It’s hard enough having a headache, but when you’re pregnant and you have to consider how pain relief could impact your baby, a headache quickly becomes a pain in the butt. It doesn’t help when studies indicate that drugs we thought were safe, like Tylenol, could actually cause birth defects.
But before you swear to suffer for the sake of your unborn, we’ve got some calming news from Toronto naturopathic doctors Amber Moore and Stefanie Trowell, cofounders of Nourish Integrative Health, a natural health clinic in midtown Toronto that focuses on fertility, pregnancy care and pediatrics. They’re not rushing to have their pregnant patients forgo Tylenol yet, because although the latest study sounds alarming, they caution that it’s a small, limited, animal experiment and actual human results could vary. “It does raise awareness to taking medications at the right dose and duration that is medically recommended, especially in pregnancy when more than one life is potentially affected,” write Moore and Trowell in an email, “[But] acetaminophen is considered safe in all three trimesters and continues to be the pain-reliever of choice in pregnancy.”
If you’re pregnant and you have significant pain lasting three days or longer, they advise you to visit your doctor right away. In fact, go ahead and visit your doctor or naturopath any time you feel the need, but don’t let scary headlines or unsolicited advice from friends and strangers worry you.
Headaches are just one of many pains that sprout when you’re gestating a baby, so we asked Moore and Trowell for their tips on safely relieving common pregnancy ailments (because the last thing you need is some non-pregnant do-gooder telling you to grin and bear it. Growing a human is a huge job, but if you can do that and safely avoid pain, you should. So put your feet up, lady, and read on for Amber Moore and Stefanie Trowell’s naturopathic guide to safe pregnancy pain relief.
Luckily migraines tend to improve during pregnancy, say Moore and Trowell, but not for every woman. Seek medical advice if yours are getting more frequent or intense, and remember that most pregnant women can safely take Tylenol.
To avoid headaches:
Stay hydrated, snack regularly and get lots of R&R, as dehydration, fluctuating blood sugar and stress can cause headaches. Exercise can also help by keeping hormones balanced.
Chamomile, ginger and lemon balm tea can soothe acid indigestion, and are safe and delicious. For more serious or persistent heartburn, Trowell and Moore recommend acupuncture.
To avoid heartburn:
Eat small, frequent meals and avoid aggravating ingredients like spicy, fatty and fried foods. Sugar, tea, coffee and certain additives can also make heartburn worse. Stay hydrated between meals and keep upright after eating, since lying down can cause food to flow up into your esophagus. Sleeping propped up on pillows may help.
COUGHS AND COLDS
Eat warm, easily digested foods like soups with lots of protein and vegetables. The warmth of the food will help loosen nasal mucous; add warming spices like cinnamon, ginger or turmeric for even better effect. Garlic and onion have immune boosting properties, so go ahead and toss those in your soup, too. Sore throat? Add one tablespoon of honey and ¼ of the juice of a freshly squeezed lemon to boiled or warm water. Honey has antimicrobial properties and lemon helps to alkalize the body and create a less favourable environment for viruses and bacteria.
To avoid colds:
Get plenty of rest and wash your hands frequently and well.
Drinking iced or hot ginger tea throughout the day and sucking on ginger candies can help reduce nausea. Acupuncture can also be quite effective.
To avoid nausea:
Eat small snacks throughout the day, and don’t forget protein! Crackers and peanut butter, vegetables and hummus, fruit and sunflower seeds all are all good choices. Avoid fried, fatty or spicy foods as these tend to make nausea worse, and stay hydrated.
Massage, stretching and warm baths or a hot water bottle applied to the affected area can all help. Supplementing with 200-300 milligrams of magnesium before bed through a Cal-Mag (usually at a 2:1 ratio) can combat mineral deficiencies that cause cramps.
To avoid muscle cramps:
Be active – gentle exercises like walking and yoga promote blood flow to the muscles and decrease venous congestion.
GAS AND BLOATING
Ask your naturopath if probiotics are right for you, and consider keeping a food diary to help you identify your personal triggers (common culprits include excess carbs, beans, dairy, and certain veggies, like cabbage and Brussels sprouts).
To avoid gas and bloating:
Avoid eating on the go, eat slowly and chew foods thoroughly. Try to avoid drinking with meals, as fluids dilute digestive enzymes. Stay away from chewing gum and carbonated drinks, and stick to several small meals throughout the day.
Call your doctor as soon as you feel flu-like symptoms, since the flu is usually more severe during pregnancy. Tylenol can be used to bring down a fever and help prevent birth defects, but again, a discussion with your doctor should be your first priority.
To avoid the flu:
The flu shot is safe during pregnancy and is one of the best preventions; wash your hands frequently, don’t share food or utensils and avoid touching your face.
Start your day with a glass of warm water and lemon to stimulate your digestive organs, and stick to a fibre-rich diet filled with veggies, fruits and whole grains. Two hundred and fifty milligrams a day of magnesium citrate is a gentle way to soften stool; one tablespoon ground flaxseed added to smoothies and soups can help, too.
To avoid constipation:
Get plenty of exercise and ask your healthcare provider about switching to a prenatal vitamin lower in iron, as too much iron can cause a backup.
Apply witch hazel pads to affected areas three times a day and after each bowel movement.
To avoid hemorrhoids:
Avoid constipation, since straining can cause hemorrhoids, and try not to sit for long periods at a time, since this increases pressure to rectal veins. And don’t forget those Kegels! It’s well known that they strengthen and tone the vaginal muscles used during birth, but they also improve hemorrhoids by promoting blood flow in the area.
This article is intended for educational and information purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Should you require medical advice, diagnostics or treatment you may speak with Amber Moore or Stefanie Trowell directly or contact your nearest healthcare professional.