Pregnancy is a beautiful and transformative journey for expecting mothers, but it can also come with a range of uncomfortable symptoms. While medical interventions are essential for certain conditions, many pregnant women seek natural remedies to alleviate mild discomfort and promote overall well-being. In this article, we will explore various natural methods to manage pregnancy symptoms effectively, ensuring a safe and healthy experience for both the mother and the baby.
Nausea and morning sickness relief
Nausea and morning sickness are common early pregnancy symptoms that can make the first trimester challenging. These symptoms are often attributed to hormonal changes and increased sensitivity to certain smells and tastes. To manage these discomforts naturally, consider the following strategies:
- Ginger: Ginger has long been known for its anti-nausea properties.1 Sipping ginger tea or chewing on ginger candies can help ease queasiness. You can also try adding freshly grated ginger to warm water with lemon for a soothing drink. Some studies suggest that ginger may be as effective as certain pharmaceutical anti-nausea medications in treating morning sickness
- Peppermint: Peppermint is another herb with soothing properties.1 Sip on peppermint tea or inhale peppermint oil fumes to alleviate nausea. Peppermint tea can also help ease digestive issues like bloating and gas. However, it is essential to consume peppermint in moderation during pregnancy since ingesting excessive amounts may cause heartburn
- Small, frequent meals: Eating smaller meals every couple of hours throughout the day instead of large,infrequent meals can help prevent morning sickness triggered by an empty stomach2. Keep some healthy snacks, like nuts or fruits, handy to munch on whenever you feel hungry. This can also help stabilize blood sugar levels and prevent energy crashes
- Avoid strong odors: Certain smells can exacerbate nausea.2 Try to avoid strong odors or use a scented handkerchief with a few drops of essential oils to produce a calming scent like lavender or lemon to minimize discomfort when you encounter unpleasant smells. If cooking smells trigger nausea, consider asking someone else to handle meal preparation, aerate the room by opening multiple windows or use a fan to disperse the smells
Fatigue and energy boosters
Pregnancy often brings on fatigue: the body is undergoing major hormonal changes and an increase in energy demand, alongside the physical strain of carrying a growing child.3 Expectant mothers need extra energy to support the growth and development of the baby. To maintain energy levels naturally, try the following techniques:
- Regular exercise: Engaging in gentle exercises like prenatal yoga or walking can boost energy levels and improve overall well-being.4 Exercise releases endorphins, which can uplift your mood and combat fatigue. Prenatal yoga in particular can help improve flexibility and reduce pregnancy-related discomfort
- Power naps: Taking short naps during the day can help combat fatigue and promote better sleep at night.5 Listen to your body and rest when you feel tired, even if it means taking a break from your daily activities. A 20-30 minute nap can be refreshing without disrupting your nighttime sleep.
- Balanced diet: Opt for nutrient-dense foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, to provide sustained energy throughout the day.6 Avoid sugary snacks and processed foods that cause a quick spike in energy followed by a crash. Incorporate foods rich in iron, such as spinach, lentils, and lean red meat, to prevent iron-deficiency anemia, which can contribute to fatigue
- Stay hydrated: Dehydration can lead to fatigue, so be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day.6 Carry a reusable water bottle with you to remind yourself to stay hydrated. Water is essential for maintaining amniotic fluid levels and supporting overall bodily functions
Back pain and discomfort
As the baby grows, the additional weight can lead to back pain and discomfort. This is especially common in the later stages of pregnancy. To manage these symptoms naturally, consider the following approaches:
- Proper posture: Maintaining good posture can alleviate pressure on the lower back. Use a supportive chair and avoid standing or sitting for extended periods of time. When standing, distribute your weight evenly on both legs. Consider using a lumbar roll or cushion to provide your lower back with additional support when sitting down for long periods of time
- Gentle exercises: Strengthening the core and pelvic muscles through exercises like kegels can help support the lower back.7 Swimming is another low-impact exercise that can alleviate back discomfort while supporting your growing belly. Consult with a prenatal fitness expert to find out about safe exercises which target back pain: they will be able to advise you on exercises performed both in water and on land
- Prenatal massages: A trained prenatal massage therapist can provide relief to sore muscles and reduce tension.8 Massage can also improve blood circulation and promote relaxation. Make sure to find a therapist experienced in prenatal massage, as certain pressure points may be contraindicated during pregnancy
- Heat therapy: Applying a warm compress or taking a warm bath can ease back pain and relax tense muscles.7 Be cautious not to use excessively hot temperatures, especially during pregnancy. Avoid using heating pads on your belly and limit heat exposure to 15-20 minutes at a time
Heartburn and indigestion
Heartburn and indigestion are common pregnancy symptoms caused by hormonal and digestive changes, and increasing pressure on the stomach. To ease these discomforts naturally, try the following remedies:
- Small meals: as mentioned previously, eating smaller meals more frequently can reduce the pressure on the stomach and decrease the likelihood of heartburn as well as nausea.2 Avoid large, heavy meals that can exacerbate indigestion. Aim to eat smaller meals every 1-2 hours instead of three large meals
- Avoid trigger foods: Spicy, greasy and acidic foods can exacerbate heartburn.2 Opt for bland and easily digestible foods, such as plain rice, bananas, and whole-grain bread. Keep a food journal to identify any specific foods that trigger heartburn, and try to avoid them
- Upright posture: Maintain an upright posture while eating and avoid lying down immediately after meals to prevent acid reflux.9 This will help keep stomach acids in place and reduce the chances of heartburn. Use gravity to your advantage by staying upright for at least an hour after eating
- Chamomile tea: Chamomile tea has soothing properties that can calm the digestive system and alleviate heartburn.10 Sip on warm chamomile tea after meals to ease indigestion. However, avoid excessive consumption of herbal teas during pregnancy, as some herbs may not be safe in large amounts. Consult your physician or obstetrician to find out more about specific herbs and their effect on pregnancy
Insomnia and sleep disturbances
Pregnancy hormones and physical discomfort can disrupt sleep patterns, leading to insomnia and sleep disturbances. Proper rest is essential for the health of both the mother and the baby. To improve sleep quality naturally, try these suggestions:
- Establish a bedtime routine: Develop a relaxing bedtime routine, such as reading a book or taking a warm bath, to signal your body that it is time to wind down. Avoid bright screens before bedtime, which produce blue light that increases alertness and prevents sleep.11 Consider dimming the lights and engaging in calming activities to prepare your body for sleep
- Comfortable sleep environment: Invest in a supportive pregnancy pillow and create a calm and comfortable sleep environment. Use blackout curtains and a white noise machine if external factors disrupt your sleep. Make sure your mattress provides adequate support to reduce pressure on sensitive areas, such as the hips and lower back
- Limit caffeine intake: it is recommended to keep caffeine intake lower than 200mg a day when pregnant, so reduce or completely eliminate caffeine, especially in the late afternoon and evening.12 Caffeine can interfere with sleep patterns and make it harder to fall asleep. Instead, opt for herbal teas or warm milk to promote relaxation before bedtime
- Relaxation techniques: Practice deep breathing, meditation, or guided imagery before bedtime to promote relaxation and better sleep. These techniques can help calm your mind and body, making it easier to fall asleep. Consider enrolling in a prenatal yoga or meditation class to learn effective relaxation methods tailored to pregnancy13
Pregnancy is a unique and life-changing journey, and managing its associated symptoms naturally can enhance the overall experience. By incorporating these natural remedies into your daily routine, you can find relief from common pregnancy discomforts while fostering a safe and healthy environment for both you and your baby. However, always consult with your healthcare provider before trying any new remedies to ensure they are safe and appropriate for your individual pregnancy needs.
Embrace the joy of pregnancy and the power of nature to support you during this special time in your life. Remember that every pregnancy is different, and what works for one woman may not work for another. Be patient with yourself and your body as you navigate through the beautiful journey of motherhood. Listen to your body, prioritize self-care, and seek support from healthcare professionals and loved ones when needed. Enjoy this remarkable experience and look forward to the new life you will soon bring into the world.
Q1: Is morning sickness a normal part of pregnancy, and when does it usually start?
A1: Yes, morning sickness is a common and normal part of pregnancy, particularly in the first trimester. It typically starts around the 6th week of pregnancy and may last until the end of the first trimester. However, some women experience it throughout their pregnancy.
Q2: Why do I experience heartburn more frequently during pregnancy?
A2: Heartburn during pregnancy is common due to the relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), a ring of muscle that separates the esophagus from the stomach. This relaxation allows stomach acids to flow back into the esophagus, causing heartburn. Additionally, the growing uterus puts pressure on the stomach, further contributing to indigestion.
Q3: Can I use over-the-counter pain relievers for back pain during pregnancy?
A3: It's best to avoid over-the-counter pain relievers during pregnancy, especially nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and aspirin, as they may pose risks to the developing baby. Instead, opt for natural remedies like heat therapy, prenatal massages, and gentle exercises. If the pain is severe, consult your healthcare provider for safe pain relief options.
- Khorasani F, Aryan H, Sobhi A, Aryan R, Abavi-Sani A, Ghazanfarpour M, et al. A systematic review of the efficacy of alternative medicine in the treatment of nausea and vomiting of pregnancy. J Obstet Gynaecol 2020;40:10–9. https://doi.org/10.1080/01443615.2019.1587392.
- Ebrahimi N, Maltepe C, Einarson A. Optimal management of nausea and vomiting of pregnancy. Int J Womens Health 2010;2:241–8.
- Effati-Daryani F, Mohammad-Alizadeh-Charandabi S, Mohammadi A, Zarei S, Mirghafourvand M. Fatigue and sleep quality in different trimesters of pregnancy. Sleep Sci 2021;14:69–74. https://doi.org/10.5935/1984-0063.20200091.
- Liu N, Gou W, Wang J, Chen D, Sun W, Guo P, et al. Effects of exercise on pregnant women’s quality of life: A systematic review. European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology 2019;242:170–7. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejogrb.2019.03.009.
- Ebert RM, Wood A, Okun ML. Minimal Effect of Daytime Napping Behavior on Nocturnal Sleep in Pregnant Women. J Clin Sleep Med 2015;11:635–43. https://doi.org/10.5664/jcsm.4774.
- Marshall NE, Abrams B, Barbour LA, Catalano P, Christian P, Friedman JE, et al. The importance of nutrition in pregnancy and lactation: lifelong consequences. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2022;226:607–32. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajog.2021.12.035.
- Sabino J, Grauer JN. Pregnancy and low back pain. Curr Rev Musculoskelet Med 2008;1:137–41. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12178-008-9021-8.
- Mueller SM, Grunwald M. Effects, Side Effects and Contraindications of Relaxation Massage during Pregnancy: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials. J Clin Med 2021;10:3485. https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm10163485.
- Neilson JP. Interventions for heartburn in pregnancy. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2008;2008:CD007065. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD007065.pub2.
- Terzioglu Bebitoglu B. Frequently Used Herbal Teas During Pregnancy - Short Update. Medeni Med J 2020;35:55–61. https://doi.org/10.5222/MMJ.2020.69851.
- Liset R, Grønli J, Henriksen RE, Henriksen TEG, Nilsen RM, Pallesen S. A randomized controlled trial on the effects of blue-blocking glasses compared to partial blue-blockers on sleep outcomes in the third trimester of pregnancy. PLoS One 2022;17:e0262799. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0262799.
- Qian J, Chen Q, Ward SM, Duan E, Zhang Y. Impacts of Caffeine during Pregnancy. Trends Endocrinol Metab 2020;31:218–27. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tem.2019.11.004.
- The effect of prenatal yoga on anxiety, cortisol and sleep quality | Cochrane Library n.d. https://doi.org/10.1002/central/CN-02141462.