Easing discomfort late in pregnancy
January 14, 2000
Web posted at: 12:26 PM EST (1726 GMT)
By Ann Douglas
(WebMD) -- The third trimester of pregnancy brings a number of predictable, yet uncomfortable changes to a woman's body such as relentless insomnia, night after night. But the sleeplessness and other discomforts of this time period can be successfully managed.
Here's the scoop on four of the most annoying problems a mom-to-be may experience during the final weeks of pregnancy:
Shortness of breath
Gone are the days when you could dash up a couple of flights of stairs and think nothing of it. By this point in pregnancy, going up even a few steps can feel like climbing Mount Everest.
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During the third trimester, your uterus presses against your diaphragm (the broad, flat muscle that lies underneath your lungs and does most of the work of breathing), thereby decreasing your overall lung capacity. While the best cure for the breathlessness that you're experiencing is giving birth, you can reduce your discomfort in the meantime by getting in the habit of sitting and standing with your back straight and your shoulders pushed back. While sleeping, try propping yourself up with a pile of pillows or lying on your side.
Another common complaint during the third trimester is sciatica -- a very painful (even immobilizing) condition that is caused by the pressure of the pregnant uterus on either sciatic nerve as it passes through the pelvis down to each leg. Sciatica is characterized by pain, tingling, or numbness in the buttock, hip, and thigh.
While you might be tempted to hit the couch and stay put until baby arrives, your best bet is to keep moving despite the pain. If you don't, the pain will likely intensify. An excellent way of coping with sciatica is to take a dip in the pool, since being immersed in water helps to take the weight of the uterus off the sciatic nerve. In addition, some women get relief from chiropractic treatments and/or hot or cold compresses. Nevertheless, you'll want to check with your caregiver first before opting for any of these.
You're exhausted but you're having trouble sleeping. Sound familiar? Insomnia is one of the most frustrating third-trimester complaints. It's caused by hormonal and metabolic changes as well as the size of your uterus, which can make it difficult to get comfortable in any position. Those midnight treks to the bathroom don't make it any easier to get a good night's sleep, either.
Here are some sleep-easy tips:
Try to find a comfortable sleeping position. When on your side, tuck one pillow under your abdomen and slip another one between your legs. If you're experiencing a lot of hip pain, tuck a pillow under there, too. (Pregnant women shouldn't sleep on their backs; doing so can disrupt the flow of oxygen to the fetus.)
Pay attention to what the sleep experts call "sleep hygiene." Don't exercise or eat a heavy meal too close to bedtime, or your metabolism could go into overdrive and have you tossing and turning until the wee hours of the morning.
Unwind with a cup of warm milk (with a small amount of cinnamon and honey or sugar, if you don't like it plain) or herbal tea before you go to bed.
Have a warm bath before you turn in, and then practice your relaxation breathing in bed. (Not only is this a great way to cram before the "final exam," it can also help to summon the sandman.)
Hemorrhoids are veins in and around the anus that can become swollen during pregnancy due to hormonal changes and the pressure of the expanding uterus in the pelvis. They are more likely to flare up if you frequently strain when you're emptying your bowel.
You will be less likely to have trouble with hemorrhoids if you make a point of preventing constipation. That means drinking plenty of fluids, eating plenty of high-fiber foods, and exercising regularly.
If hemorrhoids do flare up, you can minimize the discomfort by keeping the anal area clean, soaking in a sitz bath or a bathtub, not sitting on hard surfaces for long periods of time, and using over-the-counter creams or suppositories that are designed to treat hemorrhoids. (Always check with your doctor before using any over-the-counter medication while pregnant.) While most hemorrhoids disappear on their own after the baby arrives, a few become filled with blood clots and require minor surgery.
The good news about these third-trimester aches and pains is that they're a limited-time offer. Most of them will disappear in a flash once your baby arrives.
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