whole body, bump and all! If you don’t have access to a pool, taking a bath would also serve well to provide your muscles with some much-needed relief. However, if your backache is causing you continued discomfort, discuss this with your midwife or doctor who may then advise individual assessment by a physiotherapist and/or chiropractor.
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Natural Remedies For Nausea
Nausea in pregnancy, often referred to as morning sickness, is an extremely common symptom experienced during the first trimester in particular. Symptoms usually disappear around the start of the second trimester but, unfortunately for around 15 to 20% of women, can last longer. Research suggests that ginger can help soothe an unsettled stomach. For a natural remedy of this pregnancy symptom, try taking ginger tea made with dried or fresh ginger, ginger ale, or ginger preserves. Aromatherapy has also been found to help – smelling mint, orange or lemon essential oils can work to ease nausea symptoms.
It is also important to eat smaller meals, little and often, throughout the day to avoid your stomach being too empty, as going too long between meals can often worsen symptoms. Keep some snacks such as plain crackers, bread or cereal by your bedside and eat a small amount as soon as you wake up in the morning.
Natural Remedies For Heartburn
Heartburn is another common, but uncomfortable, pregnancy symptom. Hormonal changes during pregnancy cause the muscles of the valve between your stomach and oesophagus to relax, which can result in the movement of stomach acid into your oesophagus and gives rise to heartburn. The good news is that there are a number of easily available home remedies to help banish the burn! Coconut water is high in electrolytes and alkaline minerals, such as potassium. For these reasons, it’s a great home remedy for heartburn, as it works to promote the pH balance and neutralise acids in the stomach.
Having yoghurt or a glass of milk can also provide some much-needed relief of heartburn symptoms, and you can switch out cow’s milk for a nut or rice milk for a dairy-free alternative. Some find that warming the milk and adding a teaspoon of honey can help to quickly soothe the burning sensation. You can also try chewing gum for 10 minutes after a meal as this can promote the production of saliva, which again helps to neutralise stomach acids and ease heartburn symptoms after eating.
Read more: Staying Healthy During Pregnancy: Nutrition Dos And Don’ts
Natural Remedies For Muscular Cramps
A large number of pregnant women are no stranger to the rude-awakenings caused by muscular cramps, most commonly occurring in the legs and during nighttime. You’ll experience the cramps often as a sudden, involuntary and painful spasm of the muscle that can last for a few minutes or more. The muscle can also feel tender after the cramp itself has eased. The reasons behind why around 50% of women will experience regular muscular cramps during pregnancy aren’t known for sure – though it is thought they could perhaps be caused by hormones affecting how your nerves and muscles perform and the pressure from supporting the growing pregnancy.
Natural, at-home remedies for muscular cramps include the use of a cold compress or ice pack on the affected area to ease swelling and pain, and a strong massage of the tissues can provide welcome relief. Practising daily leg stretches can also help to both relax tense muscles and help to prevent further cramps.
Natural Remedies For Haemorrhoids
Haemorrhoids can be itchy, uncomfortable and downright painful at times. These can affect more than half of women during pregnancy. While these are a very normal and common pregnancy side effect, there are a number of natural remedies you can try at home to make you more comfortable or even solve the issue altogether. Haemorrhoids are essentially varicose veins in and around the rectum and usually occur during the second and third trimesters, although they can appear at any time. Haemorrhoids occur due to increased blood flow to the pelvic area during pregnancy and other issues during pregnancy, such as constipation, can also exacerbate or even cause haemorrhoids. As well as keeping well hydrated and practising regular Kegels (pelvic floor exercises), you can also try applying coconut oil to the affected area. This oil has both antibacterial and anti-fungal properties that can help relieve itching, along with helping to relieve pain and inflammation.
The use of witch hazel has also been found to be helpful in alleviating or resolving haemorrhoids. To do so, soak a cotton pad in organic witch hazel and place directly on to the area for around 15 minutes before discarding. Some also find it helpful to keep the pads in the freezer prior to use, which increases the cooling sensation for added relief. Epsom salt or apple cider vinegar sitz baths (essentially a warm, shallow bath to submerge the affected area into) can also aid the relief of symptoms. However, these can sting for some so take it slow or try alternative methods if you’re finding it uncomfortable.
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Editor’s note: This post was originally written in August 2016 and updated in September 2020.