Treatment options that are safe and effective in Pregnancy
Pregnancy can be a wonderful time for some, but for many it comes with (or exacerbates) a host of conditions and it can be difficult finding treatment options that are both safe and effective in pregnancy. This blog will discuss the most common issues we see and treat within our Glasgow clinic, as well as some advice and recommendations for others where we can’t offer the treatment directly, as well as stuff you can do at home to help yourself.
Firstly YAY your pregnant many congratulations!! Secondly BOO - if you are here chances are you are in some sort of discomfort – be that morning sickness or pelvic girdle pain (including SPD), breech presentation, heartburn etc and are looking for help that is safe for you and your growing baby. Here I have given you lots of ways to help manage your symptoms yourself, and briefly mentioned which therapies can be very helpful should you need that extra support.
A wee note on 'safe treatments in pregnancy'
A wee note on ‘safe in pregnancy’ essentially we are limited by what has already been studied, and folks generally don’t want experimented on when they are pregnant - for very understandable reasons!. We are also constrained by our insurance and this isn't always logical! For example, as a degree qualified acupuncturist I have ALWAYS been considered safe to use acupuncture – you know NEEDLES that actually penetrate your body – yet my massage qualification didn’t allow me to RUB you when pregnant – so safe to stab but not rub according to my insurance. To be fair, it was a blessing in disguise as it made me do some research and I convinced Well Mother trainer (Heidi) to travel up from Southern Englandshire to offer training in Glasgow – assisted by the lovely Lucy Trend, (who is now a fully qualified teacher in the magnificent pregnancy massage diploma run by Well Mother) and provided me with my first ‘distinction’ in my level of qualification.
During the Pregnancy
Morning Sickness treatment
Not sure why hyperemesis got the nickname of morning sickness – I am afraid to say I’ve yet to see anyone feel magically better as soon as the clock tolls noon. The condition can range from mild nausea to extreme hyperemesis gravidarum (aka super sick!!).
The good thing is that it is completely normal, typically being a sign of a very healthy pregnancy. The bad thing is that it can be super disruptive to your daily routine, like a hangover with out the fun the night before!
Excellent professional service provided by lovely people. I have used the clinic mainly for acupuncture with Paula and she is extremely kind, thorough and knowledgeable and clearly passionate about what she does. She has helped me run marathons and let me survive the dreadful morning sickness that threatened to ruin my wedding! Highly recommend the clinic.
There are a few ways you can help your body adjust to its new environment.
Eat small and often – having some nuts/seeds on hand at all times can be super helpful (they don’t go off too quickly!)
Pay attention to the things your body is saying no to – and avoid – don’t let others in your home cook with them either – smells can be super triggering (like I need to tell you!)
Give yourself permission to eat whatever it is that you can stomach – as long as its short term – if all your body can tolerate is Gregg’s sausage rolls/steak bakes (true story!) it’s not the end of the world – and typically within a few weeks you’ll be back to eating a lovely balanced diet.
Try ginger tea, (ideally fresh – roughly chop some ginger and infuse in water for 10 mins – can be drunk hot or cold) – or eat crystalline ginger, or even ginger biccies.
Try full fat – but flat Coca Cola – specifically this brand – no clue why, but several patients have sworn by it over the years I’ve been in practice.
Rest as much as possible.
Drink small and often – sip water (ginger tea) as much as you can.
Ice lollies are great for when symptoms are severe – get some much needed fluid and sugar in your system when foods are difficult.
Acupressure on a point called Pericardium 6 has been shown in numerous studies to reduce nausea and sickness from a wide variety of causes, including pregnancy.
You can apply acupressure in a few ways – you can press and hold a point (to a comfortable level), you can gently massage or you can ‘flick’ or tap on a point. Do what feels good to you and feels like it helps – on this one I generally find the gentle pressure to be the most effective – but do experiment if it doesn’t quite do it for you.. it is on both sides – in an acupuncture treatment I’d do them both together – but logistically one at a time is fine, hold for up to 30 seconds, release and repeat for no more than 5 minutes and in that time you should really feel a shift..
As easy option is the travel sickness bands – they sit exactly on that point, check your local chemist, or even places like home bargains sell them – or click this link to get from amazon (affiliate link)
If your symptoms are severely impacting your life and the above mentioned options aren’t enough on their own then a course in acupuncture can also be very effective, typically 2-4 sessions within 2 weeks is enough for most folks to feel the symptoms subside.
How to treat Tiredness and Fatigue in Pregnancy
It is totally and completely normal to be more tired - you are after all growing a human – most feel it more in the early first trimester and then towards then end of pregnancy while in the 'middle' you'll feel okay - for most NOT ALL.
As best you can ensure you are eating well, resting well – nap as and when you can and if needed take a wee iron supplement (with B6 as well – which can also impact nausea) Floradix is a great brand for a safe, easily digested non constipating iron.
Tiredness can also be in part due to sleep problems and or stress and anxiety – reflexology, pregnancy massage and acupuncture can all help you manage these symptoms which will in turn improve your sleep which will in turn of course improve your energy 😊
This wee breathing technique demonstrated below is great for a quick boost - MAKE SURE you've cleared your nose first.
Treating Pain in Pregnancy safely
Pre existing conditions can flare, or brand new symptoms can become problematic, even before you have a proper bump and of course the bigger and heavier said bump the more likely you are to have issues due to these sudden, temporary changes – Relaxin has a lot to answer for!
These can include back pain (lower, middle, upper), pelvic and hip pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, headaches.
For most pain and discomfort posture, how you hold yourself really matters, working with an Alexander Technique practitioner can be super helpful and this wonderful human, Hilary King, has kindly given me permission to share this self care info with you. You can find a local practitioner by clicking here
Safe Back pain treatment in pregnancy
Back-ache is common through pregnancy for a number of reasons: the hormone relaxin loosens the joints in preparation for the birth; the spine stretches and curves with the growth of the baby; the change in shape and weight causes a change in posture. All of which adds up to added pressure on your body which can create pain and discomfort. Alexander Technique teaches you to cope with the body's physical changes.
All the therapies offered at Health Rediscovered are great at helping you manage pain. Paula the clinic owner has done an in-depth Diploma in pregnancy massage, as well as being able to offer acupuncture to help manage any pain or discomfort. Allison can offer reflexology to help rebalance and relax you and Michelle offers Osteopathy which is excellent for any issues of pain around any of the joints and musculature. We can offer a combination of these therapies, or you can pick just one.
How you can help your back pain in pregnancy
I would also recommend looking for pre natal yoga classes,
Incorporate a series of basic stretches into your daily routine, aim for at least twice a day – but if you are sore do more.
Invest in good foot wear – at the moment I am a huge fan of the brand 'on running’.
Enjoy a bath with Epsom salts – the magnesium will absorb and helps with hundreds of processes in the body – as well as the warmth (NOT a bath where you come out like a lobster!) soothing the tired, over worked muscles.
Look at the large exercise balls for sitting on – esp for later in pregnancy.
Treatment for Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP) in pregnancy (including SPD)
Due to the hormone relaxin, the joint at the front of the pelvis (the pubic symphysis) can become very sore, not to mention the building pressure from your growing baby..
Rest is the most effective treatment.
Prevent strain on the joint by not opening the legs apart e.g when using stairs, take them one at a time.
take smaller steps when walking
take care when exercising (do not practice squats!).
Wrap a scarf around the bottom of the pelvis/top of the thigh, or a physiotherapist may provide a support garment.
An alexander technique practitioner can help you learn to correct your posture, lengthen your stature, releasing the tense muscles (see above). Acupuncture and osteopathy are also good options to manage SPD/PGP
These can occur at night and may interrupt sleep, they most commonly occur when the ankles are swollen. Massaging the calves before bedtime appears to be the best way to resolve the problem. Sweet almond oil, grapeseed oil or a moisturising cream may be used for the massage. A massage therapist could give more detailed instructions. Magnesium is a very useful mineral & can ease cramping : a warm bath, or foots soak with Epsom salts is a great way to absorb magnesium, or take as a supplement, or get a topical cream/gel to apply (for example this lotion : affiliate link/ non affiliate link )
Restless leg syndrome in pregnancy
Restless leg syndrome is where the nervous system causes an urgent need to move your legs, it can also feel like a tingling, burning, itching or a fizzy/ creepy crawly sensations. It can affect up to 20% of woman, trans and non binary people in pregnancy, its cause is unknown.
Some have reported an iron deficiency can be a trigger, or perhaps the change in hormones, stress can also be a factor.
Tips that may be helpful include
a foot soak in the evening (especially if its bad in bed) – ideally with Epsom salts
magnesium cream/gel has anecdotally been helpful for many
a body scan meditation might help you separate your mind from your body to help deal with the feelings – considering the sensations all over your body without judgement. (I love Jon Kabatt-Zimm)
Using a heat pad around the knees, or heels may also be helpful.
Reflexology and acupuncture have shown some success in managing this condition, and a herbalist may also be able to help.
Swollen Hands, Feet and Ankles
Water retention may lead to swollen hands and feet. This can lead to discomfort, leg cramps at night and/or carpal tunnel syndrome.
Massage with or without essential oils can help to improve the circulation and reduce the swelling, as can manual lymph drainage (MLD) – I would highly recommend Anna Hill at Woodland Herbs for MLD.
If swollen ankles become a problem it is well worth investing in a pair of support tights. Do not despair there are some very comfortable and good looking support tights available!
helping your body by raising your legs (or arms) e.g. lying on sofa with legs on the head rest area, similar for arms - allowing gravity to offer some help.
movement - general walking/stretching will help get the muscles moving more and thus improve the lymph movement
Either a medical herbalist or an acupuncturist may be able to treat both the symptoms and the cause.
Digestive problems in pregnancy:
Safe treatment of Heartburn during Pregnancy
Hormones loosening ligaments, changing the position of your internal organs combined with the baby pushing all your organs into smaller and smaller space its no wonder folks experience digestive issues when pregnant!
Top tips include
Eat small meals regularly, avoiding fatty and acidic foods.
Try to move around after food, e.g. a gentle stroll for 5-10 minutes after you have finished eating, or perhaps some gentle Qi Gong movements
Peppermint tea or aloe vera juice are both helpful in soothing our digestive system.
Acupuncture and herbs have been used for thousands of years to treat such conditions. You can be taught points to use at home as well as having treatment, or given a herbal prescription. Reflexology is also a good option for digestive issues.
Hormones, dietary changes and position of the baby can all contribute to constipation. Sometimes just ensuring you are taking enough water through the day can be enough to treat constipation, make sure you have plenty of fibre in your diet.
Treatments normally used for constipation may not be appropriate during pregnancy, therefore professional guidance should be sought from your midwife, acupuncturist, herbalist or of course your GP.
Safe Treatment for Stress in Pregnancy
Changes in hormones, let alone the pending lifestyle change, can make pregnancy a stressful time. Caffeine can increase the physical effects of stress, replacing it with a herbal tea, such as chamomile or peppermint, may help with stress levels. Flower remedies such as Rescue Remedy are safe during pregnancy. They may be used for a wide range of emotional upsets.
Herbs and acupressure points can help manage the symptoms, via a professional. Or talk your concerns through with an experienced counsellor, or hypnotherapist.
See here for more on acupressure for stress/anxiety
Massage the skin with oils that nourish the skin and improve elasticity. Wheatgerm oil, rosehip oil and sweet almond oil are useful moisturisers, and are rich in vitamins. Massaging the perineal tissue (the fleshy area between the vagina and anus) with wheatgerm oil softens it and increases its stretchiness. This reduces the likelihood of it tearing during the birth. Ask your midwife for instructions.
Sleep can be difficult because of many of the problems listed above (e.g. back pain, leg cramps, stress), increased need to urinate, feeling a bit hotter at night.. It is really important to have decent sleep before the birth. Herbs and Bach Flower Remedies may be useful e.g. use a lavender and hops pillow. See a therapist to have a treatment to ease any discomforts and to relax.
do not be afraid to nap - it doesn't negatively affect sleep as long as you keep it to 30 mins or less.
lie down - even if you aren't actually sleeping, focus on enjoying the rest, being horizontal and allowing your body to deeply rest
focus on your breathe - the box breathe is my absolute favourite and can help you drift back off again if your in that tired but wired, busy mind state.
don't look at the clock - trust that the alarm you have set will go off, and if it hasn't its not yet time to get up.
listen to sleep stories - lovely gentle stories that keep your mind occupied and focused allowing you to drift off again (I love Sleep Cat Meditations on YouTube)
avoid caffeine - esp after 1/2 pm at the latest
herbals teas (but if your up peeing all night then you do want to limit the amount you drink
pillow sprays e.g tropic so sleepy spray
Acupressure on a point called 'An Mian' - peaceful sleep
Approaching the END.. (YAY!)
To Tone The Uterus : get ready for birth
Raspberry leaf (Rubus idaeus) is traditionally used to tone the uterus, preparing it for the birth. If the pregnancy has been healthy then it is traditionally taken through the last trimester, at one cup a day for 3 weeks, 2 cups a day for the next few weeks and then 3 cups a day for the final few weeks.
Continuing with the tea after the birth will help tone the uterus back and promote milk production.
Breech presentation treatment in pregnancy
Typically in the UK babies are checked for position at week 36/37 (depending on scan dates) – if you are worried to be honest I would strongly recommend asking for a scan a bit sooner – week 34/35 – to give time for turning.
Spinning babies is a great resource filled with all sorts of great tips to help you help baby get into position.
Acupuncture, including a herb called Moxa has been shown to be incredibly successful at helping correct the position of the baby, whether than be frank, complete or incomplete. (it is not possible to perform this if a multiple baby pregnancy). Ideally, I’d see you week 36 to give you the 1st treatment and then I would show you or your birthing partner how to do the treatment at home (moxa only) for up to 10 days if needed, with full instructions all included in the price of the singular session.
Acupuncture as part of your routine pre birth plan.
An elegant protocol from week 36, involves a weekly session to help prepare you and your body for the birth. It has been shown to shorten labour, reduce the ‘cascade of interventions’, as well as improving the post-natal health of new mum! Furthermore, it can be used to help reduce your anxiety around this big scary thing that is about to happen as well as help prepare you mentally for motherhood. We can even help nudge baby to get ready to come out, let it know it’s welcome to come and join the rest of us – from week 40 we can also start to bring on the labour a bit more forcefully, providing more treatments if needed.
Hypnotherapy – hypnobirthing as a routine part of your birth plan.
Hypnobirthing uses antenatal education, self-hypnosis, relaxation, massage and breathing techniques to help release any fear or tension you may have around birthing your baby.
You can learn how the mind and body can work together to help you gain control over your own labour. These methods can be used to help you to achieve a calm, natural and often drug free birth.
Hypnobirthing can be used to achieve a positive birth experience in any setting; on labour ward, the birth centre or at a homebirth.
(not currently available at Health Rediscovered but get in touch if you need a recommendation).
Post natal care.
Of course the dream is that your pregnancy, birthing experience and new family are all perfect – but again reality isn’t always this for everyone.
The tradition from TEACM states that the new parent, regardless of birthing journey needs to rest for at least 40 days after the trauma and body depletion that is the journey of being an incubator. The recommendation is that you stay at home, with family and friends taking care of all the day to day chores like cooking, shopping cleaning etc, to allow for new mum to heal, recover and help bond with the new addition to the family.
We also recommend an at home treatment called Mother Warming, whereby at home, a warming herb called moxa is used to nurture and nourish you, helping to improve milk production, build your energy and reserves will also helping you emotionally (caution has to be taken for those who have had a caesarean) but ask Paula if you are interested in the kit.
Acupuncture and reflexology can be very helpful in helping to build you back up again, and especially if you are in pain, or your mood has been affected by not only the massive shift in hormones, but also by this sudden new reality you have. Of course osteopathy will be of help in helping your body rebalance.
Pregnancy is a true gift and it absolutely blows my brain how it work - like an egg to a full grown human body in less than 10 months - it is simply amazing.
such a wonderful process, but it isn't exactly perfect for you - the walking incubator - all the changes to your body, the additional physical pressure, the additional mental pressure. Pain, fatigue and mental distress are all very common and things we can absolutely help you with offering safe treatments throughout and beyond your pregnancy. Don't hesitate to reach out, even if we can't directly help I'd be happy to give you other advice or recommendations of folks I have gotten to know over the years.
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