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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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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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7 Secrets For A Comfortable Pregnancy and Labour

It’s really no secret that pregnancy can be difficult at times. Aside from the morning sickness (or any time of day sickness), aches and pain, swollen feet and insomnia seem to be part and parcel of growing a tiny human from scratch.
But that doesn’t mean you need to struggle through it.

I speak to a lot of mums and couples that are anxious about labour and childbirth. I have discovered that it doesn’t matter if it’s your first pregnancy or your second or third, anxiety and apprehension can still exist.

In my latest blog post, I delve into the secrets to make pregnancy and birth a better experience, pooling together all the conversations I have had with my clients so far.

 

  1. Regular Massage (before baby comes along)

A no brainer for me, the pregnancy massage specialist. Massage during pregnancy can help reduce back and joint pain, improve circulation and blood supply for your baby, and improve sleep. But did you know that massage also reduces stress and anxiety, as it soothes the nervous system and boosts mood. Pregnancy massage is a specialized treatment that uses techniques specific to the common musculoskeletal issues that are unique to pregnancy, while also promoting relaxation and enhancing the mother-baby connection. Learn more about pregnancy massage here.

  1. Nutrition

During pregnancy proper nutrition is important. I often treat mums who are diagnosed with gestational diabetes. I always recommend my clients seek support from a dietitian or nutritionist if they need help during their pregnancy.  When it comes to Labour, remember its long-game. Plan and ensure that you are fueling your body with nourishing food that will go the distance. Small regular snacks can help.

  1. Pea-sized Bladder

One thing I ask my clients before their massage is if they need to go to the bathroom before we start the treatment. During pregnancy you will go to the toilet – frequently. Afterall, you do have a tiny human using your bladder as a pillow, so there’s no wonder why you have the urge to pee every 5 minutes (or less).

  1. Get More Sleep

Pregnant women are tired. Why? Well, it takes a lot of energy to create a whole new person. It’s exhausting work. Massage during pregnancy can help to improve sleep patterns. Often my clients tell me that slept well the night of their massage. During the early stages of labour It may seem like an impossible task – but try to sleep. As we are mammals, we tend to natural labour at night, when it is safest. Try to rest as much as you can. This will help to build you energy reserves as labour can last forever!

  1. Do a Poo before you bear down

Bearing down and pushing a baby from your vagina mimics the actions required to do a poo. And women can poo during birth. Simple as that. But not to worry, the doctors and nurses will ensure that your baby is not covered in poo, and the clean-up will be swift and quick. It will mean however that another boundary between you and your partner will be crossed. But hey, at the end of the day you will have a baby and what is better than that?

  1. Hang out in Down Dog

Gentle exercise during pregnancy can help support your body as it changes. Relaxing in the lead up to labour will do wonders once contractions start. Most pre-natal yoga classes focus on breathwork, as well as movement and stretching. You can use these techniques in the birth suite to help you feel comfortable and relaxed.

  1. Labour Massage

Having partner confident if giving massage can help mum to feel more relaxed, with reduced feelings of anxiety and apprehension about the birth. Physical touch can boost oxytocin, a must for labour, and massage can bring couples closer together. Massage at home and then recommencing at hospital can help to stabilize contractions, which often stall during travel from home to hospital (or other birth place). Plus, massage gives your partner a role during labour and helps them to become involved in the birth. Learn more about partner massage here.

 

If you would like more information about our services contact us or book your next appointment now!

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Is Your Fanny My Business?

You Want Me To Massage My What….?

Yep, you read correctly… this post is a bit intimate and personal, but nevertheless extremely important for women, especially first-time mums.

There has been a great deal of research to demonstrate the benefits antenatal perineal massage.

A recent study by Ugwu et al. (2018) found that antenatal perineal massage reduced the need for episiotomy and ensured that the perineum remained intact after delivery as well as implications for reduced post-natal incontinence. Shahoei et al (2017) found that when the perineum was massaged during the second stage of labour the need for episiotomy was reduced in addition to injury and pain.

And while perineal massage is not something that a massage therapist will perform on a client, it is something that you can do, within the privacy of your own home, alone or with your partners help.

 

So, What is Perineal Massage?

Perineal massage helps to increase the stretchiness and flexibility of the perineum by stretching the skin of the birth outlet and helping you to prepare you for the sensations of tingling, burning or stinging as your baby’s head is born.  The massage can be performed by you or your partner to stretch the perineum by rubbing the area with fingers or thumbs. It may reduce your risk of having a tear or needing an episiotomy post-partum.

 

And Where is the Perineum?

The perineum is the area of skin between the vagina and the anus. During a vaginal childbirth, this area stretches to allow your baby to be born. Particularly with your first birth, this area gets stretched as the head is being born and may tear a little as the head comes out. Performing perineal massage on yourself towards the end of your pregnancy can help prevent this from happening.

Studies have shown that perineal massage can reduce tearing at birth for women having their first baby, ensure you are more comfortable and recover more quickly following the birth, help you enhance the bond with your baby better and are able to care for them more easily.

 

When should I not perform perineal massage?

Perineal massage should not be performed:

  • Before 34 weeks of pregnancy
  • If you have a low lying placenta (placenta praevia)
  • If you have genital herpes, thrush or other vaginal infection, which may spread to other areas
  • If you or your partner has an open wound or infection on the hands or fingers

 

When should I start?

It is recommended that perineal massage starts between 34-35 weeks of your pregnancy. It can be done once a day. Initially you may experience a strong stretching or burning sensation but over time you may start to notice a change in the flexibility and stretchiness of the skin and these feelings should decrease.

 

Getting Started

Before starting perineal massage, you should:

  • Empty your bladder
  • Wash your hands
  • Find a relaxing place to perform perineal massage, such as your bathroom, bedroom or anywhere else you feel comfortable.
  • Sit or lean back. It may help to prop your hips comfortably with a pillow
  • A warm bath or warm compress on the perineum for 10 minutes before may help with relaxation
  • Using a mirror for the first few times will help you to become familiar with the area you are massaging
  • You can do the massage yourself, but you may find it easier for your partner to do it
  • Use lubrication– this can be olive, wheat germ or almond oil or vitamin e cream

 

 

How to perform the perineal massage

  • Put the lubricant on your thumbs and around the perineum
  • Place your thumbs just inside the vagina, about 3-4 cm in depth
  • Press downward and to the sides at the same time, stretching your vagina open as wide as possible until you feel a tingling or burning sensation. Pause and take a deep breath
  • Keeping a steady pressure move your thumbs from side to side in a ‘u’ shaped motion. The area may become a little numb and you won’t feel the tingling as much
  • Hold the stretch for 45-60 seconds and then release
  • Massage with more oil and stretch again to maximum hold then release. Do this daily for about 5– 10 minutes

 

At first your perineum will feel tight but as you practice the tissues will relax and stretch. Focus on relaxed breathing, relaxing the pelvic floor muscles and allowing the tissues to stretch.

 

If your partner is helping you do perineal massage – ensure they use clean hands and either their thumbs or one to two index fingers inside the lower part of the vagina. It is important to tell your partner how much pressure to apply without causing too much discomfort or pain.

 

Resources:

Ugwu EO, Iferikigwe ES, Obi SN, Eleje G, Ozumba BC, 2018. Effectiveness of antenatal perineal massage in reducing perineal trauma and post-partum morbidities: A randomized controlled trial. The journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Research.

Shahoei R, Zaheri F, Nasab LH, Ranaei F 2017. The effect of perineal massage during the second stage of birth on nulliparous women perineal: A randomization clinical trial. Electronic Physician.

 

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The 3 Reasons Why Pregnancy Is A Pain In The BUTT

… And What You Can Do About It NOW!

 

It’s no secret that pregnancy can be painful. In fact, I’ve written about it before (in this blog on the 3 Ways to Beat Pregnancy Pain).

A lot of my clients tell me that their doctors aren’t too helpful in helping them understand their pain, which why I have compiled this list of the 3 main causes of hip/back and glute pain in pregnancy and most importantly how massage during pregnancy can help you reduce pain, feel freer and more engergised!

 

Pelvic Girdle Pain (AKA: Pelvic Girdle instability)

 

Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP) is a condition can affect 20% of women during pregnancy. PGP can occur due to changes in ligaments because of the hormone relaxin, which increases joint laxity.

Every day activities such as walking or standing can aggravate and cause strain within the joint. Pain may not be felt until several hours later. In some cases, pain can be constant.

PGP can be managed by avoid aggravating activities, such as lifting and weight bearing activities.  Strengthening exercise that support the abdominals, pelvic floor and lower back can also be beneficial.

Massage can also help alleviate the symptoms of PGP through releasing tight muscles and ligaments in the glutes, hips and lower back.

 

Round Ligament Pain

Several ligaments support the uterus as the foetus grows. One of these ligaments is called the round ligament. The role of the round ligament is to keep the uterus in a forward titled position.

As the round ligament stretches due to foetal growth pain can be felts from the top of the uterus to the groin and can even extend to the vulvar and upper thigh.

Depending on foetal positioning pain can be felt on one side, or both sides.

Massaging the abdomen can help to alleviate round ligament pain by assisting in maintaining uterine positioning and stabilising the lower back.

 

Sciatic Pain

Sciatica is the name given to a series of symptoms, not a specific problem. The sciatic nerve runs down the lower back, through the glutes and innervates the lower leg and feet.

A slipped or injured disc can be the primary cause of sciatica, but sometimes, the functioning of the nerve can be affected, causing pins and needles or pain down the back of your leg.

In some cases, tight gluteal muscles can mimic the pain symptoms of sciatica. Massage can assist in releasing tight glute muscles and provide support to balance the lower back.

 

The next step…

Just because pain during pregnancy is common does not mean that you must put up with it. Understanding the cause of pain can help in alleviating the symptoms so that you can have a happy and healthy pregnancy.

 

Struggling with Pregnancy Aches? Book a Massage now!