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5 Easy Ways to Ditch Leg Cramps for Good

For weeks now, my legs had been threatening to seize. In bed, trying desperately for a restful night’s sleep. When the tight sensation in my legs would start, I would quickly extend my legs, press my heels down and thrust my toes upward until the sensation dissipated. It was working great. I thought I was in the clear.  Until this week.

And Holy Forking Shirt. It hurt like Heck!

My left calf was arrested in the strongest cramp I had ever experienced. I could not move or breathe!

Once the feeling eventually subsided, I gingerly got up out of bed and waddled to the bathroom to spray a liberal dose of magnesium oil onto my legs and feet.

The relief was almost instant. Or was it a placebo effect? Perhaps both. Either way, the cramp was gone, for now.

Many of my clients would complain of tight sore legs and feet, especially in the later stages of pregnancy. And it appears no one in immune.

Why are leg cramps so common during pregnancy and what can be done about it?

It is thought that legs cramps can occur due to fatigue, too much or too little activity, dehydration, magnesium deficiency and pressure from the uterus impacting blood flow to the lower half of the body.

While debilitating, leg cramps can easily be managed at home. Below I share some at-home remedies that can help ease the discomfort of leg cramps

  1. Stay Hydrated

Tight sore muscles are dehydrated muscles. If dehydration is the issue, then increasing water intake may be one easy way to ease cramps. One way to see if you are drinking enough water is to check the colour of your urine. Dark yellow suggested dehydration, while a light-yellow means that you are adequately hydrated. And if you on a lot of B vitamin, your urine may be bright fluro yellow. If you have concerns, please consult your prenatal care provider.

  1. Stretch it Out

Stretching can also ease a cramp as its occurring and potentially prevent them from cramping. An amazingly simple stretch that you can do in bed is to extend your leg, press your heel down as you pull your toes towards your face. Be careful not to pint your toes that this will contract the area that is cramping and make the cramp worse.

  1. Supplement with Magnesium

Magnesium can be beneficial in reducing leg cramps. Taken either orally as a tablet or powered supplement, applied topically as an oil or gel or soaking in a warm foot spa or bath, magnesium could relieve pain from cramping and potentially prevent cramps from occurring. While the research on using magnesium in this was is limited, anecdotal evidence suggests that it can help. Be sure to check with your prenatal care provider to see if magnesium is right for you.

  1. Gentle Exercise

If lack of exercise is the issue, then gentle exercise may help to prevent and ease cramping. Short, gentle, and slow walks or pregnancy friendly yoga postures can not only help to keep you fit and healthy during pregnancy but can increase blood flow, gently working and strengthening muscles in the lower body. Be sure to check with your prenatal care provider before starting any exercise during pregnancy.

  1. Pleasure over Pain

Have you ever stubbed your toe on something? It hurts like heck, right? And what is the first thing you do, after screaming out a few expletives? You will rub the area that has been injured. When we rub our stubbed toe, our brain floods with endorphins, the body’s “happy feel good chemical”. This type of self-soothing massage can easily be applied to calf cramps. Massage to the calves before bed may help to prevent cramps from occurring. Massage can even be applied during a cramp to ease it. Just ensure that you use pressure that is appropriate to your own needs, and do not cause further pain or discomfort.

 

Just because a symptom is common in pregnancy, does not mean you need to put up with it. These easy home-remedies may be the thing between you and a pain-free, restful sleep during pregnancy.

For more info on ways to manage pregnancy aches and pain, check out the blog archive.

 

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Body Image Lies We Tell Pregnant Women

Early during my pregnancy, I criticized my body in the mirror. “Oh God, I look so fat.” I thought to myself one day as I was getting dressed. It took me a moment to catch this automatic thought, and remind my self that during pregnancy, my belly is meant to expand and that I am in fact, pregnant, not fat.

This got me thinking about the impact that body image has on pregnancy and emotional health and wellbeing.

Entire industries are built on telling women that they need to be prettier, skinnier, fitter, sexier. We are constantly bombarded with messages about how imperfect and unworthy we are. Women are given two societal roles. The Mother or the Whore. And as June Diane Raphael says, “we are both”.

When it comes to pregnancy, it is expected that women will gain weight. It is normal. And encouraged. Suddenly it is OK to indulge in food as women are “eating for two”.

However, women are still bombarded with perfect, soft bumps, glowing and perfect skin and bodies.  Instagram posts show the perfect baby bumps, with elaborately decorated nurseries and well-behaved children. Leaving women feeling inadequate and ill=prepared for their own parenting journey.

So, what does the research say?

An American study by Mehta et al (2011) 1192 pregnant women participated in a study which used the Body Image Assessment for Obesity tool to assess their ideal body size versus their actual body size. The study found that women who stated pregnancy with a higher Body Mass Index (BMI) had an increased risk of excess weight gain if they preferred to be thinner and that women with a lower income had an increased risk of inadequate wight gain, while women with lower education were at risk of excessive weight gain. Mehta et al (2011) suggests that body image and weight perception is not just limited to a desire to be thin but linked to socioeconomic factors such as income and education.

But what about mental health?

A systemic review conducted by Hodgkinson et al (2014) found that women protected their body image by differentiating between “fatness” and pregnancy and utilizing this difference and an excuse to not conform to socially constructed ideals of body image. However, these findings were not consistent during the postpartum period, where studies recognized a strong belief that being fat is not socially acceptable, but pregnancy is.  Furthermore, women were forced to re-negotiate their identity due to pregnancy related changes, changing their identity from a sexually attractive woman to a mother identity. Hodgkinson et al (2014) suggests a need to support women to adopt healthy lifestyles with a focus on desired body image, rather that desired weight.

How do we tie this together?

Body images impacts many women during their pregnancy. Monitoring attitudes to physical appearance is especially important during this time.

Women can engage in nurturing practices to support positive body image attitude during pregnancy:

  • Maintaining a balanced diet, including a variety fresh fruit and vegetables, and limiting processed food.
  • Exercising regularly to support a healthy lifestyle.
  • Drinking plenty of water to keep the body hydrated.
  • Practicing meditation or mindfulness with a focus on accepting the physical changes of pregnancy.
  • Creating positive affirmations to shift mindset, such as “I am Enough”, “I am Beautiful” “I am Worthy of Love”
  • Seeking support from a counselor or psychologist to address mental health and body image issues.

There are some days that I look at my now 28-week bump and think “It kind of looks like I just ate a big lunch.” And other times where I feel like I look the way a pregnant woman should. Soft, round, feminine. I know that my body image will continue to change throughout my pregnancy and into motherhood. Awareness of the impact that body image plays on my own health and wellbeing is the first step that I can take to making positive changes and improving my overall perception and identity of who I am as I transition into this new role.

 

 

References:

Mehta UJ, Siega-Riz AM, and Herring AH, Effect of Body Image on Pregnancy Weight Gain. Maternal and Child Health Journal. 2011 Apr; 15(3): 324–332. Viewed 12-5-2020

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3665282/

 

Hodgkinson EL, Smith DM, and Wittkowski A, Women’s experiences of their pregnancy and postpartum body image: a systematic review and meta-synthesis. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2014; 14: 330.

Viewed 12-5-2020

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4261580/

Blog

I am the 14%

or the 8 simple ways I am regaining control of my gestational diabetes diagnosis…

I have just been diagnosed with gestational diabetes and It is a huge wake up call. Because I must face the facts (that I have ignored for a long time) that I am addicted to sugar.

Before I launch into my experience of gestational diabetes, lets learn a little but more about this condition and how it can impact your pregnancy.

Gestational Diabetes (GD) is a form of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy and most women will no longer have it once baby is born. In Australia, 12-14% of women will develop GD during their pregnancy.

The placenta produces hormone which aid the growth development of the baby. These same hormones can block the action of insulin and create insulin resistance. As a result, the need for insulin is 2-3 times higher than normal.

If GD is not well-managed and blood glucose levels remain high, there may be implications to the pregnancy, such as having a large baby, premature delivery and still birth.

After pregnancy, blood glucose levels usually return to normal and GD can resolve and disappear. In some cases, the insulin resistance can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

Prior to my pregnancy I never had any issues with my blood sugar levels. I knew deep down though that I ate way too much sugary, carby sweet treats and my portion control for meals was out of control. Plus, I know I am an emotional/boredom eater, so this does not help.

And of course, my pregnancy has me craving all manner of unhealthy foods, such as donuts and Maccas (which I never used to eat prior to pregnancy). When my partner expressed concern for my food choices, I would reply “But I’m eating for two now!” Which is such a poor excuse for unhealthy eating, especially when I know that what I eat impacts my baby’s health. * Cue mummy guilt in 3, 2, 1*

I am taking this diagnosis as an opportunity to get my diet into order and make healthier and better choices with how I fuel my body.

With stress and pregnancy affecting my sleep patterns, my serotonin and melatonin levels are a bit out of whack, meaning that I am craving food at all hours. Which makes it hard to stabilize blood sugar levels and manage what I put into my body and when.

Add to this the fact that I must wait a few weeks for my follow up OB appointment and referral to the diabetes educator. I feel a bit lost and alone trying to manage my diet on my own when I have not been great at this before. I feel like I am failing before I even start and placing further risk on my health and my baby’s health.

Despite this, I know there are easy and simple changes I can make, without seeing a doctor. Now, I am not a dietician, or nutrition expert. All I want to do is share my story and what I am doing for myself. Please consult a health professional for advice of managing your gestational diabetes. The purpose here is to share what I am doing to enhance my health and wellbeing.

  1. I have started by cutting out those sugary, carby sweet treats. No more dounts, cakes or pastries. Period. This seems like the easiest and most obvious change I can make to make my blood glucose levels.
  2. I have boosted the number of veggies I eat with each meal. Fresh salad greens or sautéed vegetables are piled on to my plate. Packed full of fiber, vegetables have been helping me to feel fuller for longer and I know that they are good for me.
  3. I am eating more consciously. To do this, I am eating my meals at the dinner table instead of the couch. Where possible I try to focus on just eating, without other distractions. No phone, no TV. I can pay more attention to cues of “fullness” and I eat more slowly meaning that I do not have my usual sugar craving after a meal.
  4. I am swapping foods. Instead mindlessly woofing down a block of Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate for dessert or after dinner snack, I have fruit and Greek yogurt with a few chopped nuts. This is helping me to recognize that dessert is not “bad”, and I can make better choices.
  5. I am focusing on portion control. I am a visual person, so when it comes to food presentation, I aim to have half of my plate full of veggies, ¼ for protein and ¼ with a carb element. I like to fill up on the veg and protein first, before starting on the carb element
  6. I am moving more. Due to self-isolation, I have been going on daily walks. Now I have done my best to up the ante with my exercise. I am walking a few times a day (this helps to alleviate that boredom eating), I have a trusty stationary exercise bike if the weather means I can’t venture outdoors and I have a space to do yoga or pilates to stretch and strengthen.
  7. Hydration is key. I already drink heaps of water and now I am even more aware of how important it is for me to stay hydrated. Drinking water helps me to negotiate whether I am hungry or thirsty as often these cues get confused.
  8. I am minding my language. I am becoming more aware of the way I talk to myself about food. By changing the way I think about food, I can more easily manage sugar cravings and my negative self-talk that is causing “mum guilt”.

While I would prefer to have a completely healthy pregnancy with no medical issues, I am grateful that I can make some long-lasting health changes in my life. My diet was something I knew I had to change but did not know where to start. I am looking forward to the opportunity I have been given to make better choices, improving my health, and enjoying the rest of my pregnancy.

 

For  more information on Gestational Diabetes, please visit Diabetes Australia

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The 4 Ways Massage Helps You Beat Stress During Your Pregnancy

While a welcomed blessing for most, pregnancy brings world of change for all involved. Pregnancy is a time of turbulent emotions, from euphoria and joy to emotional upheaval and anxiety. Relationship, financial and socio-economic stressors can impact the mother’s experience of pregnancy.

 

Flight or Fight

Stress activates the sympathetic nervous system – the body’s internal “flight-or-fight” response when we experience stress. This response stimulates the production of adrenaline, which can be helpful in responding to emergencies, such as stopping a child from running across a busy road, or slamming of the breaks to avoid a collision with another car. However, chronic and continual arousal of the sympathetic nervous system can have detrimental effects to health. In this state, blood supply in prioritised, and can impact the amount of oxygen and blood circulation to the baby.

Most child birth education programs focus on relaxation. There is an increased chance for positive birth experiences in addition to increased well-being for mother and baby when stress-reduction activities become a part of the mother’s routine.

 

Relax and Let Go

Relaxation elicits the parasympathetic nervous system, creating physiological balance and improved functioning. When functioning in a relaxed state, the mother will have steady blood pressure and blood and circulation to the uterus, foetus and placenta; improved immune system functioning; and the ability to respond better to stressful events and a reduced experience of anxiety.

In addition to creating bolstering feelings of well-being, improving functioning and increasing optimism, certain types of massage are relaxing, and cause the mother to shift her focus internally and “let go” of the outside world. This internal reflection is not only soothing, but it can prepare the mother for labour and birth.

Massage is conductive to eliciting relaxation responses as the setting is quiet with minimal disruptions and regular and deep breathing rates can be sustained.

 

Massage the Cornerstone of Relaxation

Pregnancy massage is a time to pause and acknowledge the physical, emotional and mental changes that occur during pregnancy. Not every pregnancy is the same, so treatment is tailored to suit the needs of mum-to-be. Pregnancy Massage uses techniques specific to the common musculoskeletal issues that are unique to pregnancy.

Some of the benefits of pregnancy massage include:

  • Reduced back and joint pain, making you feel more comfortable as your baby develops
  • Improved circulation and blood supply for your baby
  • Reduced oedema and swelling, creating a feeling of lightness
  • Reduced muscle tension and headaches
  • Reduced stress and anxiety, as massage soothes the nervous system and boosts mood
  • Improved oxygenation of soft tissues and muscles
  • Better sleep

 

Comfort Matters

Pregnancy massage is a soothing and nurturing treatment. The comfort of the mother-to-be is paramount and as such, treatment is performed side-lying, with pillows for support at the head and legs and a Denton’s pillow placed under the belly. From a side lying position, the massage therapist has access to the back, hips and glutes which are commonly sore and tense during pregnancy.

Pregnancy Massage assists in remedying many of the common discomforts experienced during pregnancy, such as:

  • muscular discomforts, lower-back pain, upper-back pain, neck pain
  • headaches
  • leg cramps
  • sciatica
  • carpal tunnel syndrome
  • fatigue
  • oedema of the lower extremities
  • sacroiliac and hip joint pain
  • constipation

Ensuring the comfort of mum and baby are the number one priorities when providing a pregnancy treatment. The treatment will only begin when mum and baby feel comfortable on the massage table.

Coordinating your massage treatment with your GP, OB/GYN or midwife appointments ensures that we can provide you with the best treatment relative to you and your baby’s development.

If you would like more information or advice to see if Pregnancy Massage is right for you, contact us or book your next appointment now!

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Mind the Bump – What Happens When There Are More Than Two People in The Treatment Room

Mind the Bump – What Happens When There Are More Than Two People in The Treatment Room

 

It’s no secret that I love what I do. And why wouldn’t I? Every day, I am privileged to support women through pregnancy and into motherhood with massage.

We all know that massage is amazing for the usual aches and pain of life – from spending too much time at your desk, hunched over a computer – to pushing it too hard at the gym on leg day. But massage during pregnancy is a whole other ball game.

Pregnancy is a unique stage of human life and while the muscular discomforts that are experienced are the same, every pregnancy journey is different and affects women is acutely different ways.

One of my mums asked me “What makes pregnancy massage feel so good?” My simple reply was, “Well, I am massaging two of you, so the effect is doubled.”

One of the things that makes pregnancy massage so different is that there are two people on the massage table. And in the case of multiple babies, there will be three or even four people on the table!

One of the greatest privileges I have is massaging a pregnant woman’s abdomen. A lot of women shy away from this. And I get it, the stomach in a sensitive area for most women, especially if there are issues around body image and we tend to store a lot of emotions in this region. But especially in pregnancy, doctors and midwives poke and prod and even complete strangers feel the urge to touch your belly without consent.

In pregnancy massage balance is vital. Back spasms are common in pregnancy and this can be the bodies attempt to balance the body as the center of gravity shifts forward to cope with the weight of baby and postural changes.

The benefits of massaging the abdomen are numerous. Massage supports the abdominal muscles, eases the load on the lumbar spine and can aid in alleviating the abdominal separation. In addition to the physical benefits, massage can enhance the mother-baby connection. During this time, the mother can draw her attention to her abdomen and connect with the movements of her baby.

Quite often during am abdomen massage, I can feel the baby kick, or press again my palm. And I must admit this is a special moment too. It’s moments like this the may me realise that mum is not the only one receiving the benefits of the massage.

The quote “good for mum, good for baby” rings true in the scope of pregnancy massage. Whatever mum is experiencing, baby will experience.  It is important that mum makes time to relax and look after herself.

If you want to learn more about how massage can help you during your pregnancy, please contact Laura on 0407 512 009 or book an appointment now.

 

For more information on the benefits of pregnancy massage, please visit the blog archive.