Heartburn, constipation, nausea, hemorrhoids—pregnancy can leave your body feeling unrecognizable. “Symptoms can be debilitating for some women,” says Toronto registered midwife Shâdé Chatrath. Here are some natural ways to combat pregnancy’s common ailments.
To offset morning sickness, nibble on dry crackers or toast before you get out of bed, says Chatrath. Then brew a pot of ginger tea, suggests Jennifer Tanner, a doctor of naturopathic medicine in Toronto. “The oleoresin from the ginger root has anti-nausea properties,” she says.
Tanner recommends eating little bits at a time frequently throughout the day, including lots of protein. “Once people feel nauseous, they don’t want to eat,” but an empty stomach will make nausea worse. Have small protein-based snacks, like almond butter on apples or a handful of pumpkin seeds, every two hours.
Another thing to try: Vitamin B6, available at the drugstore. (It’s one of the ingredients in Diclectin, a prescription anti-nausea med.)
Next to nausea, constipation is the biggest complaint from pregnant women. Changes in your gastrointestinal tract, like rising progesterone levels, can lead to a slowdown. Try increasing the fibre in your diet. “Prunes are a great source of fibre, which keeps your GI system moving,” says Tanner. Dates, figs, beets, ground flaxseed, beans, carrots and oatmeal also work. And exercise—even walking—plus proper hydration are key.
That burning sensation behind your sternum is caused by your fluctuating hormones. Progesterone is thought to relax the valve between the stomach and esophagus, meaning stomach acids can splash up. “The added pressure of the expanding uterus can also contribute to heartburn,” says Tanner.
Chatrath suggests identifying and avoiding what triggers your heartburn—it’s likely an acidic food like tomatoes or orange juice, but she’s had clients who suffered heartburn simply from drinking water. Try snacking on pineapple, suggests Tanner, which acts as a digestive enzyme. And don’t lie down for one to two hours after eating—a walk after dinner can ease heartburn, too.
Research shows 25 to 35 percent of pregnant women will develop hemorrhoids (swollen veins around the anus). Tanner recommends daily sitz baths to reduce swelling. You can also dab on witch hazel, an over-the-counter astringent, to help shrink the hemorrhoids. One more trick: Up your intake of kiwi, oranges and bell peppers—a dose of vitamin C is said to help treat and prevent hemorrhoids.
5. Swollen feet
Most women’s feet swell at some point in their pregnancy. “We treat swelling with lots of protein, water and vitamin B6,” says Tanner. And put your feet up: “Elevating your feet and getting foot massages from your partner, with motions going toward your head, will help keep fluids from pooling.”
6. Stretch marks
Genes play a huge part, says Chatrath. “Some people are more prone to them genetically, but it can also vary—you might get them one pregnancy and not the next.” She says staying hydrated is super important, and a gentle moisturizer can help. Controlled pregnancy weight gain may also keep stretch marks at bay. Tanner recommends applying oils (coconut, almond or flaxseed) on your belly.
Your midwife or doctor will monitor your iron levels. If they’re low, and causing fatigue, you may need a supplement beyond prenatal vitamins. According to the Dietitians of Canada, pregnant women should be getting at least 27 milligrams of iron daily. Spinach, red meat, and legumes are naturally iron-rich.
The light at the end of the tunnel, says Chatrath, is delivery day. Soon you’ll have your baby in your arms, and the memory of pregnancy discomforts will fade away.
Combat morning sickness with this homemade ginger tea recipe from naturopathic doctor Jen Tanner: Simmer six ¼-inch slices of ginger in four cups of water for 30 minutes, then sweeten it with honey and sip throughout the day. Ginger can also be taken in over-the-counter capsule form, says midwife Shâdé Chatrath.