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For most women, pregnancy is not a cakewalk! I can only speak for myself and my experience, but pregnancy (particularly the first and third trimester) kicked my butt! The third trimester comes with its own list of challenges and uncomfortable symptoms, and it’s oftentimes easy to take a conventional approach to manage them (painkillers, Tums, etc.). However, many symptoms can be managed just as effectively with a natural/holistic remedy!
I do want to emphasize again that I am not a medical doctor. I am not a midwife or doula and have no formal medical or birth training. I AM however a brand new mom who is fresh out of the third trimester (and in the fourth at the time of writing this). I worked with my midwives to manage my uncomfortable pregnancy symptoms, using natural and holistic remedies, and I would like to share what worked for me and what I learned!
Always consult your provider before supplementing or using tinctures or herbs. Hopefully, you can find a good midwife or other naturally-minded practitioner. I had a wonderful experience under the care of midwives, and really can’t recommend midwifery enough as opposed to conventional care! An experienced midwife is really invaluable when managing symptoms holistically!
There are MANY more uncomfortable symptoms that women experience, such as swelling, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, etc, but because I didn't experience these symptoms, I won’t write about what to do for them. This list is based on my own experience and what worked for me, which I hope you find valuable!
Here is a list of common pregnancy symptoms and ways of managing them:
Poor sleep can be caused by a LOT of things I learned. Restless leg syndrome, leg cramps, itching, a kicking baby, racing thoughts/anxiety, and then just good ole plain insomnia. Here are some of the things that worked for me:
1. Create a cozy nighttime routine. A warm Epsom salt bath with essential oils, a podcast, and candles was AMAZING at helping me wind down for bed. The last few weeks of pregnancy I did this almost every night! Bonus, the Epsom salts are great for leg cramps, and the essential oils are great for itching (especially peppermint, as it has a cooling effect that lasts even after the bath). Limiting screen time and/or blue light-blocking glasses is also very beneficial.
2. I learned that restless leg syndrome is often caused by low iron. Iron drops naturally in all pregnant women in the third trimester as blood volume increases rapidly (to prepare for birth). I increased iron by supplementing beef liver, spirulina, chlorophyll, and n.o.r.a. tea. I also increased my consumption of beef, beans, oatmeal, and orange juice.
This was all under the supervision of my midwife, so please consult your provider when supplementing.
Feelings of anxiety and being overwhelmed were big for me in the third trimester. I felt like there was so much to do, so much to learn, and so much that could go wrong to worry about! What helped me was:
1. Making lists. This may not be an effective way of managing anxiety and overwhelm for many people, but it is one of my personal favorite ways of just getting the thoughts out of my head and organizing them onto paper where I can work through them and cross them off. I made lists of things I wanted to research, things I wanted to do, things I felt needed to be cleaned, etc. I just kept these lists on the notes app on my phone and slowly chipped away at them as I had the energy. One day I would clean a section of the house while listening to a podcast on spinning babies. And the next day, I would listen to a book on hypnobirthing while organizing baby clothes. And then I could go and cross those items off my various lists. If you think your brain may be similar to mine, give it a shot.
Aches and Pains
I experienced a lot of aches and pains, which I believe is the most common complaint in the third trimester. The bigger I got, the more pain I had. My pelvis in particular caused me a LOT of pain. Here are some things that helped me:
1. Do what movement you can. This got progressively harder and harder as I grew, but helped a lot. Movement is also especially important if you want a natural birth, as regular movement keeps your body overall healthier and helps move the baby into a better position (research spinning babies if you want to learn more). Take daily walks, even if they’re very short. Wear a belly support band when walking, as this can help relieve a lot of discomfort. Gentle yoga (particularly the cat/cow pose and other intuitive hip movements) helps a lot. Strengthening inner thigh muscles can also really help take the strain off ligaments.
2. See a chiropractor. A chiropractor can be of tremendous help at both alleviating pain AND helping your baby move into the optimal position for birth. When choosing a chiropractor, look for one who is trained in the “Webster method”, which is an evidence-based method specifically for pregnant women.
3. Sleep on a firmer mattress. I discovered that a firmer mattress relieved a LOT of my pelvic pain when we went camping and I slept on a very hard surface. I woke up and felt SO much better! The further I got into pregnancy and the bigger I grew, sleeping on a firm mattress gave me less and less relief while a soft, memory foam mattress caused me more and more pain. We luckily have two beds in our home (one firm and one soft), so I was able to sleep on the firm mattress during pregnancy. We ended up purchasing a firming mattress pad for the other mattress (because it was the one in our bedroom and we wanted to cosleep).
Round ligament pain
Round ligament pain was something I did not experience often. After talking to a friend who has had 5 children and experienced round ligament pain with some of her pregnancies, and not others, here is what I think I did to prevent it.
1. The few times I did complain of round ligament pain to my midwives, they recommended a magnesium/calcium supplement (1000 mg of calcium and 500 mg of magnesium). I took this supplement from about week 14 of pregnancy and occasionally increased the dose when I experienced leg cramps (under the supervision of my midwives).
2. I wore barefoot shoes and/or went barefoot. This is in direct opposition to much of the advice you might hear. I heard several times people would recommend extra supportive shoes during pregnancy. However, shoes with a lot of support disrupt our natural posture. Barefoot shoes encourage an overall healthier posture (no heel lift, so knees, hips, and back are in better alignment). If you have never worn barefoot shoes and are currently pregnant, listen to your body. Feet can take some time to adjust to supporting themselves after years of being supported by shoes.
Read my post here on why you should switch to barefoot shoes to learn more.
3. I did a lot of gentle movement throughout pregnancy. Walking was the main form of movement I did, but I also practiced gentle stretches, the Miles Circut, and other intuitive movements.
4. I received chiropractic care regularly from about week 20. A chiropractor trained in the Webster method does not do much or any of the traditional cracking and popping. Adjustments are gentle and encourage a little massage. Every visit, my practitioner spent a little time on my round ligaments, which I’m sure helped keep the pain at bay.
Muscle cramps can be SO painful, and I remember waking up several times to severe calf cramps in the middle of the night. Muscle cramps can be caused by several things, but a common one is mineral deficiencies, specifically magnesium. The body requires a LOT of extra nutrients and minerals while pregnant!
My midwife recommended increasing my dose of the calcium/magnesium supplement, and it helped tremendously! The supplement I took was a serving size of 2 pills (1000 mg of calcium and 500 mg of magnesium), so I simply increased my dose to 3 pills (1500 mg of calcium and 750 mg of magnesium). This was done under the supervision of my midwife. Epsom salt baths were also beneficial as they contain magnesium.
Bonus, an increase in magnesium can help soften stool, so it’s also a great solution to constipation!
Acid reflux seemed unavoidable for much of the third trimester, due to a baby squashing my stomach and esophagus. Eating small, healthy meals instead of large meals does help. Cutting out spicy foods, and processed food also was very beneficial. I also took papaya enzymes with meals, and this was VERY beneficial.
At some point in the third trimester, I began to itch due to my skin being stretched. It was particularly bad for me in the evenings when I laid down to try and sleep. Everything in between my stomach to my upper thighs itched like crazy! Before I realized it was due to my skin stretching, I thought maybe we had picked up bed bugs or fleas somewhere, and I continuously checked our mattresses and other furniture for the culprit. No pests though, just a rapidly growing body. Here’s what helped me:
1. A nightly bath in Epsom salt and essential oils. This helped SO much! A good bath helped with not only itching but also winding down for sleep and muscle cramps. I used peppermint to help with the itching as it had a cooling effect, and lavender to help me relax.
2. A good moisturizer helps a LOT. I prefer a tallow-based moisturizer instead of a conventional lotion as it has simple ingredients, is free of additives, and it’s more compatible with skin than other lotions and oils. I liked to add a bit of peppermint essential oils to my tallow to cool irritated skin. I applied generously anywhere that was stretching, and therefore itching, at least twice a day.
Warning: I would not recommend peppermint essential oils after you give birth as it can slow the milk supply coming in.
And that’s it! I hope that this post gave you some good tips and that you find relief from uncomfortable pregnancy symptoms! Honestly, writing this postpartum I remember very little of the discomfort, and literally all of my pregnancy discomfort vanished almost instantly! So be encouraged that this is all temporary and the oxytocin rush from holding your new baby will likely wipe away even the memories of discomfort and pain!
Want more pregnancy content? See my posts here: