What Can You Do?

The ACA and Dr. McAndrews recommend the following tips for pregnant women looking for relief from the discomforts of pregnancy:

• Safe exercise during pregnancy can help strengthen your muscles and prevent discomfort. Try exercising at least three times a week – preceded and followed up by a gentle stretching routine. If you weren’t active before your pregnancy, however, now is not the time to start a new fitness routine. Check with your doctor before starting or continuing any exercise regimen during pregnancy.

Walking, swimming and stationary cycling are relatively safe cardiovascular exercises for pregnant women, because they do not require jerking or bouncing movements. Even jogging, however, can be safe for women who were avid runners before becoming pregnant — if done carefully and under the supervision of a doctor.

Whatever exercise routine you choose, be sure to do it in an area with secure footing to minimize the likelihood of falls. Also, be certain that your heart rate does not exceed 140 beats per minute during exercise, and that strenuous activity lasts no more than 15 minutes at a time.

Stop your exercise routine immediately if you notice any unusual symptoms, such as vaginal bleeding, dizziness, nausea, weakness, blurred vision, increased swelling or heart palpitations.

• Wear flat, sensible shoes. Not only can high or chunky heels be uncomfortable, they can also exacerbate postural imbalances and cause you to be less steady on your feet than you already are. This is especially true as you get farther along in your pregnancy.

• When picking up older children – or any other object for that matter – bend from the knees, not the waist. And never turn your head when you lift. Just to be on the safe side, avoid picking up heavy objects altogether, if possible.

• When sleeping, lie on your side with a pillow between your knees to take pressure off your lower back. Many women find that full-length “body pillows” or “pregnancy wedges” are especially helpful during pregnancy. Lying on your left side is ideal. This position allows unobstructed blood flow, and helps your kidneys flush waste from your body.

• If you have a job that requires you to sit at a computer for long hours, be sure your workstation is ergonomically correct. Position the computer monitor so the top of the screen is at or below your eye level, and place your feet on a small footrest to take pressure off your legs and feet. Also, take periodic breaks every 30 minutes by taking a quick walk around the office.

• Eat small meals or snacks every four to five hours – rather than the usual three large meals – to help keep nausea or extreme hunger at bay. Good snacks include crackers or yogurt – bland foods that are high in carbohydrates and protein. Keep saltines in your desk drawer or purse to help stave off waves of “morning sickness” that can, unfortunately, occur at any time throughout the day.

• Folic acid supplements — at least 400 micrograms (mcg) a day — before and during pregnancy have been shown to decrease the risk of neural tube birth defects, such as spina bifida. Some doctors recommend even more for women who are already pregnant, or who previously gave birth to a child with a neural tube defect. However, check with your doctor before taking this or any other vitamin or herbal supplement. Some herbs and supplements that are considered perfectly safe for non-pregnant women can be dangerous or harmful to the baby or expectant mother.

• Get plenty of rest. Don’t let the demands of work and family life put you and your baby at risk. Pamper yourself, and ask for help if you need it. Take a nap if you’re tired, or lie down and elevate your feet for a few moments when you need a break.