Helping your partner through pregnancy’s pants-centric challenges
If your pregnant partner has noticed that you have noticed varicose veins in her once tanned and smooth legs, there is little point in trying to protect her feelings by pretending you cannot see them or underplaying their appearance – she knows her own body better than anyone and if she is feeling their effects, any refusal to give full credit to their existence is only likely to annoy. If you haven’t noticed them, now is the time to take stock so that you can answer her questions about them honestly.
Varicose veins – she’s not alone
Anyhow, around 40% of pregnant women experience varicose veins – for many they are an inevitable result of hormonal changes and the pressures of carrying a growing child inside an expanding uterus – so it’s best to accept them for the common reality they are and to confront them head-on, whether they are occurring on the legs, vulva, labia, vagina or anus.
Yes, that’s right you did read the last four anatomical labels correctly, and your partner is not alone in experiencing the discomfort and embarrassment these cause.
Luckily, you can be understanding (chasten your disgust at the thought of it all), don’t bat an eyelid when she reads to you about vaginal varicosities says something about it all and immediately offer to help by giving her as much time off her feet as possible. You can shop online for maternity support hosiery, you can fetch her a cushion to place under her when she lies down, you can give up your space on the sofa so that she can put her feet up. The list of things you can do to ease and distract is almost endless. The last thing you should do is screw your face up and pretend you didn’t hear the words “I think I’ve got piles“.
You probably thought that things were difficult enough with your partner having been through morning sickness, hormone-induced mood swings and, possibly, varicose veins, but with constipation a very typical addition to the list of pregnancy-related complaints you could be forgiven for placing your head in your hands in despair.
But if you can’t carry on and cope with it all, the question we beg now is “who else will?” So, take stock of the situation and consider how you can bring both practical and emotional support to this very common stumbling block (pun unintended but somehow unavoidable).
Why is your partner constipated?
Quite simply, it’s those miraculous but imperfect pregnancy hormones again. Unfortunately, one side effect of both relaxin’s and progesterone’s ability to optimise all bodily systems towards the development of new life is the fact that they also slow down metabolism, effectively causing food to loiter in the digestive tract. Add to the mix the fact that your partner’s uterus is placing the squeeze on her bowel and you might begin to understand just why she is in so much discomfort.
But while for you and your partner this means difficult, awkward times ahead, it’s not bad news for baby, who receives additional nutrients as a direct result.
You can help
There is one hard rule to constipation: it must pass (pun still unintended, honestly). However, you can help it pass more quickly than it might otherwise.
For one thing, don’t sit at home brazenly eating a fry-up with white bread for breakfast, pasta for lunch, steak and chips for supper and ice cream for pudding: these are all foods that are likely to exacerbate your partner’s constipation.
Instead, try and help your partner up her consumption of fibre-rich foods such as whole-grains, beans, pulses, fruit, vegetables and dried fruits. But be careful, if your partner is not used to this kind of diet, implement it gradually as it will take some time for her metabolism to adjust. In fact, it may be a good idea to abandon the idea of three square meals a day altogether, instead more frequent smaller meals might help reduce the chances of things becoming overly clogged.
Also, help her keep well-hydrated. This helps loosen things up. Prune juice is particularly good, while tea (without milk) or hot water with ginger and lemon is a good idea as this stimulates the intestinal contractions which promote regular motions.
Exercise is another way to promote regular bowel movements. So suggest a walk or a swim to help her finally go to the loo.
Remember, even if your help doesn’t seem to achieve your goal of speeding things up, it is good practice for when the actual baby arrives: poo is going to become one of the main features of your life!