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Aches and Pains

Aches & Pains





Back ache is usually the result of poor posture.  You will probably find that you are not standing upright as your baby grows and your uterus expands.  This can increase the curve in the small of your back adding to the strain in an area that is already carrying more weight than normal.

Pregnancy yoga and regular exercise like walking and swimming can help with your posture.  Try not to arch your back and avoid standing or sitting for too long.  Remember to bend your knees when lifting objects and always carry them close to your body.  Gentle massage may alleviate pain.  You should maybe consider a visit to the chiropractor or a pregnancy physiotherapist if the pain is that severe.  You may be given a ‘bump support’.


These tightenings are named after the doctor who discovered their purpose and they are a normal part of pregnancy.  They are present from early pregnancy but you do not become aware of them until late pregnancy.  The tightenings squeeze blood out of the uterine veins, enabling them to fill with fresh blood, and help to stretch the lower part of the uterus, preparing it for labour.  Sex or an orgasm may trigger them but this does not mean that you are going into labour.

Should the tightenings become more frequent, regular or painful, contact your caregiver so that early labour can be ruled out as a possibility.


The symptoms tend to be worse at night and may be accompanied by a weakness in the movement of the thumb.  The thumb, index and middle finger may feel numb and /or get pins and needles, and there may be pain in the fingers that travels up to the wrist and forearm.  These pains in the hands generally occur in mid – late pregnancy and usually disappear a couple of weeks within giving birth.  The condition is caused b the swelling in the part of the wrist through which the median nerve to the fingers runs.

Try not to sleep on your hands and rather rest your hands on a separate pillow.  Try to disperse the swelling by gentle exercise, for example, circling and flexing your wrists and putting them in cold water.  Drink plenty of water.  A trip to the physiotherapist may be required.  They will be able to give you some exercises that my help.  If the condition does not improve, you may even be given a splint to support your wrist.  An osteopath may be able to manipulate the wrist to help with the drainage.  Occasionally, a steroid injection around the nerve can be given in pregnancy.


These are usually the result of hormone changes but can also be caused by anxiety and tiredness, low blood sugar or dehydration.  They can also be a sign of high blood pressure, particularly after 24 weeks of pregnancy.

You can get what is called a cooling gel strip from your pharmacy or just wrap some ice in a facecloth and hold it against your forehead.  Lavender oil is also an effective cure for a headache if sprinkled on your pillow or a hanky.  Rub a headache stick on your forehead – the combination of oils is safe in pregnancy and handy to carry around.  Try a head massage to relieve tension or have a snack or drink if you have not had anything for a little while.


Most women suffer from night cramps in their legs from about 14 weeks of pregnancy.  According to one theory, this is related to iron deficiency in certain areas of the brain, so iron supplements may help.  Restless legs (Ekbom Syndrome) is a relatively common feature of pregnancy but usually settles down after the birth.  This burning or twitching feeling in the legs is accompanied by an irresistible urge to move the legs, which can bring some relief.  It can be very distressing and may severely interfere with sleep.

Make sure that you are getting enough fluids.  Increasing the amount of calcium in your diet may help.  Good sources include milk, yoghurt, cheese, canned fish, tofu, green leafy vegetables and baked beans.  Rest several times a day with your legs raised and get some support tights.  Try leg stretching and walking.  Keep the walks short and rather walk more often.  If you suffer from cramps mostly at night massage your legs with a carrier oil with 2 drops of lavender oil or soak your feet in a bowl of water with 2 drops of lavender.  To relieve leg cramp, straighten your leg and point your toes towards your head, or pull your toes up towards our ankle to stretch the leg muscle.  Breathe deeply to encourage the muscle to relax.  If these work, apply gentle heat and gentle massage.  If they don’t work, do not heat or massage the leg.  Tell your caregiver because there is a slight risk of thrombosis.


Ligaments are tough bands of fibrous tissue that connect bones and cartilage, control movement in the joints and support the muscles.  These ligaments loosen and stretch during pregnancy casing a variety of aches and pains, particularly around the sides of the stomach and pelvis.  This is usually nothing to worry about unless accompanied by other symptoms.

Mention the problem to your caregiver at your next appointment.


This problem is thought to result from the pressure of excess fluid (oedema) on nerve endings.

Sit with your feet up whenever possible.


The rib pain is usually caused by your baby’s feet lodging between your ribs.

Try gently prodding your baby to try and get it to move.


This is a sharp pain that starts in the lower back, buttock or hip and radiates down one leg, usually during late pregnancy.  It is caused by the uterus pressing on the sciatic nerve that runs from the middle of the back, through the buttocks and down each leg.

Gentle stretching exercises and heat therapy may ease the symptoms.


See Braxton Hicks tightenings and ligament pain.

If cramps are accompanied by bleeding, fever or chills, increased vaginal discharge, faintness or other unusual symptoms, see you caregiver immediately.  Also, should your cramps become more frequent and more painful contact your caregiver in case of early labour.


The pain can be at the front, around the pubic area, or sometimes in the lower back, and can start as early as the 12th week of pregnancy.  The pain might continue postnatally but should eventually get better.  It is caused by the joint in the pelvis parting slightly, because of hormones stretching and softening the ligaments.

Your caregiver will probably refer your to a physiotherapist, who can assess the extent of the problem and may give you a support belt to wear around your stomach.  Rest is advisable and you should be taught how to get in and out of bed, keeping your knees together, and on how best to go up and down stairs.

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