Aches and pains

(This article is also available in an audio format)

There are many changes that take place in your body during pregnancy and these unfortunately often result in some aches and pains. The main thing is knowing that they are “normal” and nothing is going wrong with your pregnancy. Many of these changes are due to the hormones that are changing with pregnancy.


Nausea affects most preggy moms sometime during their pregnancy. It usually starts at about six weeks and tends to ease off at about 12 weeks. You may feel sick in the morning, at other times during the day, or even all day long


  • Eat small meals frequently as it keeps your blood glucose level more constant. Ginger really works – boil small cut pieces of ginger root in water and add glucose or honey and drink like tea
  • Get plenty of rest. Tiredness can make you feel a lot worse
  • Sip water to avoid dehydration from vomiting

Sleep comfort

As you get closer to giving birth, it gets harder and harder to sleep well at night. Loss of mobility and arching joints make getting into a comfortable position difficult.

What to do

Some sleep accessories and a nighttime routine may help. To get your body more relaxed and ready for sleep, before getting into bed –

  • Take a warm shower and do some slow stretches to ease tension in your neck, shoulders and back. Do a hula dance and sway your hips from side to side, forward and back and in a circle
  • Take a warm bath and let the water relax your tired muscles. Have someone help you out the bath as a long soak can make you feel light-headed

To help your bed support your body better

  • Use a preggy roll for support of your legs, tummy and head
  • Use a sleeping bag to add a layer of softness between you and your mattress

If you wake up and can’t get comfortable

  • Take a stroll around your home after you go to the bathroom
  • Rest in a reclining chair


Swollen ankles and feet

As your preggy belly and baby grow you are likely to find your feet getting larger too. This is partly due to swelling. Also, because your joints are looser and your body is heavier, your feet actually get about a half size larger

What to do

  • Work your legs and feet
    • Take a walk or do any exercise that involves your legs and feet. Swimming is excellent exercise to reduce the swelling
    • Do ankle circles throughout the day
  • Use gravity to reduce the swelling
    • Sit with your feet up whenever you can.
    • Lie on the floor or sofa, and rest your feet on a large pillow or arm of the sofa. Your feet only have to be above the level of your heart. To avoid lying flat on your back, roll a little toward your left side. Use a pillow to maintain your position
  • Invest in a new pair of comfortable shoes with a low heel
  • Get a pedicure. The foot massage will feel wonderful, and you will not have to struggle to cut your toenails


The hormones of pregnancy, especially progesterone, slow the passage of food through your digestive tract. This allows your body to use more of the nutrients but it means you are also more likely to become constipated. Iron supplements can also cause constipation. In addition, your uterus presses on your colon and rectum


  • Don’t hold on – go to the loo when you first feel the urge
  • Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day
  • Choose whole grains like whole-wheat bread, brown rice, and wholegrain cereals
  • Drink plenty of fluids to keep the fibre soft in your bowel
  • Walk, swim or cycle at least half an hour a day
  • Change formulation of any iron or calcium supplement and antacids you’re taking
  • Use a stool softener if the other methods have failed

Leg cramps

You may get sudden, painful cramps in your calves during the night when your legs are tired. They may be caused by circulation changes


  • Try some simple ankle exercises before bed – they will help improve your circulation, reduce swelling and prevent cramp. Bend your ankle quickly up and down 20 – 30 times, then rotate your foot 10 times, first one way and then the other
  • Avoid pointing your toes downwards in bed
  • Keep your bedclothes loose
  • If you feel a cramp coming on, flex your foot (pull it upwards) while keeping your leg straight
  • Ensure you have adequate intake of calcium and magnesium – as this can also cause cramps


Heartburn is an uncomfortable burning sensation that occurs when your stomach’s digestive juices escape through the relaxed stomach valve and flow up into your oesophagus. Pregnancy hormones cause the valve to relax and not stay tightly closed. Later in pregnancy your growing bump can also puts extra pressure on your stomach worsening the situation.


  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals. This will limit the amount of food in your stomach at a time. Try 5 or 6 smaller meals instead of 3 normal size meals a day
  • Don’t drink a lot of liquids with your meals as this can aggravate heartburn
  • Cut down on alcohol and caffeine – they relax the muscle that usually holds the acid in
  • Avoid foods that trigger heartburn – fatty and fried foods, tomato sauce, and spicy foods are often the culprit
  • Tempting though it is to lie down after eating, sitting in a comfortable upright position lessens heartburn as gravity keeps the food down in the stomach
  • Before going to sleep, prop yourself up with pillows behind your head and one under your knees
  • Take an antacid if necessary
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