What are all these strange changes happening to your body that you didn’t know were part of pregnancy? Why are they causing pain and robbing you of quality sleep? Your body has changed so much that sometimes it feels like you are walking around in someone else’s body. You’re also probably not getting 7-8 hours of quality sleep. Sleep is as necessary for your body as food and oxygen. In fact, not getting enough sleep in pregnancy can have negative effects that can contribute to pregnancy-induced hypertension, gestational diabetes, longer labors, and increased incidence of cesarean section.
Here are some common causes of pain and discomfort and how to prevent and deal with them.
Leg, back, hip, pelvis, and foot pain can put a major cramp in your sleeping style. Your hip and pelvic joints are being loosened by the relaxin hormone, which is thought to increase flexibility for your body to deliver the baby. Leg, back, and foot pain are caused by increased weight, change in center of gravity, fluid retention, and possibly poor choice of footwear. Stretching and moving your joints and muscles can help improve discomfort. Walking, stretching, doing yoga, and even dancing can help strengthen your bones, core, muscles, and joints. Best not to do these right before bed, or they can rejuvenate you for a second wind. Talk to your provider about safe options before starting any type of exercise program. Choose a good quality, supportive footwear that cups around the heel. Flip flops are not your friend here!
Bladder discomfort is a major sleep disruptor! Getting up to pee a million times can be a real downer for your night. Get the maximum amount of hydration in the morning and afternoon, slow down a bit in the evening, and stop drinking 1-2 hours before bedtime. Go pee as many times as you can before bedtime to slow down nighttime trips to the potty. Make sure the drinks you choose have maximum hydration power- water, milk, electrolyte drinks, coconut water, fresh vegetable juice. Choosing drinks full of sugar, caffeine, carbonation, salt, and lots of calories can actually make you feel full so you will drink less hydrating fluids, make you burp and have excess gas, retain water, and gain extra weight. All of these will definitely not help you feel comfortable and get a good night’s rest!
Restless leg syndrome and calf cramps are two other culprits of sleep loss. Restless leg syndrome is common in anemic women and should dissipate soon after birth. Talk to your provider about vitamins, folic acid, and iron in the meantime. Eat foods high in iron, like meat, fish, spinach, beans, tofu, nuts, and dried fruit. Calf cramps are also a common nighttime pain. Stretching, hydration and quality shoes can help. Eating magnesium and calcium-rich foods such as nuts, beans, tofu, salmon, spinach, potatoes with the skin on, peanut butter, dairy products, and fortified orange juice is a natural way to get these vitamins. Ask your provider about magnesium and calcium supplements if the cramps are severe.
Heartburn can wake you from a dead sleep. The baby is pressing on your stomach and you’ve also got those lovely hormones to blame! Avoid spicy, fried, and acidic foods. Sitting upright for 2 hours after eating can help empty the stomach, as can sleeping with your head elevated on pillows. Over the counter and prescription antacids are available after consulting your provider about safe medications in pregnancy.
You may just be UNCOMFORTABLE in bed. No certain pain location: you’re just moving around like a wiggly toddler. Turn down the heat. Good sleeping temperature is between 60-67 degrees. It will also be beneficial for the baby to have a cool sleep environment when you bring him home, closer to 67 degrees. Change positions frequently and have proper support. Pregnancy pillows that are U shaped support your hips, belly, and back. Invest in a good one if you plan to have more babies, borrow one from a friend, or buy at a resale shop. Lots of regular pillows will also do the trick. Put them behind your back, under your belly, between your legs, and hug one. Roll from side to side or do a hip tilt so your body parts don’t “fall asleep”. Invest in a good mattress topper. Tylenol is on the approved medications list for pregnancy. Your provider may have a recommendation for a sleep aid, but not all over the counter sleep aids are safe in pregnancy.
These tips won’t prevent every ache or pain, but hopefully, we can help you start on the path to making motherhood easier. You got this Mama!