If you are pregnant, and feeling aches and pains around certain parts of your body, take heart. You are not alone, and there is a remedy for the pain. Almost 29% of pregnant women experience chronic pain conditions, says Dr Bernard Lee, CEO of Singapore Paincare Holdings Limited, with the most common being the neck and/or back (34.1%), and headaches (31.8%). But a bigger problem, he reckons, is that not enough pregnant women are seeking help for their pain.
“In Asian culture the tendency is to bear the aches and pains for the good of the foetus. However, these may reduce a pregnant woman’s well-being, leading to increased blood pressure and pre-eclampsia, and diabetes,” Dr Lee says. “These in turn may cause stress when it comes to the development of the foetus.”
Moreover, obstetricians generally advise pregnant women to endure the aches and pains as part of the pregnancy process. On top of that, many pregnant women may fear that medication could potentially impact foetal development.
Why you get aches and pains when pregnant
When you are pregnant, your body undergoes significant changes. While some of these — like a change in your body shape — are obvious, others are hormonal, such as an increase in progesterone, which induces certain parts of the body to relax in order to accommodate the expansion of the uterus. Progesterone also increases the looseness in your spinal ligaments. This leads to a higher chance of you spraining your back, compared to when you are not pregnant.
(See also: Swelling (Edema) in Pregnant Women)
In addition, an expending uterus may cause you to arch backwards in order to counter the balance of forces as you stand and walk, and adding to the strain on your back muscles. For some women, this can increase the chance of a slipped disc (prolapsed herniated disc) or a painful tailbone (coccydynia).
Finally, progesterone can also interfere with your sleep-wake cycle, causing insomnia. This, in turn, results in weaker and more tense muscles, leading to more aches and pains all over your body.
When Pregnancy Pain comes
The good news is that there are pregnant women who never experience pains or aches throughout their pregnancy. However this does not mean that their subsequent pregnancies will be similarly pain-free.
Aches and pains differ from each pregnancy according to the amount of progesterone produced in response to the foetus. And in a twin pregnancy, for instance, the uneven distribution of weight will have a greater impact on the pregnant mother’s spine, Dr Lee describes.
For most women, pregnancy aches and pains occur during the second and third trimesters, as hormones take time to cause structural changes in the ligaments and muscles. Some women may also complain of pelvic pain in the third trimester, which is caused by the uterus putting pressure on the pelvic bone.
Preventing aches and pains during pregnancy
If your pregnancy is not at risk, simple exercises such as brisk walking or light jogging can help ease aches and pains, says Dr Lee. Keeping tabs your weight gain can also help. If you have a normal BMI between 18.5 and 24.9, it is normal to gain up to 15.9kg during pregnancy.
Alternatively, you can turn to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for help. Treatments such as tuina (adjusted to a suitable level for pregnant women), herbal prescriptions, and acupuncture are safe for pregnant women when administered properly under the consultation of a TCM physician, Sue Wan, Consultant Physician and TCM Director, Singapore Paincare Holdings Limited, assures us.
These treatments aim to improve blood circulation to help relieve pain. They also enhance Yin-Yang harmony in the body, promoting better overall health. As such, Sue adds, TCM remedies can be considered safer than the D-I-Y methods of pain relief. Moreover, TCM remedies generally have little to no side-effects.
Nevertheless, Sue cautions, women who have high-risk pregnancies or other health complications should seek consultation before undergoing any TCM remedies.
Feeling the pain of pregnancy?
Aches and pains in pregnancy are common, but they should not be ignored. If your pregnancy is healthy, mild exercise, as Dr Lee recommends, can help. In fact, some prenatal exercises can even help you have a smoother and easier labour and delivery. Just be sure to get approval from your obgyn first.
However, “if the pregnant woman experiences so much pain that she is unable to move or to sleep well, she should seek medical help,” he advises. After all, when it comes to the health of you and your little one, it’s always better to be safe rather than sorry.
(See also: Exercise during Pregnancy: What you need to know)
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