When Pregnancy is Painful: How to Deal

painfulpreg2I wanted to be one of those women who loved being pregnant. I went into it so optimistically, hoping the life inside me would give me a healthy glow and a sunny disposition. I. Was. Wrong.

My first trimester was predictably nauseating–no surprises there. But I can tell you the exact moment that things took a turn for the worse. I was 14 weeks along and the nausea had only recently subsided. My husband and I were watching the Saints game at a friend’s house and I just could not get comfortable. There was this pain in my lower back, right at the bottom of my ribs on the right side. It felt like someone pinching me hard from the inside. There was no space in a living room full of people for me to lie down; and I am pathologically unable to ask for help, so the only way for me to get even remotely comfortable was by standing with my hand pushed firmly against that spot on my back, trying to act like nothing was wrong. I stayed that way until halftime, when I told Nick that I needed to go home and lie down.

If I close my eyes I can still remember exactly what it felt like. I felt that same pain every day for the next six months. I tried pain medicine. I tried seeing a chiropractor. I tried physical therapy. I even wore a rib belt under my clothes every day. Each of these things helped a little, but none were enough to make it bearable. There were days that I cried on my way home from work because it just hurt so badly. Nobody really knew why I was in such pain; and I don’t think anyone, even my husband, truly understood. The experience gave me endless empathy for anyone coping with chronic pain. That said, there were two things that helped me:


Guided meditation: I downloaded a guided meditation track from iTunes and listened to it daily. It was so relaxing that I even fell asleep to it sometimes! The one that I used was specifically targeted toward pregnant women, but there’s another one on Amazon with great reviews that’s designed for pain relief. (the pregnancy one is also available on Amazon)
Rest: The only time I was ever comfortable was when I was lying down. When I was 36 weeks pregnant, I finally cried “uncle” and made a claim against the short term disability insurance that I’d been saving for my maternity leave. It was well worth it, because once I was able to spend most of the day lying down, I felt SO much better.
If you’re reading this and thinking that you can relate, the biggest thing I want you to know is that you’re not alone. My pregnancy was miserable in a million ways: I was in pain, I lost consciousness in various unflattering situations (think: in line at the store, in a work meeting, etc.), I was so big I thought my skin would rip open, I was weak and tired and my feet were so sore each evening that I felt like I’d spent the whole day tailgating for an LSU game in a pair of flip flops. It got better. My beautiful son was born and the world changed to include a new array of wonders and challenges. I will never forget the way I felt those six months, but I am so glad it’s over. If you’ve experienced something similar I’d love to hear from you in the comments. It is so helpful just to know that you’re not the only one!

Do you relate?

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9 Responses to When Pregnancy is Painful: How to Deal

  1. Amy Alexander November 12, 2013 at 9:46 am #

    Our culture really leaves no room for misery during pregnancy. But it is miserable at times! wrote in my journal during my first pregnancy that I felt like I was crawling on my hands and knees through the mud. Looking at my child, now, I can hardly remember that. But when you are in it, it is so rough. Thank you for giving voice to that very real phenomenon.

    • Charlotte | Living Well on the Cheap November 12, 2013 at 12:04 pm #

      You’re so right. I felt guilty for not enjoying my pregnancy. It’s easy to forget about it now but I try not to. I think pregnancy was maybe the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

  2. Katie November 12, 2013 at 10:27 am #

    I am 32 weeks and having no “true” difficulties in this pregnancy (my first), yet I have never been in so much misery! I do not feel that glow everyone loves to talk about! I have a very similar pain in my upper back, on the right side, between my shoulder blades. I recently got a massage and that helped some, but every day is a challenge and I only get relief in certain positions when I’m lying down. But lying down and being inactive depresses me! Vicious cycle that I am trying to break, but it isn’t easy and it is very good to know there are other mothers out there that don’t think being pregnant is so perfectly amazing!

    • Charlotte | Living Well on the Cheap November 12, 2013 at 12:06 pm #

      Ugh, Katie, I am so sorry! You are definitely not alone. Take care of yourself and rest assured that there is an end in sight. I hope you feel better!

  3. Nancy Dinecola November 12, 2013 at 12:22 pm #

    During my second pregnacy, I had terrible pain under my ribs on the right side and between my shoulder blades, about where my bra goes across. I think this started about the fourth month. I kept my fist under my ribs most of my pregancy. Lying down help a lot. I found out later in my pregnacy that it was my gall bladder, but there was nothing they could do about it but watch my diet for fats. It made my pregnacy miserable. My son was perfect and amazingly beautiful . I eventually had my gall bladder removed.

    • Charlotte | Living Well on the Cheap November 12, 2013 at 8:14 pm #

      Wow, I never would have thought that the gallbladder could cause pain like that! I’m so glad you were able to at least get some answers.

  4. Ashley Hawthorne November 12, 2013 at 12:22 pm #

    Thank you so much for your honesty! Just last night i was in tears wishing I loved being pregnant. Having gone through infertility, I have dealt with so much guilt that this is so hard for me. I blame it on my 5′ frame, and that I have a 7 month belly almost immediately, but I know that so many women have challenges regardless of frame. My first one was totally worth it, and I’m banking on #2 being worth it as well 🙂

    • Charlotte | Living Well on the Cheap November 12, 2013 at 8:16 pm #

      Oh Ashley, my heart goes out to you! I’m 5’0″ too and, as you can see in the photo above , had a huge belly (Jack was 8lbs 14oz). I hope that the rest of your pregnancy goes smoothly and you’re right, it’s so worth it!

  5. Penny May 29, 2015 at 4:07 pm #

    I have had many pregnancies, but only three live children, all the time they thought they were treating female problems, ended up being miss carriages, I had pain in my back, but it was so very worth it, and if I did not have a hysterectomy, I would of probably had a whole bunch more children, because regardless of how much pain I had, the fact of the matter is I was so thankful to GOD for the gift of life, so I would take pain any day for that beautiful gift from GOD. So I guess it was the way I looked at it, that made it so beautiful, oh ya, I forgot to mention I have double water bags every time so there is no room and one of the boys was born with all his toes bruised from being in my ribs when I bent over to lift patients.

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