Home > Health Articles > Pregnancy: How Can Bodywork Help Your Aches and Pains?

Pregnancy and birth can be one of the most joyous as well as one of the most nerve-wracking experiences in a person’s life, whether they are experiencing it for themselves, or watching a loved one go through it. Throughout pregnancy the body goes through many changes, and, for some, not all of the experiences of pregnancy are pleasant ones. Such problems as morning sickness, headaches, sciatica, insomnia, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, headaches, and edema are common during pregnancy. It is important to avoid substances such as caffeine, and most common, over-the-counter drugs unless directed to take them by a physician, so alternative methods of treatment can be an essential aspect to enjoying pregnancy.

Pregnancy Symptoms and Landmarks

Most women start to feel changes within their bodies even before having a positive pregnancy test. The first symptoms most women experience are nausea and/or breast tenderness. The second trimester usually sees the morning sickness to an end and starts the accelerated growth of the fetus and the uterus. During this time ligaments begin to stretch and women may find that their muscles seem to be softer. This will help with the birth process later on, but the changes during this time can be frustrating at times, as clumsiness and forgetfulness are common from this point up through the third trimester and delivery. Such things as body temperature regulation become major issues as the third trimester launches the final changes in both the woman’s and the baby’s bodies to prepare for the occasion of birth.

The best time to prepare for pregnancy and birth is long before conception. Proper nutrition and exercise for both the woman and her partner are essential for a successful conception and pregnancy. Substances such as caffeine can inhibit fertility and, later, increase the chance of miscarriage. When planning a pregnancy, alcohol, cigarette smoke, and drugs of any variety (legal or illegal) should also be avoided, unless directed otherwise or approved by a physician.

First Trimester
Second Trimester
Third Trimester
The mineral Zinc has been shown to increase fertility when taken by both parties.
Nausea, vomiting, and breast tenderness may indicate early pregnancy: even before a missed period.
Nausea usually decreases at this time, while appetite increases. Most women begin to “show” around 4 months.
By this time the mode of delivery should be selected—whether at home, in a birth center, or at a hospital. Written birth plans can help avoid unnecessary C-sections.
Some women may plan to stay at home, others plan on returning to work after their maternity leave is over. The first few days are a special time for the new family to bond.
Good nutrition and exercise should be part of a woman’s daily life before she even conceives.
Exhaustion is frequent in the first 6 weeks of pregnancy, as well as after.
At around 10-20 weeks the baby’s heartbeat may be detected.
Women should gain 10-15 lbs during the last trimester.
Breastfeeding is a healthy solution that may not be for everyone, there are great resources available about the pros and cons of breastfeeding.
Avoid contact with harmful chemicals, caffeine, cigarette smoke, and other substances that may diminish fertility and, pending conception, cause possible birth defects and/or miscarriage.
Food cravings and aversions may begin to appear along with the positive pregnancy test. If these include non-edibles such as clay, dirt, or bleach, a physician should be consulted.
Movement is usually felt around 16-20 weeks. At about 28-26 weeks the baby’s sex may be able to be determined via ultrasound.
It is common at this time for a woman feel sciatica pains, as well as edema. Insomnia may also be an increasing problem due to discomfort.
Babies should never, under any circumstances, be shaken. If necessary to wake baby, brush fingers against the bottoms of his feet.
Many women find that keeping track of their cycle over the period of a few months or more may help them get in tune with their bodies and increase the chance of quick conception.
The baby develops all of his essential internal organs and structure during this time. Proper amounts of folic acid are especially necessary during the first trimester.
Many women may feel an increase in libido during this time, this is normal and perfectly safe unless a physician directs otherwise.
Carrying a baby shifts a woman’s center of balance and she may find herself feeling awkward and clumsy. This may also cause muscle strain and fatigue.
The more a baby is interacted with, the more they learn. Touch, especially, is important during early development.


Through out pregnancy proper nutrition and exercise are very important. The exception to this, of course, is if there are complications and the mother is put on bed rest. It may be difficult for a woman to exercise at times, as pregnancy is often associated with exhaustion. Short walks every day, or some form of activity may actually help boost the energy levels in a pregnant woman.

Nutrition is also very important. The growing fetus needs plenty of protein and vitamins to grow healthy bone structure and musculature. If the mother’s diet does not provide those essentials, the baby may pirate them directly from the mother’s body. This can result in loose teeth, headaches, and weight loss in the mother. A healthy, well-balanced diet should prevent such problems. In the first trimester, especially, folic acid is an essential part of the pregnancy diet. Folic acid may also help reduce the symptoms of morning sickness.

Because of the risk of miscarriage, most bodywork should not be done during the first trimester. The exception to this is some gentle acupuncture. This may help with morning sickness. There are several trigger-points that a practitioner can show to the new mother, that may help alleviate some of the nausea. Motion sickness bands also are said to help relieve some of the nausea.

It is very important for the new mother to listen to her body. Strange cravings may be telling her that her body is lacking in a vital nutrient for her growing baby. Exhaustion indicates that the mother needs to lie back a little and rest. As the day of birth draws nearer and nearer it is important for the woman to be an active participant in her pregnancy and the birth process. Writing out a clear, concise, detailed birth plan is always a good idea. This plan may include who the mother would like to be at the birth, where the birth will be located (hospital, birth center, or home), whether the mother plans on an epidural or to take drugs for the labor, etc. Birth plans have been shown to prevent unnecessary C-sections, which have been high in number in the past few years. If the mother knows what she wants before had and communicates that to those around her she is more likely to find satisfaction in the birth process.

Difficulties and Treatment

Pregnancy has its ups and downs. There are many old wives’ tales about how to treat the less charming aspects of pregnancy, but there are some simple guidelines that may help alleviate the problems altogether.

Morning Sickness— The pregnant woman should eat something, like soda crackers, before getting up in the morning. Keeping something in her stomach at all times should help with nausea and vomiting. If nausea and vomiting are a persistent problem, motion sickness bands and acupuncture may help. If vomiting is extreme and dehabilitating a physician should be consulted.

Muscle pain— Pregnancy stretches several muscles, while shifting a heavier burden of weight onto others, making muscle pain common in pregnant women. After the first trimester is over, prenatal massage by a license therapist should help the expecting mother relax and relieve her body of the tensions her new center of mass may create.

Headaches— Taking medication is never a good idea while pregnant, if it can be avoided. Craniosacral work, shiatsu, acupuncture, or massage may help relieve the tensions that lead to headaches in a pregnant woman. If headaches become chronic a physician should be consulted.

Edema— Despite what women were taught for years, cutting salt out of your diet during pregnancy is not necessarily a good thing. Women today are told to consume salt during pregnancy “to taste” without going to extremes. Salt intake may help reduce fluid retention. Exercise also helps with edema, as the increased circulation can help move the fluid through the body at a proper rate. Massage also can help increase circulation and help reduce some edema as the mother relaxes.

Sciatica— Sciatic pain is common in pregnant woman. The best treatments for sciatica are prenatal massage and acupuncture. This should help relieve the pain.

Fortunately, today is one of the best times to have children. While women with diabetes and other diseases were told in the past to avoid having children, medical technology has advanced to the point when women of all walks of life and with all sorts of health histories are being able to have children. Many great resources are available on all aspects of pregnancy, online, in books, and with midwives or obstetricians themselves. Classes are available at most birth centers to help a woman know what her pregnancy choices are.