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Health & Pregnancy

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The Waddle's Not So Cute Anymore

WebMD Feature

It's the final countdown -- fast approaching single-digit weeks -- before you get to meet your baby and coo over those tiny fingers and toes. Unfortunately, tiny isn't the word that comes to mind these days.

The homestretch can be, well, a stretch. Itchy bellies, achy backs, swollen ankles, hemorrhoids -- you name the annoyance, and some expectant mom probably feels it.

The real remedy, of course, is childbirth. But since that option is still a bit premature, we asked an obstetrician, a midwife, and a family practitioner to share their best trade secrets for surviving the common aches and pains of the third trimester.

Our experts: Owen Montgomery, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia; Stephanie Lowell, a certified nurse midwife in Phoenix, Ariz.; and. Bruce Bagley, MD, a family-practice physician in Latham, N.Y., and former president of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Make sure to talk to your own provider about your discomforts, especially before trying any over-the-counter treatments. "These remedies are reasonable things that experienced practitioners have used for a long time, but your doctor or midwife may have a different feeling about it," says Montgomery.

Tricks of the Trade

Itchy Skin: As your skin stretches, particularly over your growing belly, it may feel dry and itchy.

Montgomery: If the itching is isolated, Caladryl or topical steroids, such as hydrocortisone (over-the-counter products are available in 1% or 0.5% strengths) may help. If itching is all over your body, Aveeno oatmeal baths or Benadryl (oral or spray) can offer relief. Trim your fingernails to reduce sleep-time scratches.

Lowell: Calamine lotions, such as Caladryl, are helpful. "Keep it refrigerated because it seems to help the itching more if it's cold."

Bagley: Soothing oatmeal or Alpha-Keri baths, moisturizing lotions, or cocoa butter might offer temporary relief.

Hemorrhoids: These swollen veins in the rectal area are caused by extra progesterone and increased blood flow and pressure on the veins in the anus, similar to varicose veins in your legs.

Montgomery: "The best treatment is to avoid them," which means soft, regular bowel movements. Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day (refrigerate a 2-liter jug of water to use throughout the day). If necessary, try stool softeners, such as Colace, along with extra fiber (such as Metamucil or Citrucel); topical ointments, such as Preparation H or Anusol; sitz baths; and witch-hazel pads.

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