There are three common questions when you’re pregnant.
“When are you due?”
“What are you having?” (Uh, a baby?)
and… “How are you feeling?”
I’m pretty good at answering the first two, but the third question gives me pause. The vast majority of people asking don’t want to hear the real answer. Honestly, I prefer my babies on the outside. The toll pregnancy has taken on my body, both times, just isn’t a happy, feel-good report.
One of the most challenging parts of this pregnancy has been the constant physical pain in my right leg, from the varicosities in my ankle. I didn’t experience this in my first pregnancy until about 32 weeks, so I was shocked when the veins showed up at 8 weeks the second time around! It caught me by surprise, and I ended up with throbbing, burning, aching and intense heat for about 90% of the day. As I learn more and amend my daily routine, I’ve seen impressive improvements!
Here are my top 7 remedies and tips for easing the pain.
- Avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time, and elevate your feet often. For me, “long periods of time” is more than five minutes. Everyone has a different threshold. Listen to your body! Keeping your legs above your hips will allow for the blood to flow back up toward your heart, rather than pooling in your legs. When I have a bad day, it’s always due to the fact that I’ve done too much sitting or standing around (cooking, watching Anabella play at the park, driving etc).
- High dosages of Vitamin C. Check with a healthcare professional first, but make sure you have plenty of vitamin C in the form of whole foods, and ideally, an additional supplement during pregnancy. Vitamin C helps with circulation and can strengthen blood vessels. Synthetic sources of Vitamin C are usually derived from GMO corn. Yuck. And after going through an entire bottle of regular C, I didn’t notice a bit of change. I was thrilled to find Synergy’s Pure Radiance C in a Radiant Life newsletter. I noticed a big difference after being on this for a few weeks. (Bonus: it helped my gingivitis. See why I like my babies on the outside?!) I had to reach 3 servings (1/4 teaspoon) 3 times a day to notice the difference though.
- My favorite remedy is massage with essential oils. This has made the biggest difference for me. I massage the area, up toward the heart, with a carrier oil (like almond or jojoba), and several drops of cypress (excellent for circulation) and helichrysum (helps reduce and dissolve clotted or stagnant blood). You can also use the above oils in the compresses in the next tip.
- When the swelling is intense and the area is hot, I prefer to do witch hazel or apple cider vinegar compresses. I generally just dip one of our dry home made wipes into some witch hazel, and it’s amazing how the cloth is HOT after just a few minutes. It completely draws the heat out of my ankle.
- Magnesium supplements. Varicosities can be made worse by constipation, and this is a nagging problem for most women in their first and third trimesters. As progesterone levels increase, our digestion slows to a near halt in order for the fetus to get as much of the nutrients from our food as possible. Through both pregnancies, I’ve tried quite a few different natural ways to get things moving, and several different brands and forms of magnesium, but nothing has worked as well as 400ml of liquid ionic magnesium. This, along with the vitamin C, will definitely move your bowels, so start slow!
- Gentle exercise. I’ve found that as I walk, stretch, or do workouts on Fit2B, the amazing online gym I belong to, I hardly notice I have any issues in my leg at all. The more I move, the better I feel. Sometimes it’s hard to get motivated when you’re feeling fatigued or nauseas, but keeping your heart pumping is great for your circulation!
- Hydrotherapy. At first, I couldn’t even shower without pain or take hot baths with my ankle in the water. But as I started reading up on hydrotherapy, I’ve been able to better manage the pain. Showering isn’t too bad, as my ankle improves with the addition of the other remedies above, and bath time is actually wonderful now. I submerge my foot for several minutes, and then take a very cold face cloth, or an ice pack, and stick it around my ankle (which is resting on the side of the tub) for 1-2 minutes. I alternate this practice the entire time I’m in the bath, making sure to end with cold. I follow this up with an essential oil massage.
And how could I live without…the sock. If you do not have compression stockings yet, I urge you to get them like, yesterday! During my first pregnancy, I got the full belly compression stockings. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as socks. This time, I was pregnant in intense heat, and found a knee high toeless sock. I am a MUCH happier person not having to spend the first and last 10 minutes of every day with rubber gloves on, trying to pull $80 stockings onto and off of my body. There are some veins in my upper thigh that could certainly benefit from some compression, but they aren’t bothersome enough to bust out the Jobst stockings. For now, I am over the moon with these (CHEAP!) socks from Amazon. (Read up on compression grading before you buy. 15-20s do nothing for me, so I opted to go with 20-30. You may not need that much.) Since I only have the varicosities in one leg, I alternate the sock each day, ideally to wash the other.
Do you have any other ways to keep the pain at bay?
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Megan McGrory Massaro is a mother, freelance writer, and author, looking forward to the morning when she no longer needs her compression socks. She wrote The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year to empower women to make the best choices for their families.