Tips for Easing Aches and Pains During Pregnancy

It's normal to have aches and pains during pregnancy—you're growing a baby after all—but when it comes to treatment, not all is safe. Get the verdict on essential oils for pain and heating pads during pregnancy.

pregnant woman with abdominal pain
Photo: ChameleonsEye/Shutterstock 

It's not abnormal to have aches and pains when you're growing a human being in your belly (in fact, it sort of makes sense unless you're used to being inhabited by an alien) but please remember to ask your midwife or doctor about it too. I don't want anyone missing an important symptom and thinking it's nothing. While pain doesn't always signal a problem, sometimes it does. Sometimes it's a direct message from your body that it needs help.

Sometimes, however, it's just part of the deal with pregnancy. Muscles stretch, bones spread and babies get heavy.

What to do about all this discomfort? Ibuprofen, Motrin, Advil, and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories like aspirin and naproxen are on the "no list" except for cases where your physician has specifically prescribed it. They can cause bleeding, and stomach irritation and aren't approved for developing fetuses. Tylenol is OK but don't overdo it. Use the lowest possible dose of any medication to achieve relief and tell your doctor about it. There are a few other options to ease the pains.

Massage and Essential Oils for Pain

You can try massage if you're past the first trimester. The rules are: stay off your back, avoid excessive heat and fumes. Find a massage therapist with experience and training in prenatal massage.

As for massage oils? It's common for people to think that just because something goes on the skin, it's not going to affect the rest of the body. Skin has pores that can soak solutions up. Fumes go up our noses and are circulated in our bloodstreams. Our bodies are quite skilled at absorbing and inhaling substances and you have to be careful about what you expose it to, especially when pregnant. So, arnica's a no and lavender's a yes.

RELATED: Essential Oils During Pregnancy: What's Safe and What to Avoid

The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) points out that skin is often more sensitive during pregnancy and certain oils and aromas that you liked pre-pregnancy might now feel or smell horrid.

Here's what's recommended: Always dilute essential oils. Direct application is too intense. NAHA supplies this partial list of diluted essential oils that might have less potential for possible adverse effects:

  • Chamomile oils
  • Geranium
  • Jasmine
  • Lavender
  • Neroli
  • Patchouli
  • Sandalwood
  • Ylang ylang

Heating Pads for Pain During Pregnancy

Heating pads are considered safe during pregnancy because they just warm up the area you apply them to and not your core body temperature. Warm, not hot, baths are also fine but don't soak in the hot tub until after delivery.

An expert tip: If you're late in your third trimester and anywhere near as clumsy as I was, ask someone to stand by and help you in and out. Talk about an awkward moment. I was a week overdue with my first baby when I got stuck in our apartment-sized tub. I couldn't lift my belly and couldn't turn around. There was nothing I could do until my husband got back from the market and hauled me out. By then, the water was cold and I was pitiful and embarrassed. All the benefits of that soothing bath went right down the drain.

I did not repeat this mistake with my other babies. Hang in there, ladies.

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