Brighter Days: 5 Top Tips for Pregnancy Digestive Woes
During pregnancy, it's very common to have lots of gas, bloating and constipation. Most pregnant women do. All of these digestive ailments can cause abdominal discomfort and even pain.
The reason why you might have more gas and bloating is that pregnancy hormones relax the muscles in your digestive tract. This slows your digestion, causing gas to build up.
You might find that eating some foods -- pasta, potatoes, beans, cabbage and dairy products -- makes gas worse. You could try cutting back on these foods, but be sure to make up for their nutrients with other foods.
It might help to eat more slowly and chew your food thoroughly. Or eat several small meals each day instead of three larger ones. Avoid drinking from a bottle or straw, chewing gum and sucking on hard candy. The good news is that these digestive issues should pass after your baby is born.
Constipation is also very common in pregnancy; about half of all pregnant women experience it. It can be caused by several factors. First, your uterus is putting pressure on your intestines. Also, you might not be drinking enough fluid and eating enough fiber. Fluid keeps your stool softer, and fiber makes it bulkier, both of which make it easier to pass. Strive to drink 10 cups of water each day.
Because your blood volume is increased, you need to drink more fluid to keep up. Try to eat 25 to 30 grams of fiber each day. Fiber-rich foods include fruits, vegetables, whole grain breads and breakfast cereals -- though not the ones with "frosted" in the name!
Here's what our Mommy M.D.s -- doctors who are also mothers -- do to ease their own belly complaints.
"When I was pregnant with my youngest, I definitely had a lot of gas and bloating," says Kristie McNealy, M.D., a mom of four and a health care consultant, in Salt Lake City, Utah. "My doctors told me the baby was taking up every square inch of me. For hours after I ate, I felt that if I moved too much, everything was going to come right back up. I tried to eat very small meals and stop eating before I feel full. I also propped myself up on pillows, which helped with the feeling that the baby was pushing on my stomach."
"I had a little extra gas with my pregnancies," says Rallie McAllister, M.D., M.P.H., mom of three, co-author of "The Mommy MD Guide to Your Baby's First Year," nationally recognized health expert, and family physician in Lexington, Kentucky. "Fortunately, I had a very flatulent Boston Terrier who loved to curl up on the couch next to me and my husband in the evenings. Whenever the need arose, I just blamed everything on that little dog!"
"During my pregnancies, I had some difficulties with constipation," says Lezli Braswell, M.D., a mom of one daughter and two sons and a family medicine physician, in Columbus, GA. "I took an over-the-counter stool softener my doctor recommended called Colace. (Talk with your doctor or midwife before taking this or any medications.) I took it twice a day starting in my second trimester when I really started to notice the constipation. It's important to keep the stool soft so you don't have to strain."
"During my second pregnancy, my doctor recommended a brand of prenatal vitamins that also has a stool softener in it," says Sonia Ng, M.D., a mom two sons, a pediatrician, and a sedation attending physician at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Pediatric Care and the University Medical Center at Princeton in Princeton, New Jersey, and the Pediatric Imaging Center in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. "I thought that it was helping, and I was sure of it one morning when I forgot to take my prenatal vitamin. I took a regular vitamin instead, and all day long I felt like I couldn't poop."
When to Call Your Doctor
Constipation isn't usually serious, but it can be a symptom of another problem.
If you have severe constipation, or if it's accompanied by abdominal pain, alternates with diarrhea, or if you pass mucus or blood, call your doctor or midwife immediately.
Jennifer Bright is a mom of four sons, founding CEO of woman- and veteran-owned custom publisher Bright Communications LLC, co-founder of the Mommy MD Guides team of 150+ mommy M.D.s, and co-author of "The Mommy MD Guide to the Toddler Years" and six other books in the Mommy MD Guides series. She lives in Hellertown, Pennsylvania. To find out more about Jennifer Bright and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.Copyright 2021 Creators Syndicate Inc.