During pregnancy a mother’s body becomes more sensitive and receptive, and her body exhibits unusual symptoms as hormonal and physical changes take place. During pregnancy it is important to listen to your body and pay attention to any symptoms that you are experiencing. Problems that arise during pregnancy can indicate certain deficiencies or imbalances in your state of health. You can correct imbalances and relieve pregnancy related problems using safe and natural methods.
This article covers natural methods to help relieve common pregnancy-related problems such as constipation, cravings, morning sickness, heartburn, edema, stretch marks, gestational diabetes, and other problems that may arise during pregnancy.
Common Pregnancy Related Problems:
Constipation can be caused by the weight and pressure of the fetus, the effects of relaxin upon the bowels, the increased levels of progesterone during pregnancy or a poor quality iron supplement (Ferrous Sulphate).
- Increase your consumption of dietary fibre by eating more fruits, green leafy vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes. Snacking on prunes or drinking prune juice is a simple, gentle way to promote bowel movements.
- Make sure to include magnesium-rich foods in the diet, as magnesium is essential for proper bowel function. Natural sources of magnesium include nuts and seeds, honey, wheat bran, whole grains, tofu, spinach and other green vegetables.
- Consider taking psyllium husk (Plantago ovata) which is a gentle fiber that encourages regular bowel movements. Psyllium is safe and will not make the bowels dependent because it works by encouraging peristalsis in the bowels rather than purgatory action like many herbal laxatives. Always take psyllium on an empty stomach (about 30 minutes before a meal or 2 hours afterward) and with large amounts of water, otherwise it will absorb water from your bowels and may worsen the condition.
- If you are taking an iron supplement check that it is a non-constipating form of iron.
- Administer a small sesame oil enema (15-30ml) to relieve constipation and draw excess air out of the colon. For instructions, see “How to do an Oil Enema”.
- If other methods have been unsuccessful, administer a larger enema (1.5 -2 litres). Herbal enemas should be avoided, especially in early stages of pregnancy. Safe enemas include using salt water alone, or a combination of 1Tbsp sea salt with one Tbsp baking soda. Another safe enema is using 6 cups of water with 2 cups of milk and a Tbsp of olive oil. For instructions see “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Giving Yourself and Enema”.
Cravings during pregnancy can sometimes unusual, but pay attention because they are usually a sign of a deficiency or imbalance in the body. A craving for pickles or other acidic foods may indicate that you are too alkaline in your stomach. A craving for salty foods may indicate that you are dehydrated or that your body has become too acidic. A desire to chew on ice usually means there is an iron deficiency and a craving for chalk means that you are lacking calcium.
These are just some of many common cravings experienced during pregnancy. Whatever the craving, don’t ignore it, try determine the reason for the craving and find wholesome ways of satisfying it.
Morning sickness is the feeling of nausea or vomiting while pregnant. Morning sickness does not occur only in the morning, pregnancy-related nausea can actually be felt at any time of day. Nausea often occurs in the morning because that is when blood sugar levels are low. Factors that contribute to morning sickness include toxins in the body, the build-up of hormonal by-products in the bloodstream, overly acidic blood, digestive problems or dietary deficiencies.
- Morning sickness or nausea can be aggravated by strong odors, so avoid contact with perfumes, incense, and other strong smells.
- Staying hungry may also contribute to morning sickness. If you don’t feel like eating a lot, try to eat many smaller meals throughout the day rather than two or three larger meals. Spreading meals throughout the day may also help to prevent indigestion which can be another cause of nausea.
- Avoid eating spicy or oily foods as these may contribute to indigestion.
- Small amounts of ginger (Zingiber officinale) can be taken to ease morning sickness. A tea made out of fresh ginger root is best as they dry form of ginger may be too heating.
- Teas made from spearmint (Mentha spicata) or peppermint (Mentha piperita) are also found to be effective in cases of morning sickness. If you have a strong urge to vomit, a tea from coriander seeds (Coriandrum sativum) may help.
- Smelling a fresh cut lemon or squeezing half a lemon in water and sipping it thought the day may also help to reduce the symptoms of morning sickness.
- Sometimes supplementation with Vitamin B6 can help ease morning sickness. A lack of B6 is one of the common deficiencies of pregnancy and may also cause low blood sugar levels. If a lack of B6 is suspected 100mg of vitamin B6 should be taken daily with 50mg of B-complex vitamins.
- Gentle walking every day will improve circulation and aid the body in ridding the hormonal by-products which contribute to feelings of nausea.
Heartburn is a common pregnancy-related problem because of the increased pressure on the stomach from the growing fetus and because of the increased level of hormones in the body. Increased hormones can cause a relaxation of the sphincter that separates the stomach and esophagus making it more likely that food and acids in the stomach can come back up.
- Heartburn may be relieved by sipping milk, eating a few raw almonds, or by sucking on slippery elm lozenges. (Ulmus fulva).
- To prevent heartburn limit the intake of spicy foods, oily foods, and acidic foods including tomatoes, citrus fruits, chocolate, vinegar and coffee.
- Eat smaller more frequent meals rather than large meals and don’t eat when you are rushed.
- Avoid drinking large amounts of fluids with meals because excess fluids at meal time will distend the stomach and may force foods back up into the esophagus.
- Since water retention can be caused by an excess of sodium in the body, monitor your sodium intake if you have edema and reduce it accordingly.
- Diuretics such as barley (Hordeum vulgare), dandelion leaf (Taraxacum officinale), alfalfa (Medicago sativa), or the Ayurvedic herb shatavari (Asperagus racemosus) are gentle and effective in relieving edema during pregnancy. These are best taken in a tea form. Remember that taking diuretics late in the evening or before bed will increase the need to urinate throughout the night, so it is best to take these earlier in the day.
- Vitamin B6 is an effective and safe diuretic since edema may actually be a symptom of a lack of B6 in the body. The B vitamins work in synergy, so always take B6 along with the other B vitamins (100mg B6 with 50mg B-complex).
Pregnancy Induced Hypertension
- A higher than normal blood pressure can also be caused by the body retaining too much sodium during pregnancy, so the diuretics mentioned for edema will also be useful here.
- Another cause of high blood pressure during pregnancy could be stress. If you are feeling stressed, assess your lifestyle and make changes to reduce the factors which cause you stress.
A woman who has never had diabetes before, can develop diabetes during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes goes away after birth, but will increase a mother’s chance of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. Gestational diabetes can also result in an overweight baby.
- If you get gestational diabetes, control it with diet by cutting out simple carbohydrates and by eating proteins, fat and carbohydrates together in order to slow blood sugar release. After the pregnancy review your diet and support your pancreas by eating low-glycemic foods.
- If you have a family history of gestational diabetes, it is a good idea to work on prevention before and throughout pregnancy. A proper diet is the best prevention, but extra support can be considered. In Ayurvedic medicine, the herb guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia) is commonly given during pregnancy for the prevention of diabetes during pregnancy.
- To prevent stretch marks and sagging, apply oil to the belly, breasts, and thighs every day to keep your skin moisturized and supple. Since everything put on to the skin is absorbed into the bloodstream make sure you use only good quality natural oils. Wheat germ oil is a good source of Vitamin E which helps in the prevention and reduction of scarring. Other oils that are suitable include unrefined sesame oil (for mothers which are more sensitive to becoming cold) and almond or coconut oil (for mothers who are more prone to becoming hot).
- It is also helpful to increase the intake of foods rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and Zinc as these nutrients are essential for the overall health and rejuvenation of the skin.
Pain and Stiffness
Pain in the joints and stiff, stressed muscles can be reduced by the Ayurvedic practice of Abhyanga, a self-massage with warm oil. You can apply oil to yourself and let it absorb for 30 minutes before taking a shower. Getting a pregnancy massage will also be beneficial. It is safe to receive a massage from the third month of pregnancy up until the time of delivery. Begin with a massage once every two weeks but try to increase the frequency as the pregnancy progresses.
Difficult or Delayed Delivery
- Raspberry Leaf tea (Rubus idaeus) is commonly taken in the last trimester of pregnancy to provide essential nutrients, to strengthen the uterus, and to help the pelvic bones to relax. As a result of taking raspberry leaf, you may experience more efficient contractions and a shortening of the second stage of labor as well as greater ease of labor in general. It is recommended to drink 2-4 cups daily starting from the 32nd week of pregnancy.
- During the final weeks of pregnancy or during labor, teas from vervain (Verbene officinalis), wood betony (Stachys officinalis), yarrow (Achillea millefolium) or motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) will help to stimulate delivery. Do not take these herbs earlier in the pregnancy as they are uterine stimulants in higher doses. Take these herbs only under the supervision of a herbalist or midwife.
- If delivery is delayed, you can apply oil over the abdomen along with warm towels to provide a slight heating which will promote movement in the baby. Heating oils like mustard seed oil can be used for this purpose.
- An enema administered before giving birth will also stimulate delivery and provide more space in the abdomen for the passage of the baby.
- Cecile Savereux, Lecture: Life Cycle Considerations
- Dr. Sapna B.A.M.S, Lecture: Garbopacharam (Pregnancy Care)
- Penelope Ody, Herbs for A Healthy Pregnancy: From Conception to Childbirth
- Linda B. White, M.D, Wise Use of Herbs and Vitamins during Pregnancy
- Wikipedia: Red Raspberry Leaf
Photo: Subbotina Anna