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Managing Pregnancy Complaints with Nutrition

Posted on January 23rd, 2013 by | 4 views
by Jennifer House

If you’re pregnant, you can look forward to experiencing many joys – along with some physical aches and pains during your pregnancy. Common health concerns in pregnancy include heartburn, headaches, leg cramps, edema and constipation. We all want to avoid drugs when pregnant, if possible. So before headed to the doctor, try some of these natural, nutrition based solutions:

Heartburn is common in pregnancy, as the baby puts pressure on mom’s stomach. This pushes acid into the esophagus, which burns. It is also due to relaxing muscles, including the lower esophageal sphincter, releasing stomach acid into esophagus.

  • Eat small frequent meals.
  • Avoid irritants (caffeine, chocolate, seasonings, high fat, citrus, tomato, carbonated drinks).
  • Keep a food diary to track triggers.
  • Eat slowly.
  • Walk after eating, or at least sit (don’t lie down right away).
  • Limit fluids with meals.
  • Sleep with your head up on pillows and don’t eat close to bedtime.
  • Wear loose clothing.

Headaches can be caused by changing hormones.

  • Eat small amounts regularly to keep blood sugar up.
  • Don’t eat candy or lots of sugar that will cause spikes in blood sugar.
  • Take naps.
  • Exercise.
  • Decrease triggers (noise, computers, etc.).
  • Try relaxation techniques and yoga.
  • Certain foods can trigger headaches, particularly migraines: chocolate, MSG, aged cheese, preserved meats (deli meat, hot dogs).

Leg Cramps are most likely due to the pressure of the enlarged uterus obstructing blood flow to the heart . Some think they may be due to lack of calcium or magnesium.

  • Eat three servings of dairy each day, to get calcium.
  • Try a calcium/magnesium supplement.
  • Stretch calf muscles day and night.
  • Avoid standing for long periods, and crossing your legs.
  • Keep active.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Massage or hot compress trouble area.

Edema (retention of water) can happen in pregnancy, as the baby puts pressure on circulation to mom’s legs.

  • Put feet up and don’t cross your legs.
  • Avoid tight clothes and shoes.
  • Use supportive hose designed for pregnancy.
  • Keep moving.
  • Avoid lots of heat and humidity.
  • Drink at least 8 glasses of water to flush out extra fluids.
  • Don’t eat excess sodium.
  • Monitor blood pressure (high blood pressure is a sign of pre eclampsia).

Constipation in pregnancy can be caused by slowed movement of food through out intestinal tract, due to relaxing muscles in pregnancy. Iron supplements can also cause constipation.

  • Eat a high fibre (25 g+) diet, including beans, fruit and veggies & whole grains.
  • Add 1-3 Tbsp of wheat bran to yogurt, cereal, applesauce, for an extra fibre dose.
  • Keep active.
  • Fluids (8-12 cups). Hot drinks might be especially good.
  • Fruit that contains lots of sorbitol (like prunes and their juice) act as a laxative. Try the following Fruit Lax recipe in mixed in hot cereal, yogurt or on toast:

Fruit Lax Recipe
Makes 1 cup, or 16 servings (1 Tbsp each)
½ cup raisins
¼ cup pitted prunes
¼ cup pitted dates
6 Tbsp prune juice
¼ cup wheat bran

Soak raisins, prunes and dates overnight in just enough water to cover it.
Pour into a food processor. Add the prune juice and bran and blend well.
If it’s too thick, add orange juice until a paste consistency is reached.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 months, or freeze.

Jennifer House is a Registered Dietitian, and owner of First Step Nutrition. She specializes in prenatal, postnatal, infant and toddler nutrition services. Visit for more information.

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