“Normal” vs “Common”

Imagine this frequent occurrence during check-in of prenatal yoga classes. “I have a little bit of a backache (or heartburn or leg cramps or sciatica or pain at the front of the pelvis or….), but my doctor says this is just a normal part of pregnancy.” *Sigh* What moms are hearing is that there is nothing they can do about their discomforts.  Imagine how many suffering moms could enjoy their pregnancies if their doctors instead said, “These are common discomforts of pregnancy, but they do not indicate any sort of health issue. I’m here to solve issues that may threaten your or your baby’s health, but alleviating common discomforts is not my area of expertise. Let me refer you to a chiropractor (or an acupuncturist or a physical therapist...or most simply a PRENATAL YOGA CLASS.)” Sheesh!  

"I don't mind a backache in pregnancy," said no mom ever.

"I don't mind a backache in pregnancy," said no mom ever.

Let’s be clear about the difference between “normal” and “common.”  Dictionary.com defines "normal" as “conforming to the standard or the common type; usual; not abnormal; regular; natural.” When doctors say something is normal, the implication is that because it is “regular and natural” nothing can be done. Moms are resigned to accepting these discomforts- especially if their doctor is the only prenatal professional with whom they have contact.  “Common” by comparison, means “widespread, general, ordinary, of frequent occurrence.” And indeed, backache, heartburn, sciatica, pubis pain, leg cramps, etc. are common occurrences when moms are expecting.  Hearing that they are common, rather than normal, allows moms the space to seek relief and to know they are not alone. A doctor admitting that comfort measures for pregnancy is generally not a part of their medical training and referring to a practitioner that does focus on alleviating common discomforts takes it one step further.

As a prenatal yoga instructor, it’s out of my scope to diagnose the source of discomforts, and certainly anything that could be medically related, so I always encourage my students to mention their discomforts to their doctor or midwife in case it could indicate a real health problem.  Most of the time though, it’s just a common pregnancy discomfort and a typical prenatal yoga sequence will address and alleviate the issue.  When there is a real medical issue in pregnancy, obstetricians are ah-mazing and I am so grateful for their expertise!  But when the issue is a common pregnancy discomfort, they are not much help.  A good prenatal yoga instructor will address these common problems and refer when their practice does not do the trick.

Did you have a discomfort (or two or more!) in pregnancy?  What was the most effective form of relief?  Please share in the comments.