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?

Charlotte is mom to two-year-old Jack and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She works part time, sells vintage wares on Etsy, and also maintains a personal blog, Living Well on the Cheap, where she writes about creating a full, rich life and a beautiful home without living beyond her means. Decorating, blogging, and thrifting were the creative outlets that helped her cope with the emotional demands of her career as a social worker, and they still serve her well now that she spends most of her time caring for her son. She and her husband, Nick, both grew up in the suburbs of New Orleans, but met at LSU in 2006 and never had the heart to leave Baton Rouge. She is happy to call the Red Stick home and loves connecting with other moms.


  1. 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.

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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 🙂

  5. 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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