Particular Pains of the Last Month of Pregnancy
You’ve made it through morning sickness (more like all day sickness). You’ve gained weight and outgrown all your clothes. You’re readying the nursery and picking out a car seat. You’re in the home stretch! But now you’re dealing with all kinds of issues, from odd pains to difficulty sleeping, and you’re not sure if you can make it. We’re here to help! We’ve gathered some tips to help you cope with the particular pains of the last month of pregnancy. Also be sure to check out our list of must-have items for the last month of pregnancy.
Prurigo of Pregnancy
If you’re unfamiliar with prurigo of pregnancy, count yourself lucky. This itchy rash strikes 1 in every 300 pregnant women in their second and third trimesters. It consists of red bumps and pustules, and can become crusty. If you get this rash, it will be mainly concentrated on your limbs and abdomen and unfortunately doesn’t go away until weeks or even months after your baby is born. Luckily, there are many treatment options, and it poses no threat to either mother or child. Prurigo of pregnancy can be treated with benzoyl peroxide, topical steroid ointments, oral antihistamines or phototherapy. If you suspect you may have this condition, see a doctor for treatment.
Hip Pain During Pregnancy
About 20% of women experience hip pain in their second and third trimesters. It is caused when your body releases relaxin, a hormone that relaxes connective tissue, such as the joints in your hips. Weight gain puts further stress on your joints, as will poor posture and carrying heavy things. Be sure to ask for help when you need to lift something heavy while pregnant, even if you feel you could probably do it yourself. It’s not worth the risk to your body, or to the baby. Sleeping on your side can also strain your hips, but with a big belly, and since doctors recommend against sleeping on your back while pregnant, side sleeping is really the only way to go. Try sleeping with a pillow between your knees to help ease the strain on your hips. Tylenol and warm baths can also help with the pain, as well as staying gently active. Try some yoga; poses such as pigeon, cat/cow, and child’s pose may help stretch your hips. Or, find a whole prenatal yoga routine.
Carpal Tunnel During Pregnancy
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is pain and numbness in the hand and wrist caused by the compression of a major nerve. The carpal tunnel is a narrow area of the wrist that houses nine tendons, which control the movement of your fingers, and the median nerve, which controls the feeling on most of the palm of your hand and the palm side of all fingers but your pinkie. When you are pregnant, your blood volume doubles, and swelling is common in many areas. Swelling in the narrow confines of the carpal tunnel area can result in numbness, tingling, burning or pain in the hand, wrist and fingers, and sometimes weakness in the affected hand. About 4% of adults suffer from CTS, but pregnant women report CTS 30-60% of the time, making CTS overwhelmingly more common in pregnant women. Treatment for CTS includes use of a hard splint to immobilize the wrist and give the nerve time to heal. There are also stretches that can help. If pain is severe, see a doctor, who may recommend occupational therapy or injections for the pain. Surgery to repair carpal tunnel syndrome is sometimes needed, but would not be performed while you are still pregnant.
Tailbone Pain During Pregnancy
As relaxin loosens all your ligaments, the muscles of the pelvic floor can pull more tightly, which can cause pain in your tailbone. Developing a new posture as your baby grows can also shift weight onto your tailbone, which isn’t meant to hold weight. 10% of women who feel this pain while pregnant consider it debilitating. If you’re suffering from tailbone pain during your pregnancy, try to avoid asymmetrical movements such as getting out of bed one leg at a time or crossing your legs while sitting. See a doctor if the pain is bad, and she may prescribe topical numbing patches to help, or may refer you to a physical therapist. Also, be sure to get plenty of water and fiber, as constipation can make tailbone pain worse.
Rib Pain During Pregnancy
Many women experience pregnancy rib pains. This can have many causes. As your baby grows, your uterus expands and may eventually press against your ribs, causing discomfort. The added weight of your baby also puts pressure on your rib muscles. When your baby turns head down, anywhere between 20 and 39 weeks, his little feet can kick right into your ribcage. This pain is usually felt under the breast. Round ligament pain can also be felt in the ribs, as well as in the back and pelvis. Round ligaments connect the front of the uterus to the groin, and can become strained as the baby grows. Some rib pain can indicate heartburn caused by relaxin affecting the esophagus, which then allows stomach acid to rise up too far. Constipation pain can also sometimes be felt in the ribs.
Some rib pain during pregnancy may indicate something more serious. About 12% of pregnant women experience gallstones because increased levels of estrogen makes it more difficult to empty the gallbladder. This pain begins on the right side near the ribs and can radiate out from there. See a doctor if you suspect gallbladder issues, as you may need surgery after pregnancy. Urinary tract infections are also common, especially during the third trimester, when the baby puts pressure on the bladder, making it difficult to fully empty. Symptoms include frequency of urination, burning during urination, poor urine flow, fever or chills, and pain in the kidneys that can be mistaken for back or rib pain. A UTI must be diagnosed by a doctor and treated with antibiotics. Preeclampsia, a serious condition, is indicated by pain in the liver on the right side near the ribs. If it is accompanied by nausea, bad headaches, severe heartburn, difficulty urinating, swelling in the hands and face, sudden weight gain, and visual disturbances, it can be life threatening. See a doctor immediately if you have these symptoms.
Schedule an appointment with a doctor if you think you have any of the more serious causes of rib pain. If not, exercise such as yoga, Tylenol, and heat can help ease your pain. Heating pads during pregnancy are safe if used for 10 minutes at a time. Studies have shown that raising your core body temperature during pregnancy can harm your baby, so do not use a hot tub, sauna, or hot shower or bath, though you may safely use a warm bath. This might also be a good time to explore the benefits of a pregnancy chiropractor.
Weird Pregnancy Cravings
Some pregnancy cravings are just personal preference, like the time I ate an entire tub of hummus with a whole box of wheat crackers. Others may have meaning behind them. Pica, for example, is the desire to eat non-food items, and it often strikes pregnant women. Some women want to eat things like chalk, dirt or ash, which some doctors think indicates a deficiency in zinc or possibly iron. Others disagree, but no one really knows for sure. While eating newly-purchased, clean chalk will probably not hurt you, you should avoid eating dirt no matter how strong the craving may feel, as it can contain dangerous bacteria. Better to just see a doctor and ask what he recommends you do.
Other cravings may or may not carry meanings behind them. A desire for pickles may mean you need sodium, while craving chocolate (which is totally understandable) may indicate you just need a hit of serotonin. Craving fruits may mean you need some vitamin C, and a lust for red meat could mean you are anemic. If you crave ice cream, you may be in need of calcium. Then again, it could just be that you know ice cream is delicious. Whether you want something sour, spicy or something unusual, like peanut butter on everything, if it’s safe to eat, go for it! There’s no reason to suffer just so other people won’t think you’re odd. If you must eat a whole lemon or dip a banana in salsa to satisfy a craving, seize the moment and eat up. Just be sure to stay away from things like sushi and lunch meat which can be dangerous for pregnant women. (Hang in there! If you’re in your last month, your next dragon roll is only a few weeks away!)
If you’re having trouble with any of these pains, don’t despair. The last month of pregnancy can be difficult, but it also means you’re getting so close to meeting your little one. Focus on the positive, see a doctor if you need to, and lower yourself into a warm bath in the meantime. You can do it! You’re almost there! Best of luck!