Cramp during Pregnancy

Hands up who has suffered cramp?

This is an often incredibly painful and annoying condition, and cramp during pregnancy is very common. It tends to start during the second trimester and can affect the buttocks, thighs, calf’s and feet.

Cramp attacks tend to occur without warning and usually during periods of rest/sleep or first thing in the morning.

cramp during pregnancy

The cause of cramp during pregnancy is unknown, but it is thought that it is either by the increased weight from the pregnancy causing the muscles to fatigue, thereby causing spasm and pain or the expanding uterus putting pressure on the nerves and the blood vessels that return blood from your lower body.

It is also a theory that calcium deficiency and electrolyte imbalance can be a factor of cramp, but there has been no proven science that this is the case.

So to be on the safe side make sure you eat a balanced diet including lots of whole grains and leafy vegetables to make sure you are not deficient.

Also avoid carbonated drinks as this may interfere with the absorption of electrolytes.

How to Prevent Leg Cramps

  • Massage is extremely beneficial for relaxing and reducing the tension in muscles that cause spasms and increases the circulation to tired muscles
  • Avoid standing and sitting for long periods of time as this causes pooling of the blood in the vessels in the calf’s
  • Gentle stretches taught at pregnancy yoga can be very beneficial, especially prior to bed
  • Calf stretches prior to bed to stretch out your muscles
  • Support stockings during the day maybe helpful for some

What to do if I get Cramp?

When a cramp attack arrives, gently raise your toes up towards you to stretch your calf muscle, or you can do this by using a towel behind your toes and gently stretch towards you and this should relieve the cramp, the pain may increase, but then should ease off.

After the pain has gone, gently massage the area to relax and soothe the muscle.

Seek Further Advice

If the pain does not relieve itself or if you get swelling, heat or redness in the area, please see your G.P. or Midwife immediately to rule out other underlying clotting problems.

Gestational Diabetes Mellitus

Gestational DiabetesGestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM)

This usually develops during the 2nd trimester (usually from around weeks 24-28), but if found in the first trimester, this is usually because diabetes was un-diagnosed prior to pregnancy.

It can affect up to 4% of pregnancies and Gestational Diabetes usually arises because of lack of insulin to meet the extra needs of the pregnancy.

It is a manageable condition, where you will be referred to a dietitian who will advise you about what foods you should and shouldn’t eat to keep your blood sugars in check.  If they can not be controlled then you may need to take tablets or insulin injections to treat the diabetes.

Usually Gestational Diabetes will go after the baby is born, but you are more likely to get it with subsequent pregnancies and there is a 30% chance that you will develop Type 2 Diabetes later in life (general population is 10%).

Diagnosis is with a Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT), where it involves a blood test prior to breakfast after having fasted between 8 – 12 hours, then again 2 hours after a sweet glucose drink, to measure your blood glucose levels.

The results of a OGTT:

For people without diabetes: 

  • Fasting – Under 6mmol/L
  • After 2 Hours – Under 7.8mmol/L

People with Impaired Glucose Tolerance (IGT):

  • Fasting – 6.0mmol/L to 7.0mmol/L
  • After 2 hours – 7.9mmol/L – 11.0mmol/L

Diabetic levels:

  • Fasting – Over 7.0mmol/L
  • After 2 hours – over 11.0mmol/L

Symptoms of Gestational Diabetes:

Normally you will not notice any symptoms with gestational diabetes, this is why you will have a routine check at around 24-28 weeks of your pregnancy.  But occasionally you may notice some of the following:-

  • Increased thirst
  • Urinating more than normal
  • Increased tiredness

But these symptoms are also associated with pregnancy and will most probably not be caused by GDM, but if you notice them, please tell your Dr or Midwife, so they can arrange for you to be checked.

Complications of Gestational Diabetes:

When Gestational Diabetes is uncontrolled it can lead to the following:

  • Pre-Eclampsia
  • Premature labour – prior to 37 weeks
  • Increased baby weight – as the higher blood sugar levels may make the baby put on extra weight – which could make labour and birth more difficult or increase the chances of a Caesarean.

Causes of Gestational Diabetes:

  • Being overweight or obese increases your chances of GDM
  • Previously had GDM in other pregnancies
  • Family history of Diabetes
  • Have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
  • Previously had a large baby over 4.5kg/9lb 15oz

Maternity Photographer – Jo Douet Images (Guest Blog)

I am very pleased to share with you a guest blog from a very talented maternity photographer (who also did my headshots!) Jo Douet from Jo Douet Images, based in Walton on Thames, Surrey.

Jo Douet  Images LogoAbout Jo Douet

I am a maternity, newborn and family photographer based in Walton on Thames, Surrey. I am a mum to two beautiful girls (and yes, I am biased).

I so wished I had had some beautiful professional photos taken whilst I was pregnant with my babies, except the sideways pose lifting up my top to expose the bump just before heading off to hospital!

I think that many pregnant women may be hesitant about getting maternity portraits but the right maternity photographer should make the process a fun and enjoyable experience.

What is the best time to get Maternity portraits done?

maternity photography - Jo Douet Images

I tell my clients that the best time to get their pregnancy photos done between 34 – 37 weeks of pregnancy.

Before that, you may not be fully showing but also importantly best not to leave it too late on in the pregnancy as the mum-to-be will be more uncomfortable and also the baby may make an early appearance and you may miss the opportunity altogether.

I always tell my clients to contact me after they have had their 20 week scan to book in a session. As with newborn sessions, these sessions are flexible and can be brought forward or backwards if needed.

Help Her Feel Beautiful

As a maternity photographer you want to help the Mum to be feel good about her ever changing body. Most women in stages through out their pregnancy will not feel that great about their new growing shape, so it is my job to make sure I light them and position them in a way that emphasizes their bump, but also makes sure it is a flattering pose and above all a comfortable pose for them to hold.

Don’t Forget the Partner, Siblings… or the dog!

Including the rest of the family, even if it’s the pet pooch can make the shoot more relaxed and fun. Siblings are adorable in maternity portraits and involving them and your partner is an important part of them bonding with their unborn brother or sister, son or daughter and highlights the connection you all have.

What to wear?

It is important that you take into account your sense of style and types of photos you are looking for, as well as your level of comfort. Whilst some women prefer conservative and ‘traditional’ looks, many more are beginning to choose artistic (even nude) approaches. Either way, the mum and the belly are the highlights – make sure to choose clothing that won’t take any attention away from the true ‘stars’ of the show! Avoid clothes with busy patterns which can be distracting.

Form fitting clothes – boob tubes, strapless bras, tight tank tops, a mans buttoned down shirt, under the bump jeans or yoga pants, empire line dresses and so on are great items for a shoot.

Refrain from wearing any overly tight clothing prior to the shoot. This primarily applies to elastic in waistbands, bras, and socks. Tight elastic will leave marks on the skin, and won’t look very good in the photo.

The photographer will experiment with different angles such as standing, sitting on the edge of a seat, or laying down on a blanket. Poses can be limited as the mum-to-be may not be able to move about so easily and may find some poses uncomfortable so choosing the right angles, varied angles and lighting is so important during a pregnancy shoot.

Keep hair and make up simple and natural – This is no time to be experimenting with a new look.  Clean finger and toe nails as these may be in shot!

Where should my shoot take place?

Studio ~ So many maternity sessions are done in studio ~ this simplifies your surroundings in a dedicated photographic studio – no back ground clutter to take the attention away from you and your bump.

Lifestyle ~ either in your home, baby’s nursery, familiar surroundings and artifacts in the photo’s – The mum to be may feel more relaxed in her own home or in the great outdoors amongst nature – perhaps a favourite park or venue.

Clients should look at the photographer’s portfolio to see which type of session produces the type of photos they actually want to have. And lastly a good photographer should have web presence, showcasing his or her portfolio and testimonials recommending and raving about their work.

Pregnancy Photo - Jo Douet Images

Contact Jo to find out more about her maternity photography:

Website: jodouetimages.co.uk  Mobile: 07766 142712

Jo Douet Images Logo

Pregnancy and Postnatal Massage – The Benefits

Pregnancy Massage | Post-Natal Massage

As a specialist Pregnancy and Postnatal massage therapist, I thought in this blog post I would explain the benefits of regular massages during pregnancy and postnatally how it can help restore your body to a pre-pregnancy state.

During my pregnancy massage I use a special bodyCushion which allows you to lie on your front in total comfort and is very safe for you and your baby.  All my client’s love this cushion as they have not been able to lie on their fronts for quite some time.

I massage from the 12th week of pregnancy, once you have had your first scan and use the special cushion.  The cushion is also great to use once the baby is born as it has cut outs for the abdomen and chest area, which takes the pressure off those areas, especially when the milk is coming in.

I can also use Aromatherapy Essential Oils to enhance the benefits of the massage that are safe for both you and baby.  They are a huge benefit during pregnancy especially if you are suffering sciatica, cramp, aches and pains and stretch marks.

Pregnancy is a wonderful time for a woman, but is also a time of  many physical changes due to the extra weight from the baby putting pressure on joints, ligaments and organs often causing discomfort and pain.

Not only can pregnancy massage be physically beneficial, but the human touch can be comforting and provide emotional support during your pregnancy and preparation for giving birth. Pregnancy massage therapy has also been found to reduce anxiety and depression.

Research shows that the babies can also benefit greatly from massage as the “feel good” endorphins released by the mother during the massage are passed onto the baby.  I often feel the baby come up to the surface to have a little massage of their own.

Receiving regular massage throughout the pregnancy is a great way to nurture your body and become aware of the growing baby within.  This also helps with the ability to relax during labour often resulting in shorter and easier births, less pain and a lower rate of postnatal complications.

The benefits of pregnancy massage:-

  • Induces deep relaxation and peaceful sleep – When you are relaxed you will find that your sleep improves.
  • Helps to reduce emotional stress, anxiety and creates a sense of well-being – as already stated pregnancy is a time of great change and this, along with fluctuating hormones and broken sleep can sometimes cause stress levels to rise.   This is ok as long as the stress is also balanced with time to relax and be nurtured.   Regular massage gives you the space to deeply relax and rejuvenate and the time to enjoy your pregnancy and transition into motherhood.
  • Eases pregnancy discomfort  – Massage can soothe back and shoulder pain, sciatica, cramp, sore hips and tired legs.
  • Stimulation of the circulation – This will distribute essential nutrients and fluid to all the vital organs, especially the placenta which will feed and aid the development of the baby.
  • Reduces swelling – Massage eases oedema in the feet, legs, hands and wrists, and helps to avoid varicose veins from developing.
  • Blood pressure – Helps to lower or keep blood pressure balanced.
  • Oxytocin – Massage encourages the release of Oxytocin which is a pain reducing hormone providing vital relief of pain during labour and birth.

The Postnatal Period

The birth of your baby will bring much joy and great happiness.  Both physically and emotionally the postpartum is a time of great change.  Postnatal massage is a good way to take care of yourself  following the birth and having regular massages during the first year especially weekly for the first 6 weeks.  (You are welcome to bring your baby whilst having your post-natal massage).

After having a baby, a mother’s life and her body are changed forever.  Massage can support these changes and help lay the foundations for long-term emotional and physical health for both mother and baby.

When to start postnatal massage

For mother’s that delivered naturally or without complications then you can have a massage whenever you are comfortable and ready.  For those that had Caesarian delivery, it is best to wait at least 2 weeks just so that the scar can heal.

Benefits of Postnatal massage:-

  • Provides deep relaxation – This is extremely important when you are exhausted due to broken sleep from night feeds and gives you time to care for yourself boosting energy levels and reducing feelings of anxiety and stress.
  • Helps promote postnatal recovery – Helping to restore you to a  pre-pregnancy state.  Your body may feel alien to you following the birth, so massage can help you re-adjust and return to your non-pregnant state, also reducing your uterus to the normal size.
  • Postnatal depression – May help prevent and provide support in cases of post-natal depression.
  • Eases aches and pains – Helps to ease back pain and neck pain from carrying the baby and breastfeeding.
  • Circulation – Helps to eliminate excess body fluids and reduces fluid retention.

Pregnancy and Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP)

What is Pelvic Girdle Pain?

Pelvic girdle pain (PGP), which used to be known as Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD).

PGP/SPD is a debilitating condition during pregnancy that causes pain, discomfort and mobility problems.

The Symphysis Pubis is the fibro-cartilaginous joint between the 2 pelvic bones at the front, but PGP can also be caused by instability with the sacroiliac joints at the back of the pelvis.

Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP) or Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction

Source: http://www.piaaustralia.com/_what_is_pgp.html

Source

During pregnancy your body produces a hormone called Relaxin that softens the ligaments around the pelvis, which allows the baby to pass through the birth canal as easily as possible.

Unfortunately this can allow your ligaments to move too much causing the joints to become increasingly mobile which leads to the pelvis becoming unstable and “grind” together, causing pain and inflammation.

This may not present a problem to a lot of pregnant women, but for some the movement can be unbearable and treatment needs to be   to help ease the pain.

The symphysis pubis gap in a non-pregnant woman is 4-5mm, but can move 2-3mm in pregnancy. Symphysis diastasis is when the gap is more than 10mm wide and can be diagnosed by X-ray, MRI or ultrasound.

What causes SPD/PGP?

SPD/PGP is caused by a combination of hormone changes during pregnancy and body movement, plus the extra weight of the baby putting pressure on the pelvic bones.

Other risk factors that can increase your chances of getting symphysis pubis dysfunction is women who are hyper-flexible when non pregnant, also women that have over stretched the joint prior to pregnancy i.e. ballet dancer/gymnast’s etc.

Women with pre-existing pelvic injuries with uneven strain of the symphysis pubis can mean there is uneven pulling on each side.

Weak abdominal and/or pelvic floor muscles, possibly due to lack of movement in sedentary modern lifestyles i.e. sat at office desks and driving around rather than walking.

When can PGP/SPD occur?

PGP/SPD can occur any time in the pregnancy, during labour or postnatally.  In the first pregnancy it can appear from the 3rd trimester and usually starts earlier in subsequent pregnancies.

When it occurs in labour, it is usually because of being in stirrups for a long time.

What are the symptoms of PGP/SPD?

The main symptom of PGP/SPD is pain and this can be anywhere on the pelvic region either at the front with the symphysis pubis or the back along the sacro-iliac joints.

Pain can also be felt around the coccyx, one or both hips, lower abdomen, groin and inner thigh.

The types of pain that can be felt is either a bruised feeling, burning sensation, aching, sharp or simply heavy feelings of muscle fatigue.

The pain can be mild to severe, intermittent or constant chronic pain.

Other symptoms that can be associated with PGP is:-

  • Clicking or grinding
  • Bladder dysfunction
  • Waddling gait

Assessment of PGP

Assessment is usually based on pain and limitation of movement and the condition is referred to instability or dysfunction.

The signs are groin pain when:

  • Walking
  • Turning over in bed at night
  • Getting in and out of the car
  • After doing stretches or during doing stretches which involve abduction
  • Standing on one leg getting dressed/undressed
  • Lifting one leg at a time i.e. going up stairs
  • Weight bearing/lifting

Treatment

The treatment you receive will depend on the severity of your symptoms, but can include some or all of the following:-

  • Painkillers – prescribed by the GP
  • Physiotherapy – They will give you exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, give you advice on what you should avoid doing and information on how PGP might impact your labour.
  • Massage – help with relaxing and loosening up tight muscles around lower back, hips and thighs
  • Osteopath/Chiropractor – to help relieve symptoms – see a registered practitioner who is trained and experienced in working with pregnant women
  • Pelvic support belt – to give quick relief

Are there any self help tips?

  • Pelvic floor exercises to strengthen the muscles
  • Try not to move your legs apart, imagine you have a band around your legs keeping them together
  • Take care getting in and out of cars, beds and baths, move legs together
  • Rest to give your joints time to heal
  • But move little and often, you might not get the pain until later or when you have gone to bed
  • Go up steps slowly, one step at a time.
  • Know your limits, do not push through the pain!

Will having PGP/SPD affect my labour?

It does not stop you having a normal vaginal delivery, but having PGP/SPD will mean that your birth plan will need careful planning with your midwife or consultant, i.e. avoid stirrups if at all possible, giving birth in all fours position or the position that you find most comfortable.

Make sure everyone looking after you is aware that you have PGP/SPD, especially when it comes to examinations and the pushing phase so that you stay within your comfort level.

Any time you have pain, do not suffer in silence, get checked out by your Midwife or Consultant, as the quicker you get treatment the quicker you will be pain free!