In just a matter of days, I’ll be full term with Baby Lion (full term is 37 weeks to 42 weeks). I was “lucky” enough to have Champ right at 37 weeks, so I haven’t shared the misery of some ladies that go to 41+ weeks, but I’ve still had my share of late-pregnancy woes.
And I’ve been in my third trimester in the South during the summer, and in the North during the winter, so I’ve experienced a range of annoyances. Thankfully for you, I’ve also found some relief for these annoyances. (“Some” being the key word.) Here are the four unfortunate symptoms I’m most familiar with, along with a list of home remedies to relieve them.
Note: I’m not a doctor or midwife, and my only license is a driver’s one. So be sure to check with your healthcare provider before making any changes. These remedies worked for me, but I can’t be held responsible if they don’t work for you . . . sorry.
Swelling / Carpal Tunnel
Both swelling and Carpal Tunnel are caused by water retention. Carpal Tunnel, for those of you who don’t know, is when the swelling pinches a nerve in your wrist, numbing your thumb and first couple of fingers. It may or may not be painful, but it will likely keep you up at night.
I’m listing these roughly in order from what works the most to what sometimes / maybe works.
- Drink a TON of water—at least a gallon each day. More if you are in a hot or humid climate. The less you drink, the more your body decides it needs to hoard water in case of emergencies. Like a camel. Camels have skinny calves, sure, but they’ve also got those gigantic humps on their back.
- Stay cool—keep indoors in the A/C if it’s warm outside.
- Elevate above the heart—for carpal tunnel, this is your wrists. For foot swelling, that’s probably your feet. Yes, it’s a bit ridiculous feeling to raise your feet above your heart, but that’s how to decrease swelling. If I’m trying to sleep, it only takes about 90 seconds for my fingers to go numb if my arm isn’t elevated. Use pillows. Sometimes I awkwardly drape my arms over by body, above my head, or on the Captain to keep my wrist elevated. He’s a good man.
- Wear a wrist brace for Carpal Tunnel—I can’t sleep in these. The idea is to keep your wrist straight when you sleep. A straight wrist means your thumb aligns with your arm, not your palm. Your palm should angle up. If you don’t know what I mean, then put on a brace to see what position your wrist should be in. Also, don’t sleep with your hands under your head.
- Limit sodium—Salt contributes to water retention. But sodium and salt (including table salt, which has iodide in it) are important, so talk about your diet with a health professional before making any changes.
- Exercise—Apparently this is supposed to help, especially if you sweat. The only exercise I get is chasing a toddler around the house, trying to get him into his underpants, and hauling him onto and off the potty and into his crib. That’s enough cardio right there.
- Take a bath—I think this is psychological, but I feel like when I take a shower or bath, my body realizes it doesn’t have to hoard all the water itself, because there is plenty water accessible to me at any given time. So be grateful, body, because many parts of the world don’t have running or clean water.
- Cold / hot compresses—these may give relief to your wrists or feet.
- Vitamin B6, Calcium/Magnesium supplements—these could help, too. I already take these supplements (as you will see), so I can’t tell if they are making my carpal tunnel better. It could be much worse without them, I don’t know.
- Hazelwood and/or Baltic Amber jewelry—I wear these primarily for heartburn (see below), but have been wearing my Baltic Amber necklace tripled up around my wrist lately.
- Nutritional Yeast / Brewer’s Yeast—My midwives are awesome. Saw one today and she said I should get Brewer’s Yeast for my carpal tunnel, that it’s an anti-inflammatory, and that I can sprinkle it on cereal or yogurt, and that some people put it on popcorn (apparently it tastes like cheese!). Picked some up, but haven’t tried it yet.
Dry Skin / Itchy feet
I’ve been so itchy with this pregnancy, and I blame the cold weather that just sucks the moisture out of me. Now that I’m retaining water, I’m not as itchy all over (hooray?), but it could become unbearable/ here’s what worked for me:
- Warm, not hot, showers—hot showers will actually dry out your skin more, I’ve been told.
- Lotion or baby oil—some people don’t want to put baby oil (mineral oil) on their bodies, or Vaseline, because they contain petroleum. You can decide what you want to avoid in your lotions or oils and find products on the Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. I’m fine with Vaseline and baby oil, but I’m not okay with parabens. I use Palmer’s Cocoa Butter for Stretch Marks (note, its current, paraben-free formula is not on the database). Whatever you choose, put it on your body while it’s still damp from the shower to seal in the moisture.
- Ice water—when my feet WOULD NOT STOP ITCHING, I got a bit desperate. I ran ice-cold water from the tap over my feet until they were thoroughly chilled and I couldn’t feel the itching sensation anymore. Then slathered baby oil over them, and put on socks over that. It seemed to work, because after two nights of doing this, I haven’t had to do it again, and that was about a month ago. Desperate times call for frozen feet. (Er…don’t give yourself frostbite or anything)
If you’ve ever been in bed and had your legs FREAK OUT like all of a sudden you were James Brown singing “Sex Machine,” then you know what restless legs are. Sometimes restless legs cramp up, and you get Charlie Horses, too! Fun fun, especially for anyone who gets to share a bed with you, and finds himself being forcibly kicked at random in the night. Here’s some remedies—start at the top and work your way down.
- Eat a banana every day—this could be the only change you have to make to find relief. I know other moms that swear by it. Worked for me in my first pregnancy.
- Take magnesium supplements—I’m going to reference magnesium supplements over and over again. See how much I take at the bottom of this post. And talk to your provider about how much you should / can take.
- Keep feet raised—if your feet are swollen, you should already be doing this. Keep them elevated above the heart while sleeping.
- Stretch your calves—One of my midwives showed me a stretch that can give relief. One foot at a time, press the pad of your foot against a wall, keeping your heel on the floor, and pull yourself closer to the wall, pushing your foot into the wall and stretching your calves out. I just walked on the pads of my feet, doing lunges, on the way to and from the bathroom during my mid-night pee runs. Yes, it felt like I was part of the Ministry of Silly Walks.
- Grab some Vicks VapoRub—This was another one of those dire moments, drastic measure things. Pretty sure Vicks VapoRub is perfectly safe during pregnancy, but since I couldn’t find a definitive answer, you should probably ask your provider if it’s okay. Anyway, my solution? I dabbed a bit on the backs of my knees, right in the crease of the skin. Tingly? Yes. But it somehow draws the tingles out of the rest of your legs, like sucking out snake poison. Pretty awesome and worth a try if you (or your spouse) are miserable. I’m no scientist, I have no idea why it worked or how I thought it might. But believing it will work is half the battle, right?
Heartburn / Reflux
I got heartburn the first time when I was 8 years old, and have had it ever since. When you’re pregnant, the relaxin hormone that allows your hips to stretch out—you know, so you can actually push a human being the size of a melon out of your body—also wreaks havoc on your esophageal sphincter, that one-way door that is supposed to keep food in your stomach. That door “relaxes” so that the acid party in your stomach spills out, into your throat. Fun, fun. Oh, and then your baby gets bigger and bigger and pushes up on your stomach, squeezing everything out of it like a squirty bath toy.
I have a very large list for this one, so don’t expect too much organization here.
- Eat small meals—the less and more frequently you eat, the less of a chance your tummy will be filled to overcapacity. You can still eat a ton of whatever you’re craving, just split those meals in half and break between them.
- Don’t drink during meals or after meals—drinking before or between meals is better, so you don’t fill up your stomach as quickly. You could try drinking a glass of water 15 minutes to half an hour before a meal to try and wash away any acid, but that could backfire, making your stomach overcompensate.
- Watch how you sleep—sleep upright, at an incline, or on your left side. You’re more likely to wake up with vomit in your throat if you sleep on your right side. Isn’t pregnancy super glamorous?
- Fight the acid—take TUMS (but don’t take too many!), drink water with lemon, or sip apple cider vinegar. Lemons and apple cider vinegar seem very acidic, but when they hit your stomach, they balance out your Ph. Lemon water is the tastier option; apple cider vinegar can be more effective.
- Take a calcium/magnesium supplement—Are you seeing a pattern here? This stuff works for swelling, restless legs, and heartburn. Talk to your provider about how much you can take, and be sure to include how many TUMs you are taking so you don’t overdose on calcium.
- Increase fiber—constipation is common in pregnancy because your digestion slows WAY DOWN to ensure your baby can take as many nutrients from your food as possible. If your plumbing is plugged up down south, expect that traffic jam to back up into your stomach, giving you heartburn. Lots of fruit and veggies, and complex carbs. Note: read the comments at the end of this blog to see a discussion about how Papaya and other P fruits can aid digestion!
- Wear hazelwood and/or Baltic amber jewelry—Hazelwood neutralizes acid and Baltic amber works as a natural, safe anti-inflammatory and pain reliever. I order my jewelry from Hazelaid.com (some styles are also available on Amazon.)
If you get heartburn on an empty stomach:
- Eat absorbent foods—Again, I think this is a psychological thing, but if you get heartburn on an empty stomach, eat something that will absorb that acid, like rice or bread. I’ve even tried marshmallows. They’re spongy, right?
Sometimes, in an effort for your body to close that esophageal sphincter, it tries a bit too hard, and your whole abdomen might cramp up to stop the acid. Definitely talk to your provider if you have abdominal pain! If it’s caused by heartburn, though, here’s what you can try:
- Drink peppermint tea—Warm drinks soothe and relax, and peppermint does the same. Drink warm peppermint tea to soothe your tummy. DON’T suck on peppermint candies or chew peppermint gum, because those will just relax your esophageal sphincter further.
- Try tummy massage and warm compresses—Warm compresses can offer relief from muscles cramping. Pair this with the peppermint tea, and you’ll warm and soothe inside and out. For tummy massage, I use the “I love you” massage I used on Champ when he had baby reflux, but do it on myself. Start on your left side, where your stomach is, and smooth down towards the pubic bone. The “L” starts under your right breast. The “U” starts at your pubic bone on the right side and ends on the left side.
If you still have heartburn, don’t give up hope yet.
- Reduce or eliminate acidic foods from your diet—I had a cheeseburger each day with Champ. No wonder my heartburn was so awful! I’ve blogged about acidity before, so you can check that out.
- Keep a food journal—You’ll be able to reintroduce some of those acidic foods if you 1) eat mostly alkaline and 2) figure out what your triggers are. For example, I can eat sausage pizza but not pepperoni. I can’t eat nuts on an empty stomach.
- Eat ice cream—I saved this one for last because it’s my favorite. If I know I’m going to eat red meat, I eat a small portion and eat it early, pairing it with some greens. Then an hour or so later, I reward myself with ice cream. Maybe it’s just because I love it so much, but ice cream seems to be the only dairy product that reduces, rather than increases, acid in my stomach (milk and cheese are acidic!).
Just remember as you are dealing with pregnancy woes what joy awaits you! Soon you’ll have that precious child in your arms, and your mommy brain will make you forget most of what you had to put up with in pregnancy. You might even be so crazy to want to endure it all over again, to add to your family. I’m one of the crazy ones.
Note: this post may include Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase from these Amazon links, a very small portion of the profit will be returned to me. If I ever make money off these links, I’ll buy more cloth diapers with them.