I wish I could say my entire pregnancy has been smooth sailing, all roses and butterflies, flutters in my belly and long luxurious naps where I could just float about in my preggo glow. Not quite. Despite all my best preparation methods, I have experienced a full range of pregnancy symptoms and thought I'd share with you the natural solutions I opted for in my efforts to feel okay...or at least not like a total barf bag.
My first pregnancy, which ended in a miscarriage at 11 weeks, felt a bit like training - my primer for the full deal. What I hadn't anticipated was getting pregnant again so quickly, which basically left me in an eternal first trimester haze of food aversions and nausea (like almost seven months with a six-week pause to overcome the miscarriage).
I'm not a barfer and didn't want to start now. However I did experience deep and debilitating queasiness combined with general fatigue. It left me feeling very low mood-wise. I just didn't want to go anywhere or do anything, and the biggest challenge for me was accepting that this was okay and that staying in was likely exactly what I needed. I also couldn't do yoga, walk too quickly or even get a massage. Any kind of jostling to my internal organs would send me into a spiral of acute nausea for a few days where I couldn't even drink ice water.
The reality of pregnancy seems to be that, as women and mamas-to-be, it's our primary training in releasing control and adapting to what the day brings our way.
On my first visit to my midwife, I was given a handout entitled "Tips to Cope with Common Symptoms Associated with Pregnancy". This provided me with a guide of what symptoms I might expect, but the solutions weren't options I was comfortable with.
I have included some recommendations below, but you should always consult with your primary care practitioner and do what feels right for you.
40 Natural Solutions To Pregnancy Symptoms
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Nausea and Vomiting
For most of us, this is likely the most debilitating. I was fortunate that it passed at around the 12-week mark but I know of many women who vomit daily through their entire pregnancy, and some cases even after the baby has arrived.
Though this post isn't about pre-conception planning, detoxing your body and supporting your liver function can help offset or prevent nausea before it starts!
What You Can Try
- Eat before you feel hungry. Often nausea intensifies when blood sugar drops, so try eating before this happens, even if you don't feel hungry.
- Check your cravings for sugar and sweets at the door. Junk food will further exaggerate blood sugar highs and lows, which can be the trigger for nausea.
- Get in as much protein and fat as you can. Again this relates to balancing blood sugar.
- Have a protein/fat rich snack before bed. I often would have a spoonful of nut butter, a few slices of cheese or a small bowl of homemade jello.
- Have a snack ready should you wake up in the middle of the night feeling sick. I'd often go for the cheese again, or some unsweetened applesauce.
- Have something ready for first thing in the morning. The worst thing I could do in the morning was have a glass of water on an empty stomach. I typically started with an orange, which I ate while preparing my breakfast. Here are some fat fuelled breakfast options that may work for you.
- Eliminate strong odours. Ditch the air fresheners, perfumes, scented body care products and scented laundry soaps. The objective here is to minimize exposure to strong odours. For me this also included the smell of coffee and Brussels sprouts (of all things).
- Eat smaller meals more frequently. The thing that set me off the most often were smoothies. They were just too much in volume and I tended to do better with small meals and snacks every 90 minutes or so.
- Ginger. All the ginger! I took ginger supplements throughout the day, and/or used the St. Francis ginger tincture on an empty stomach (it would work very fast for me, but the effects wore off after about an hour). I made ginger teas that I would drink through the day and on really bad days, ginger popsicles (ginger tea mixed with lemon and honey) helped. I also carried Ginger Chews in my purse for emergencies (not ideal because of the sugar). *Please do not exceed what it says on the bottle without consulting with your natural health care practitioner.
- Vitamin B6 (often labelled as P5P). This was also a big one for me. If I forgot to take this in the morning, it was a rough day. This made a huge difference and even on the occasional queasy day in my second trimester, I would take it. *Please do not exceed what it says on the bottle without consulting with your natural health care practitioner.
- Rest. As much as you can, lie down, be still and rest. Your body is very, very, very busy.
What About The Prescription Drug for Morning Sickness?
The commonly prescribed Diclectin (a combo of doxylamine and Vitamin B6) has recently come under question for fudged study results, with researchers now saying the drug was no more effective than B6 on its own.
Heartburn and Gastric Reflux
Though midwives and OBGYNs may recommend over the counter products like Maalox, Tums or Gaviscon, I'm going to recommend against these products. Each carries its own collection of stabilizers, emulsifiers, flavour agents, artificial sweeteners and more. Typically, heartburn associated with pregnancy is due to the structural shape our body takes in the later second and third trimesters where the belly starts to push up and smush the stomach. This, in turn, causes us to feel the stomach acid that is getting released to help us digest our meals. The antacids mentioned above work to stop the production of this stomach acid.
It may sound like sweet relief in theory, but we need that stomach acid to break down the food we've eaten, especially the protein our body needs so desperately. This can cause other digestive issues down the line - like other symptoms of indigestion, constipation, gas and bloating. You can read more about the holistic approach to reflux here.
What You Can Try
- Take your time eating and chew well. We need to be in the rest to digest mode to turn on the stomach acid. Eating while stressed (working, watching the news, etc.) inhibits this action and can cause food to sit around in the stomach longer, increasing risk of heartburn and reflux.
- Take a short walk after meals. This will help keep your body in the rest/digest mode as well as give your stomach maximum space (as opposed to slouching onto the sofa where the belly will press up into the stomach more aggressively).
- Avoid eating large meals, especially right before bedtime. Going to bed with a full stomach is a sure-fire recipe for heartburn, even when we're not pregnant.
- Sit up and sip. If you experience heartburn in bed, try sitting up and having small sips of water until the discomfort subsides.
- Avoid spicy foods. We know this, though, right?
- Avoid sugar, too.
- Try raw almonds. I can't recall the source for this one but for whatever reason, this works. Eating one almond at a time, chew very slowly, swallow and repeat 5-10 times until the discomfort subsides.
- Desperate times call for baking soda. If you have followed the recommendations above and still aren't getting any relief, stir a teaspoon of baking soda into 8 oz of water and wait 20 minutes. See how you go.
I experienced a lot of headaches in my first trimester - likely a combo of tension and hormones. Though it is said that acetaminophen (Tylenol) is safe during the first trimester of pregnancy, there is a study that suggests ongoing use can affect the behaviour of children whose mothers regularly used acetaminophen while pregnant. For this reason, I would suggest trying alternate options first to see if they may help alleviate the discomfort and using Tylenol only as a last result. The same rule of thumb would apply for any over the counter pharmaceutical muscle relaxants. If you are pregnant and want to use an over the counter remedy for a fever, it's best to contact your primary care provider.
What You Can Try
- Bodywork as a preventative and/or treatment. Regular bodywork while pregnant can dramatically reduce muscle pain and tension related headache. This might be massage, acupuncture, osteopathy, chiropractic, physiotherapy or a combination.
- A personal massage tool. (No, not that kind... Mind you in a pinch that could work?) You can buy an electric massager, a wooden rolling device, massage balls, a foam roller - any type of self-healing option is great. The trick is to actually use it regularly.
- Yoga and/or gentle stretching. Without fail, 90% of my headaches would go away within 20 minutes of doing yoga. Keep it gentle as you don't want to create more tension in the process. This isn't the time to perfect your handstand. This is about deep breathing, opening and releasing. You'll find great prenatal yoga videos on youtube or give YogaGlo a try.
- Drink water. During pregnancy, we need to be even more mindful of hydration. Despite the annoyance of having to pee almost immediately after the last time you peed, increase your water intake.
- Essential Oils. You will often find warnings on essential oils and use during pregnancy so this one I leave to your own discretion. I have personally found that some peppermint on my temples, back of neck and other points of tension helps dramatically.
- Magnesium - oral or topical. Magnesium is a mineral that helps with smooth muscle relaxation. Taking it orally happens to be a great option for both the deeper muscles and smooth muscle such as the colon (constipation conversations to follow). You can also get magnesium sprays that can be applied for more surface tension which can work really well.
- Float Tank. Despite how much we may yearn for a soak in a hot bath, it does pose risks for fetal development. Instead, you might consider treating yourself to a float at your local float tank spa (you'll want to google this in your area). Here you float in like a gabillion pounds of sea salt, which helps to take gravity's pressure off the body, and invites minerals to absorb through the skin and relax the muscles.
Now this is a shitty one, no doubt. There is a lot going on in the region of our digestive system throughout pregnancy. Our entire digestive system is being pushed around a little. Combine this with the possibility that we're not eating in the same regular way we're used to, perhaps not sleeping regularly, not exercising in the same way and perhaps topping all of that off with the addition of a little worry and anxiety that we're growing a human in our body. Yeah, constipation is incredibly common.
You definitely want to stay away from over the counter laxatives or even herbal remedies such as senna leaf that promote rapid evacuation or increase peristalsis (movement in the intestines), as this can contribute to miscarriage or early labour. Enemas also need to be avoided for the same reasons. Though there are over the counter fibre-based options like Metamucil, these typically also contain undesirable ingredients like colours, flavours and artificial sweeteners.
What You Can Try
- Drink water. Yes, it helps with both headaches and constipation. We need water to keep our poops plump enough for the colon to grip onto something and move it on out.
- Up that fiber. Do it gradually and always combine with an increase in water.
- Prunes or prune juice. This can both satisfy sweet cravings and get things moving. I wouldn't recommend this ongoing but can be helpful if you're particularly backed up.
- Magnesium Citrate. Magnesium comes in a few different forms. Magnesium citrate as a supplement will be the most helpful for relaxing the smooth muscles of your bowels.
- Psyllium. This is the primary ingredient in Metamucil, but you can get the psyllium husks straight up. Be warned, this is like drinking sawdust in water but wow does it work!
- Squat it out. This is a big one! I am a huge fan of the Squatty Potty but a couple of yoga blocks or even your garbage bin can be used in a pinch. The key is to support your legs to bring you into a squatting position for easier elimination and less strain. This also can help offset the risk of hemorrhoids that often accompany chronic constipation.
- Exercise. This has been the best option for me. The catch is that you may not want to stray too far from home. Usually nature calls for me within the first ten minutes of a walk, so perhaps just doing laps in front of your house is a good idea. Gentle yoga is also very effective.
- Probiotics. Hopefully, you're already taking these on the regular to help ensure an optimal microbiome to support your health and the baby's. Daily supplementation with probiotics can help keep things regular.
Hemorrhoids can often result from chronic constipation so the first step is prevention using the steps outlined above. Many of the natural hemorrhoid options involve oral intake of herbs that have venous strengthening actions which may not be advisable during pregnancy. I pulled together some alternate options for you.
What You Can Try
- Zinc oxide ointment. Zinc oxide helps to shrink the 'roids and reduce itching. I recommend and trust this product by Thera Wise.
- Essential oils. This special formulation is amazingly effective: 2 drops peppermint and 2 drops cypress in a teaspoon of coconut oil, olive oil or jojoba. (Do not apply directly without diluting in a carrier. You'll regret it!)
- Organic cotton pads soaked in witch hazel. You may even want to freeze these. This can also be helpful post-delivery for healing.
- Apple Cider Vinegar Sitz Bath. This is where you fill a basin with water and squat over it so your tush can chill out in the warm water. Start with 1/4 cup of ACV in the water and you can slowly work your way up. Warm water sounds most appealing to me, but some have said that cold actually offered more relief. This is recommend 1-3 times a day.
- Arnica. You can apply an arnica gel to the area. Arnica helps to reduce inflammation, which may help alleviate some of the itching and discomfort.
- Nutmeg? Apparently this is an old grandmother's remedy. Taking 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg orally each day is supposed to work. You let me know on this one!
Get a printable version of this list by filling out the form below.
I hope this has given you some options to go on and that you are able to find some relief and comfort. I am quite confident that I have not provided all the natural solutions under the sun. Hopefully some of these 40 natural solutions to pregnancy symptoms will work for you. If you have tried and succeeded with other remedies or have further recommendations, please post below and I will continue to update this list.