Alleviating Common Pregnancy Aches and Pains by Rebekah Mustaleski, CPM-TN

Rebekah Mustaleski is Compression Director with and a Certified Professional Midwife with Roots & Wings Midwifery in Knoxville, TN, where she promotes evidence-based maternity care for families seeking an out of hospital delivery. She is working to improve maternal outcomes during the childbearing year and to promote a sustainable business model for midwifery practices across the country. Rebekah is co-owner of Roots & Wings Midwifery, LLC as well as Treasurer for the Tennessee Midwives Association.

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If you look up a list of common complaints in pregnancy, you'll find a number of items, most of which include swelling, digestive issues, low back pain, and varicose veins. Wouldn't it be nice to avoid or at the very least alleviate all of those? Having proper alignment of the spine, using compression support, and incorporating daily stretches into your routine can help you feel better as well as optimize baby position in preparation for childbirth.

Good posture is essential for proper body function. Your circulatory, respiratory, and sensory systems all work better when your spine is correctly aligned with the other bones in your body. When your spine, ribs, and pelvis aren't lined up the way they need to be, it can impair the flow of blood, oxygen, and sensory messages to the brain. This can lead to increased aches, pains, swelling, constipation, indigestion, and varicose veins. So the first step to avoiding all of that is to have good posture! That means that when you're standing your hips line up above your ankles and your pelvis and ribs are in a neutral position.

Assess Your Pregnancy Posture

But what if you don't know how to assess your posture? If you don't know if your posture meets the above description, take a piece of fabric and hold it by your hip while standing. The bottom edge of the fabric should be at your ankle. If it isn't, shift your hips forward or back until it is. This is where you want your hips to be positioned. A neutral pelvis and neutral ribs are easiest to find by doing the extremes—tuck and untuck your pelvis (make sure you're moving your pelvic bones) to find neutral, which is the resting point between the two. 

To make sure you aren't flaring your ribs in either direction, arch your lower back, which juts the low ribs out and then hunch your shoulders and pull your lower ribs in. “Neutral ribs” will be the resting point in between. You want your body in this position the majority of the day because this is where the blood flows the best, your lungs have the greatest capacity, and your sensory system is able to send messages most effectively.

Maternity Compression

Pregnancy compression products can be helpful in maintaining good posture throughout the day, especially if you know you're going to be on your feet for long periods of time or if you have an intense exercise routine planned. As your baby and your abdomen grow, your core muscles have to work overtime to keep your body well aligned. This can lead to low back pain and pelvic floor strain. A pregnancy support band helps out by supporting your core so those muscles won't be overworked and you can continue with your usual daily habits and exercises, which are also so good during pregnancy. When you are planning a run, all-day lectures, or any other exercise that requires intense core support, wearing a pregnancy support band will help you meet your goals without putting unnecessary strain on your muscles and ligaments.

Your circulatory system works especially hard during a pregnancy, supplying the nutrients and oxygen needed to not only your whole body, but also to your baby's growing body. As your uterus grows to accommodate baby, it can put pressure on the vessels supplying blood to your feet and legs. Sometimes, the body isn't able to adequately compensate for this, which can lead to swelling and even varicose veins. A pregnancy support band can help with this, as it supports the uterus thereby keeping some of the pressure off of the blood vessels. Other ways to support the circulatory system are by taking frequent breaks throughout the day to prop your feet up (if you stand most of the time) or to move around (if you sit most of the time). Compression socks are also extremely beneficial, as they help prevent swelling which further impairs blood flow.

Helpful Stretches

 One final tip to promote good posture and avoid those pesky pregnancy complaints are to incorporate daily stretches into your routine. Doing a set of easy stretches in the morning to get your blood flowing and at night to release any tension that built up throughout the day can help your body be in good alignment from the moment your feet hit the floor until your head sinks into the pillow at night. Start with slow neck and shoulder circles followed by low back stretches. Add in some calf and ankle stretches and you've got a routine to get your day headed in the right direction and help you end on a relaxing note.

Author: Renee Corbino

Renee keeps Balanced Birth Support organized and amazing as the Administrative Manager. She lives in Sarasota, Florida with her husband and two cute little boys. She is a breech birthing mama and supporter of empowering births.

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