Let’s face it—while the nine-month journey that is pregnancy is a joyful time, it’s not without its fair share of discomforts. As morning sickness sets in and weight gain begins, your body’s changes can feel unpleasant and awkward at best. Thankfully, a number of natural remedies can help with common issues that may come up, says Aviva Romm, M.D., author of The Natural Pregnancy Book. “Many of these methods are known to be safer than comparable medical interventions, are cost effective, and are easy to do.” Here, a few simple remedies to help ease some of pregnancy’s most common ailments.
Nausea and Morning Sickness
Morning sickness, beginning around the sixth week and lasting up to the fourteenth, is caused by a variety of factors including low blood sugar, an empty stomach, or too much fatty or sweet foods, says Romm. To keep your stomach full and your blood sugar from dropping, opt for snacks with complex carbs and protein, like hummus on whole wheat pita, eaten every couple of hours. Also, having a little protein before bed, like a handful of nuts or some Greek yogurt, can help stave off unrecognized overnight hunger, which can lead to morning sickness. (Though it’s smart to avoid this if you have heartburn.) And even if fluids make you nauseated, dehydration can lead to complications, so make sure to drink plenty of water and other liquids, like tea, to help keep your blood sugar levels in check. If you find yourself already feeling nauseated, you can try mixing 20 drops of dandelion root liquid into ⅛ cup of water.
Stress and anxiety
With pregnancy comes anticipation, excitement, and, unfortunately, stress. To help relieve any pre-birth anxiety, Victoria Maizes, M.D., author of Be Fruitful, suggests developing a mind-body practice that suits your personality, and making it part of your regular routine. She recommends progressive muscle relaxation, which involves tensing and relaxing each muscle group to teach you how to monitor and control tension in your body. Try the exercise below once a day—the more familiar you are with releasing tension, the easier it will be to enter a relaxed state throughout the day.
To start, lie on your back (propping your hip up with pillows so you aren’t flat on your back). Take a deep breath, and begin by tightening the muscles in both feet, holding for several seconds, then releasing. Continue to move up your body to each major muscle group—tensing firmly, holding, and releasing. Move from your calves and thighs, on to your pelvis, buttocks, abdomen, and shoulders. Then, tense the fingers of both hands into tight fists, tightening your forearms and upper arms. Release them and move to the small muscles in your face. Squint your facial muscles and let go. Move your jaw back and forth, raise your eyebrows and drop them. Lastly, tense your entire body as tightly as you can, and release.
Thanks to the tiny human that’s developing inside you—pressing against your intestines and rectum, inhibiting bowel movements—constipation is a fairly common complaint during pregnancy. Fortunately, it’s also one that’s easily treatable. Taking brisk walks to aid digestion can help, says Romm. She also suggests massaging the abdomen in a clockwise position for five minutes while lying in bed (or in a warm bath) before using the restroom. And be sure to fill up on high-fiber fruits and vegetables, such as apples and kale, to help with digestion.
If you’re experiencing discomfort, Romm recommends a natural laxative drink, made out of fibrous prunes and bran: Add 1 tablespoon of bran and 4 dried and pitted prunes (or 2 prunes and 2 dried figs if you prefer it a bit sweeter) to 1 cup of warm apple juice. Soak for 15 minutes. Consume the fruit and juice mixture once daily, in the morning.
If you’re experiencing cramping pains in your lower legs, you may need more magnesium in your diet, says Romm. These work together to promote nerve and muscular relaxation and without them, your muscles will spasm. To up your intake of the mineral, be sure to eat plenty of dark, leafy greens (like kale and broccoli), and nuts and seeds (like almonds and pumpkin seeds). Or, Romm recommends talking to your doctor about taking a magnesium supplement in addition to your prenatal vitamin—taking 2 to 6 capsules a day of 150 milligrams of magnesium glycenate is great for muscle cramps and restless leg syndrome, which is common in pregnant women at night, she says.
What was your most persistent ache during pregnancy? Were you able to ease your discomfort with a natural remedy? Tell us your story in the comments section below!