Let me start by saying that if you or someone you know is pregnant, congratulations. Bringing a new life into this world is an exciting and beautiful moment in time. During this time, there will be emotional and physical changes that affect the majority of pregnant women. During pregnancy, a woman’s body undergoes physical adaptations in preparation for delivery. Most women will experience a few or all of the following: low back pain, foot pain, hip and sacral pain, mid-back pain and/or carpal tunnel syndrome. The majority of these discomforts are related to one concept— the loosening of ligaments.
Chemically or “hormonally,” the body begins to loosen joints to assist the body in the delivery of the baby. These chemicals are in the blood and circulate throughout the body to loosen the pelvic area. As this chemical circulates throughout the body, the pelvis will loosen along with all of the other joints. The loosening of joints is what causes muscles to be overworked in an attempt to stabilize the joints.
Since most women gain approximately 20 to 40 pounds throughout their pregnancy, adding rapid weight gain to unstable joints causes the muscles to do a lot more work than they are used to.
The lower back takes most of the stress for two reasons:
1. the majority of the weight gain is anterior to the body’s center of gravity
2. the ligaments of the lower spine and pelvis begin to loosen.
When there is a lot of weight in the front of the spine, gravity pulls the weight down causing a woman’s pelvis to fall forward resulting on the strain of the lower back.
Foot pain and swelling is very common during pregnancy because of the increase in circulation, loosening of ligaments, and rapid weight gain. Swelling occurs when there is an overload of fluids. The body increases its blood supply to help in the development of the baby. Sometimes the overload of fluid gets “stuck” and has a hard time fighting gravity, causing feet to swell. As the ligaments in the arches begin to loosen, the arches begin to collapse. Add rapid weight gain and combine all three and that makes for unhappy feet.
Here are a few tips to minimize the side effects of physical adaptation:
• Hydrate. If your body is gaining weight you need to increase your water to keep all systems in balance. If you do not increase your water intake you start causing large shifts in homeostasis. Blood and amniotic fluid is mostly water, so drink up for the growing baby.
• Take care of your feet. To minimize foot pain during pregnancy, elevate your feet, tape your arches or get orthotics to prevent arch collapse, and get foot massages. Foot massages help with circulation, relax tight muscles, and they just feel really good. Note: Do not over stimulate the 5th toe as in Eastern Medicine it has been known to induce labor.
• Relieve carpal tunnel syndrome. Numbness to the hands are classic symptoms of carpal tunnel. Carpal tunnel is very common in women who are pregnant. Night splints have been shown to reduce carpal tunnel symptoms. These splints can be used periodically during the day to reduce symptoms.
• Strengthen your pelvic floor. Pelvic floor exercises are vital to a healthy vaginal delivery. Now that you are drinking all this water you will be going to the bathroom more frequently. Strengthen your pelvic floor every time you urinate by stopping and holding your urine in midstream. Note: wait a few seconds before attempting to stop the flow of urine, as the pressure is high in the beginning and it may hurt to stop high volume urine.
Alexander J Rosado is the proud parent a 17-month old baby girl. He is a physical therapist and the owner of Bardonia Physical Therapy and Wellness, located at 175 Route 304 in Bardonia, where they offer physical therapy, occupational therapy, massage therapy and acupuncture. He can be reached at 507-0477 or firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting BardoniaPT.com.