GROW­ING PAINS

Car­ing for your preg­nancy body

Little Treasures - - CONTENTS -

When it comes to preg­nancy, there are of­ten two dis­tinct camps: the glow­ing and en­er­getic mums-to-be, sans aches and pains, and the bone-tired, can-bare­ly­walk women who are count­ing down the days un­til their body is no longer held hostage. Of course, it’s en­tirely pos­si­ble to see-saw from one team to the next on a daily ba­sis: it’s all part of the roller­coaster that is preg­nancy. But while all ex­pec­tant mums ex­pe­ri­ence a myr­iad of changes to their bod­ies, in­clud­ing weight gain, soft­en­ing of the joints and breath­less­ness, some ex­pe­ri­ence de­bil­i­tat­ing pain. Con­di­tions such as sym­ph­ysis pu­bis dys­func­tion, sci­at­ica or carpal tun­nel syn­drome can turn a beau­ti­ful time in your life into an ex­pe­ri­ence you’d rather for­get. Up to 80 per cent of women suf­fer back pain in preg­nancy – and that’s just one area of the body. Hor­mones are usu­ally to blame. When a baby is on board, the hor­mone re­laxin runs ram­pant through the body, loos­en­ing up joints, mus­cles and lig­a­ments in prepa­ra­tion for birth. An­other con­tribut­ing fac­tor, be­sides ob­vi­ous weight and pos­ture changes, is the ex­tra fluid re­tained: a mum-to-be car­ries 50 per cent more blood and fluid than a non-preg­nant woman. Os­teopath Jin Ong of Me­tamed says pre­vi­ous in­juries or weak­nesses in the body can of­ten lead to those nig­gly or un­bear­able aches and pains. “If you’re plan­ning a preg­nancy, I rec­om­mend get­ting treat­ment be­fore­hand to iden­tify if you have any is­sues. If you have any weak­nesses in the body, th­ese can be ex­ac­er­bated in preg­nancy. Our bod­ies have the abil­ity to com­pen­sate for is­sues so we don’t ac­tu­ally feel pain or dis­com­fort un­til we aren’t cop­ing, which is of­ten too late.” Jin says prob­lems tend to present at around the 22-week mark, par­tic­u­larly if a woman has no pre-ex­ist­ing musculoskeletal dis­or­ders. The good news, how­ever, is that most ail­ments dis­ap­pear as soon as – or not long af­ter – the baby is born. It’s an­other rea­son why mum-of-two Leanne Saun­ders can’t wait for her third child to ar­rive. She has been suf­fer­ing from sym­ph­ysis pu­bis dys­func­tion (SPD), a painful con­di­tion which af­fects one in 300 women, for much of her preg­nancy. “I didn’t ex­pe­ri­ence SPD with my first preg­nancy but it has caused ex­cru­ci­at­ing pain in my sec­ond and third preg­nan­cies,” she says. “The pain is in my pelvis, par­tic­u­larly the pu­bic bone. It feels like some­one has kicked me and the bones are break­ing. Some­times it’s a dull ache and other times it will take my breath away, but it’s al­ways there.” Dur­ing her sec­ond preg­nancy, Leanne had to give up her job as a ware­house storeper­son due to the pain. “This time around I’m man­ag­ing it by rest­ing as much as pos­si­ble, not mov­ing too quickly and tak­ing lots of luke­warm baths.” Treat­ments such as os­teopa­thy, mas­sage, acupuncture, chi­ro­prac­tic, and phys­io­ther­apy can help al­le­vi­ate the symp­toms of SPD and other con­di­tions, and are gen­er­ally con­sid­ered safe in preg­nancy. While some prac­ti­tion­ers – par­tic­u­larly mas­sage ther­a­pists – tend to avoid treat­ing preg­nant women in the first 12 weeks due to the risk of as­so­ci­a­tion with spon­ta­neous mis­car­riage, oth­ers may avoid cer­tain ar­eas of the body or slightly mod­ify their tech­niques. Be­cause of this, it’s es­sen­tial to choose a spe­cial­ist who is knowl­edge­able and ex­pe­ri­enced in treat­ing preg­nant women. “Os­teopa­thy is hands on and very safe in preg­nancy,” says Jin. “I per­son­ally use a bit of acupuncture/dry needling which is great for get­ting to the mus­cles with­out stir­ring up the joints. We also have a very holis­tic ap­proach in lis­ten­ing to the mind-body con­nec­tion and how the body can be a man­i­fes­ta­tion of our emo­tional ex­pe­ri­ences.” De­pend­ing on your di­ag­no­sis, other reme­dies can in­clude heat and ice packs (wheat packs or a bag of frozen peas can work won­ders), spe­cialised preg­nancy belts, sup­port ban­dages and hy­drother­apy (im­mers­ing your body or a body part in hot or cold wa­ter). Nikki Spar­row found ice-cold wa­ter to be par­tic­u­larly help­ful in her quest for re­lief from carpal tun­nel syn­drome, which she was di­ag­nosed with at 16 weeks. “I was work­ing as a care­giver and no­ticed my wrists were be­com­ing very painful at the end of long shifts,” she says. “They started to swell and the pain was al­most con­stant. It made work­ing very dif­fi­cult – try­ing to dress grown men in wheel­chairs was ex­tremely hard as my hands had no strength.” Nikki’s symp­toms be­came worse in the

‘If some­one is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing pain, cer­tain ex­er­cises that in­crease pelvic sepa­ra­tion such as walk­ing or lunges should be avoided’

‘Pre­vi­ous in­juries or weak­nesses in the body can of­ten lead to those nig­gly or un­bear­able aches and pains’

late sec­ond and third trimesters, and she tried to keep on top of the pain by us­ing ice packs and splints, as well as el­e­vat­ing her wrists or run­ning them un­der cold wa­ter. She didn’t seek spe­cial­ist help, how­ever, as her mid­wife ad­vised her “not much could be done” for the con­di­tion. It’s some­thing Jin hears ev­ery now and then, but strongly dis­agrees with. “A lot of peo­ple just say, it’s ‘part of preg­nancy’ but I def­i­nitely think women can feel re­ally healthy and com­fort­able in preg­nancy,” she says. “It’s about mak­ing the body feel as best as it can feel as it changes dur­ing preg­nancy. This is the time in your life that’s about cre­at­ing a stress-free en­vi­ron­ment for your baby to thrive.” Com­mon con­di­tions Aches and pains The anatom­i­cal and pos­tural changes of preg­nancy can spark pain around the joints, such as the knees, hips, pelvis and back. Use a com­bi­na­tion of heat and ice packs, light exercise, mas­sage and stretch­ing to al­le­vi­ate the dis­com­fort, or try acupuncture, os­teopa­thy or phys­io­ther­apy. Carpal tun­nel syn­drome Carpal tun­nel syn­drome presents as pain or tin­gling in one or both wrists, hands or fin­gers. This is of­ten caused by ex­tra fluid putting pres­sure on the carpal tun­nel, a nar­row pas­sage­way in the wrist. A GP, os­teopath, phys­io­ther­a­pist or natur­opath can help. Rest­less leg syn­drome Rest­less legs and sud­den painful cramps are com­mon in preg­nancy, par­tic­u­larly in the third trimester. Hor­monal and cir­cu­la­tion changes are of­ten the cul­prits, as are de­hy­dra­tion or de­fi­cien­cies in min­er­als such as iron or mag­ne­sium. Try stretch­ing, heat packs, mas­sage or up­ping your wa­ter in­take. Sym­ph­ysis pu­bis dys­func­tion Sym­ph­ysis pu­bis dys­func­tion is caused by the nat­u­ral soft­en­ing of the lig­a­ment that holds the two front bones of the pelvic ring to­gether. While it can present early on in preg­nancy, it usu­ally in­ten­si­fies in the weeks lead­ing up to birth. A doc­tor, physio, os­teo or chi­ro­prac­tor can pre­scribe the cor­rect treat­ment, which may in­clude reme­dies such as a ma­ter­nity belt or med­i­ca­tion. Back/sacroil­iac pain and sci­at­ica Back pain – par­tic­u­larly in the lower back and sacroil­iac joint – is one of the most com­mon preg­nancy com­plaints. It’s gen­er­ally down to a com­bi­na­tion of the re­laxin hor­mone and a grow­ing baby shift­ing your cen­tre of gravity. Preg­nancy belts can help the mus­cles sta­bilise and ease the day-to-day pain, and an an­ti­in­flam­ma­tory diet com­bined with preg­nancy-safe ab­dom­i­nal and sta­bil­ity ex­er­cises or preg­nancy pi­lates can also im­prove symp­toms. Oedema Oedema is the swelling of the face, hands and feet. It’s why the old adage that preg­nant women should “put their feet up” rings true: el­e­vat­ing th­ese ar­eas, as well as gen­tle hand and foot ex­er­cises, ice packs and mas­sage, can de­flate the swelling.

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