Bloated while pregnant? Your hormones are to blame. Here’s what you can do about it, Lifestyle News

Bloating during pregnancy – is it normal?

Mums, do you constantly feel as though your belly is about to explode? You’re not alone. Many women experience bloating during pregnancy at some point or another.

As hormone levels rise during pregnancy, all muscles in the body, including those in the digestive tract, relax. This can result in burping, bloating and flatulence as digestion slows and gas builds up in the system. They may cause unpleasant gastrointestinal sensations after a hefty meal.

Pregnancy bloating

Bloating occurs in late pregnancy due to the enlarging uterus and hormonal surge. The uterine cavity takes up more room in the abdominal cavity, pushing the stomach forward and making digestion more difficult.

You might feel bloated after eating as a result of this during your pregnancy, which could lead to heartburn, acidity or constipation. 

Typically, 10 to 25 per cent of healthy people experience bloating from time to time. However, more women suffer from it due to their hormones. 

Menstruating women can attest to that

“You can blame your hormones,” says Dr Carrie Smith, assistant professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Rush University Medical Centre in Chicago, in a Today story.

“Before menopause, for most women, bloating generally is a monthly occurrence, and follows a pattern.”

Part of the menstrual cycle which causes bloating is called the luteal phase, which begins right after ovulation and lasts for about two weeks.

The uterine lining starts to prepare for a possible pregnancy during this period, and estrogen then takes a bit of a nose-dive and then begins to rise and remains high.

Another hormone also kicks in: Progesterone

All these changes wreak havoc on a woman’s digestive tract.

“When estrogen is high, women seem to retain more water,” said Dr Holly Thacker, director of the Cleveland Clinic Centre for Specialised Women’s Health.

Water retention equals bloat.

The report also says:

“Some of the effects of progesterone-when it’s high, like during the luteal phase of menstruation, right after ovulation-include what doctors call delayed GI transit time, which means exactly what you think it does: food moves more slowly through your intestine, resulting in constipation and bloating.

However, when progesterone decreases and bleeding begins, you may experience an increase in bowel activity. That means some women may get diarrhoea and bloating.”

Not only that, women bloat through the ages, whether you’re a young woman or already in your mid-ages.

Dr Lori Tishler, medical director for the Phyllis Jen Center for Primary Care at Brigham and Women’s Hospital says that when women’s estrogen begins to fluctuate at the peri-menopausal stage (mid-forties), it results in water retention, gas, and bloating.

It’s also common for pregnant women to experience bloating. 

“There are higher levels of progesterone and your intestine slows down,” says Dr Tishler. 

“Basically, slower contractions mean potential constipation, gas, and bloat.”

The good news is that bloating is relatively harmless, and women shouldn’t worry too much about it.

“Many women worry that something really bad is going on, and part of our job as doctors is to reassure them that sometimes bloating is really nothing more than just bloating,” Dr Tishler says.

“But we all know it’s not much fun.”

To alleviate the discomfort of bloating, Dr Tishler suggests taking in more fibre to help stool move smoothly through the intestines, as well as doing more exercise and taking in more water to hydrate.

“That’s all the stuff that people don’t want to hear, but it does work,” she explains.

ALSO READ: 7 ways to reduce swelling during pregnancy

What causes bloating during pregnancy

In addition to growing progesterone levels and a bigger uterus, there are other factors that induce gas and eventually contribute to being bloated and flatulence during pregnancy.

1. Constipation

Food travels through the digestive tract and spends a significant amount of time in the intestine. This assists in the absorption of all nutrients, including water, by the foetus.

Dry stools, on the other hand, take longer to reach the rectum due to absorption, and the collected faecal matter might induce gas and bloat.

2. Food sensitivity

Certain foods are more likely to cause gas than others. Gluten-intolerant people, for example, may have flatulence after eating gluten-containing foods and it can cause being bloated during pregnancy.

Lactose intolerance patients are in a similar situation. Milk and other dairy products will be difficult to digest and may induce flatulence. The reason behind this is that the body does not create enough lactase to break down lactose (present in dairy products).

3. Bacteria in the digestive tract

When the bacterial equilibrium in the colon is upset, more gas production, bloating, and flatulence ensue.

4. Gaining weight

Your hunger may grow, causing you to consume more food. You will feel fatigued and less energetic if you increase your calorie intake through a good diet and vitamin supplements. As a result, you start to feel gassy, bloated, and unpleasant as the days pass.

Foods that cause bloating during pregnancy

Certain foods might cause odorous gas and bloat in pregnant women. Vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, beans, Brussels sprouts, onions, broccoli, artichokes, and asparagus contain unabsorbable carbohydrates. As a result, sulfur-filled vapours may be created, giving off a foul odour.

Fibre-rich foods include chickpeas, lentils, green gram, and pigeon peas. Too much high-fibre meals, on the other hand, might produce bloating and gas. A high-fibre diet, on the other hand, may assist some people to minimise gas and bloating. 

Seeds like sunflower, poppy, and fennel produce gas in the colon, causing flatulence.

Fruits like apples, mangoes, raisins, prunes, cherries, watermelon, and peaches contain unabsorbable carbohydrates. Because they are unable to be digested by your body, they end up in your colon, resulting in farts and gas.

Carbon dioxide generated by soda, wine, and beer can cause burping.

Bloating and flatulence are also caused by fructose-rich fruit juices. 

Wheat, wheat bran, and wheat products promote fermentation in the large intestine, which can produce gas and bloating.

The artificial sweetener sorbitol, which can be found in a variety of foods and beverages, has been co-related to the formation of gas.

How long does bloating stay during pregnancy?

Bloating is a common pregnancy symptom that will only become worse as your uterus expands and presses on your stomach and intestines.

Your pregnancy bloating and other symptoms may be uncomfortable for you (literally). But not to worry, your child seems unconcerned by it all.

Home remedies for bloating

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The following therapies are considered safe when used in moderation and later in pregnancy. Avoid using them during the first trimester, as most herbs have been related to birth defects and other problems. Before attempting any home remedy, speak with your doctor.

  • A handful of fenugreek seeds should be soaked overnight in a glass of water and then discarded the next day. To ease gas and bloating, keep drinking this water.
  • Drink a new cup of chamomile tea after each meal. It will help to settle your stomach and eliminate bloating and gas.
  • Cardamom seeds can help with bloating and flatulence naturally. Cardamom tea can also be made with two cups of water, six cardamom pods, and a teaspoon of nutmeg powder. Keep it fresh to help with the problem.
  • Combine one spoonful of cinnamon powder and one tablespoon of honey in a cup of boiling water. Serve it right away.
  • In a cup of hot water, dissolve crushed coriander seeds powder. Drink the fluid after straining it.
  • Make a teaspoon of fresh ginger juice and season with honey to taste. It’s a fantastic bloating treatment.

More tips on how to relieve bloating during pregnancy

Laxatives

Though prescription medications are not ideal, it may be necessary to address bloating at times. In stool softeners, docusate sodium is a safe active component. Mineral oil is also a safe substance. However, before using any laxative or medication, always consult your doctor.

Stop smoking

Smoking can lead to a variety of issues, including acidity. Before you start planning your pregnancy, you should quit smoking. If you’re having trouble quitting, consider enrolling in a smoking cessation programme.

Exercise

You should exercise every day to stay active, keep your system running, relieve gas, and prevent bloating. Gas will not be able to depart your system if you do not exercise and instead sit all day, resulting in bloating.

Simple activities such as pelvic rocking might also help with gas release. However, you should seek medical advice before commencing any workout programme.

Yoga and relaxation techniques

Practice yoga or breathing and relaxation techniques with the help of a professional during your pregnancy. 

Maintain a food diary

Keep track of everything you eat and how much gas you get in the six hours following each meal. Keep a food diary to determine which foods make you unwell.

Food options

You’ll be able to discern which foods are good for you and which do not produce bloating if you keep track. A nutritionist can help you follow a healthy pregnancy diet. Fresh foods are usually preferable to processed or frozen ones. You can choose pesticide-free organic meals that are free of genetically modified components.

When to consult your doctor about pregnancy bloating

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Gas and bloating are prevalent throughout pregnancy. If they’re severe and come with other symptoms, though, you should consult a doctor right away:

  • Increased cramping and pain in the abdomen
  • Stools containing blood
  • Contractions that start before the 36th week of pregnancy are considered early.
  • Severe constipation and diarrhoea
  • Severe vomiting and nausea

Depending on your health and the severity of the problem, your doctor may prescribe medicine.

This article was first published in theAsianparent.