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How to Treat Body Aches & Pains During Pregnancy 2022

Emma

Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Kathy Shattler, MS, RDN

Early pregnancy? Body aches all over? You’re not alone—in early pregnancy, body aches all over are to be expected. Thankfully, there’s a lot you can do to ease your plight, resulting in a much more comfortable pregnancy. 

Most pregnant women notice body aches for several reasons—a woman’s breasts increase in size, for example, putting more strain on her back. Swelling, issues in the digestive system, pregnancy hormones, and even carpal tunnel syndrome may cause pregnant women to feel muscle aches like never before.

During the second and third trimesters, your unborn baby pushes into other organs and systems of support in your body, but this isn’t the only common source of harmless pregnancy aches and pains. 

Here’s what a pregnant woman can expect and a few ways to minimize the aches caused by a growing baby.

Are Body Aches in Pregnancy Normal?

After conceiving, your body will go through many changes. Discomfort ranging from minor to reasonably distracting is completely normal, especially as your body adjusts itself initially.

Even extremely healthy pregnant women will likely experience aches and pains as their pregnancy progresses. Possible causes may include weight gain, a growing uterus, and other hormonal changes. Let’s explore some of these causes in more detail.

Causes of Body Aches and Pains During Pregnancy

What causes body aches during pregnancy? One common cause of body aches in pregnancy is the expansion of the uterus[1] in your abdominal cavity during the first trimester. As he or she grows, you might feel leg cramps, abdominal pain, pelvic pain, hip pain, and body aches in the groin area. The baby’s head and the baby’s movements may impose themselves on the rest of the stuff in your abdomen.

Many pregnant women may also find that body aches in their upper and lower back become more prominent as the baby they’re carrying grows. Combined with any extra pregnancy weight, she may be carrying, as well, these extra loads put more strain on the back and shoulders—first-trimester hormone changes cause a woman’s breasts to increase, and even this contributes to the new burden significantly. Stiffness and soreness, for this reason, are both extremely common and should be expected. 

Additionally, many women also suffer because their pregnancy hormones make the connective tissue supporting their frames less taut and more relaxed—looser joints, in the pelvis, in particular, can all cause stomach pains and aches in the pelvic floor muscles.

Many pregnant women develop mild swelling of the feet, ankles, and legs, which can also cause aches and pains. During pregnancy, the third trimester, especially, a woman’s blood volume increases greatly, putting more pressure[2] on her system and the tissue responsible for holding it all in. While this problem will have the biggest impact on your lower extremities, it may very well contribute to pregnancy aches and pains throughout the body.

If you like to eat salty foods regularly, we recommend reducing your intake while pregnant in order to minimize the amount of water your body holds on to. Avoid greasy and fried foods for the same reason, especially if you already have high blood pressure.

How to Deal with Body Aches During Pregnancy

We can’t recommend over-the-counter medications for body aches and pregnancy, but we do have a lot of homeopathic, all-natural alternatives that you can try when seeking relief. 

There are many ways to soothe flu-like body aches during pregnancy. Some of our favorites:

  1. Rest with your feet up
  2. Apply a heating pad
  3. Invest in supportive footwear
  4. Try moderate exercise
  5. Nourish your body

Here are our top tips on doing all of the above at home.

Rest with your feet up

Sprawling out when you feel pregnancy body aches can gently stretch muscles everywhere in the body and may be able to provide some relief.

Many pregnant women complain of poor sleep in the first and second trimesters, and there’s no worse time[3] for a terrible night’s sleep. If you can, try a new, firmer mattress or an extremely supportive mattress pad to go over the top of your current one. 

Practice good sleep habits, including choosing to wear loose clothing to bed and avoiding too much screen time before retiring for the evening. Sleep on your side, using extra pillows between your legs and supporting your womb from underneath.

Apply a Heating Pad

Using heat can help relieve pregnancy aches in the same way that it can reduce inflammation, period cramps, and other forms of pain ordinarily. You don’t even need a heating pad, although they are awesome.

Try microwaving a very damp towel or steaming one with a steamer basket. If you would prefer to avoid the fuss, an ordinary hot bath will also work perfectly.

Invest in Supportive Footwear

Shoes that fit badly can actually make your pregnancy aches worse[4]. Flat flip-flops, cheap sandals, and other footwear lacking support may end up doing you more harm than good.

Great, supportive shoes can help keep your feet from swelling and provide more of a foundation for your newly-pregnant body. They can help you correct your gait as you grow. If you spend a lot of time standing in your kitchen or elsewhere, you might also consider a few supportive mats, which will accomplish much of the same.

Try Moderate Exercise

Exercise during pregnancy is extremely beneficial[5] for both you and your unborn baby when carried out responsibly and safely. A half an hour of moderate, gentle activity may reduce macrosomia, gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, cesarean delivery, temporary bladder control problems, morning sickness, low back pain, and pelvic girdle pain.

Plenty of women’s health resources can offer you pregnancy-safe workouts that can help pelvic tone, strengthen abdominal muscles, improve bowel movement, and improve blood flow. 

It’s safe to say that you shouldn’t be doing any heavy lifting or overheating yourself when pregnant. When carrying something small or another child, however, practicing good habits like lifting with your knees will prevent additional strain on your back.

Nourish Your Body

One of the symptoms of hypocalcemia in pregnancy[6], a calcium deficiency, is mild body aches and pains. The pregnant body processes calcium at a higher rate because it needs more to support your child’s growth. To prevent hypocalcemia, eat calcium-rich foods like cooked leafy green vegetables, dairy, and soy to avoid pain and other pregnancy symptoms associated with this deficiency. Vitamins can also help.

If you’re experiencing painful bowel movements, you should eat fiber-rich foods. Vegetables and fresh or dried fruit added to your pregnancy diet provide an additional fiber boost. Drink needed fluids earlier in the day to facilitate normal bowel movements without drinking too much caffeine. Many women try to eat bland foods over spicy foods during this time to decrease any potential digestive issues, allowing stomach acid activity that won’t be as harsh. Better safe than sorry.

When to See a Doctor

You’ll know it’s time to see a maternal-fetal medicine specialist when you experience excruciating body aches during pregnancy that do not assuage themselves within a day. Severe stabbing pain in either side of your lower abdomen is something that you should bring to your physician’s attention immediately.

A few other emergency symptoms to look out for include:

  • Extreme headaches
  • Fever or chills
  • Bleeding of any sort
  • Painful urination
  • Bloody urine
  • Sudden swelling that doesn’t go away
  • Unusual and sudden thirst
  • Dizziness and faintness
  • More than four contractions in one hour before week 37

Pre-eclampsia[7] is one of the most dangerous perils you and your child face during pregnancy, and extreme pain is one of the first symptoms to be aware of. If you notice any of the above, seek emergency medical care at once.

The Bottom Line

Most pregnant women report experiencing whole-body aches. Pregnancy symptom management is often a matter of knowledge and application. Morning sickness and varicose veins are only the beginning—pregnancy can make a pregnant woman feel lightheaded and cranky all before many of us even get out of bed in the morning.

Most pregnant women begin to feel aches and pains during early pregnancy and, unless their symptoms resemble those described above, are usually no worse off in the long run. Thankfully, as your pregnancy hormones slow, these symptoms will subside. It was all worth it, huh?


+ 7 sources

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  1. Womenshealth.gov. (2021). Body changes and discomforts | Office on Women’s Health. [online] Available at: https://www.womenshealth.gov/pregnancy/youre-pregnant-now-what/body-changes-and-discomforts
  2. Morimoto, K. and O’Rourke, L. (2021). Third Trimester Lower Extremity Lymphorrhea. Case Reports in Obstetrics and Gynecology, [online] 2021, pp.1–5. doi:10.1155/2021/3594923.
  3. ‌BRITISH MEDICAL JOURNAL. (1984). Sleep helps healing. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1443671/pdf/bmjcred00529-0006.pdf
  4. Gimunová, M., Zvonař, M., Sebera, M., Turčínek, P. and Kolářová, K. (2020). Special footwear designed for pregnant women and its effect on kinematic gait parameters during pregnancy and postpartum period. PLOS ONE, [online] 15(5), p.e0232901. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0232901.
  5. Cooper, D.B. and Yang, L. (2022). Pregnancy And Exercise. [online] Nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430821/
  6. Almaghamsi, A., Almalki, M.H. and Buhary, B.M. (2018). Hypocalcemia in Pregnancy: A Clinical Review Update. Oman Medical Journal, [online] 33(6), pp.453–462. doi:10.5001/omj.2018.85.
  7. NHS Choices (2022). Symptoms – Pre-eclampsia. [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pre-eclampsia/symptoms/
Emma

Medically reviewed by:

Emma Garofalo is a writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. A lover of science, art, and all things culinary, few things excite her more than the opportunity to learn about something new." It is now in the sheet in the onboarding paperwork, apologies!!

Medically reviewed by:

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