As of the 2014 census, the population of the United States was 318.9 million people. 50.4% of those people are female—that’s 160.7 million women. We learned that per 1,000 women aged 15-44 there were 62.9 births. Ergo, there were approximately 10,108,030 pregnant women in America during the year 2014. That’s over ten million women who are experiencing intense constipation, indigestion, nausea, and heartburn within a single year. While pregnancy isn’t exactly an illness, it causes the exact same symptoms as conditions like Crohn’s Disease and Acid Reflux. This week, we will focus on digestion and pregnancy. Why does the gut go berserk during pregnancy, and what can you do to calm it down?
Why do I feel this way?
In a word, progesterone. Progesterone is the hormone secreted in the ovaries and released during the menstrual cycle and pregnancy. One of its jobs is to relax your muscles. This includes the smoothing down of muscles in your digestive tract, which then results in slow digestion will causes both digestive issues and the sluggish absorption of nutrients.
Common digestive issues in pregnancy and what to do
Nausea and vomiting
Between fifty and ninety percent of women will experience nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. Nausea and vomiting are classic culprits of the first trimester. The causes range from a heightened sensitivity to smell and increase in hormones to a more sensitive gut. Here’s what you can do according to the
- Eat several small meals throughout the day
- Eat bland foods like crackers and plain potatoes
- Taking Vitamin B6 is proven to help with morning sickness
- Eat or smell ginger and/or lemons
Gas, bloating, and constipation
In the beginning of pregnancy, progesterone will relax the muscles and slow digestion. Later in pregnancy, the enlarged uterus crowds the intestines, which further decreases the speed of digestion. This will make you feel bloated, gassy, and constipated. The best ways to deal with gas, bloat, and constipation during pregnancy are:
- Adjusting your diet
- Eating small meals throughout the day rather than eating three large meals
- Avoid carbonated drinks, gum, and hard candies
- Sit with good posture while you’re eating and try not to talk too much
- Get a little exercise!
The cause and effects of heartburn are extremely similar to those of gas and bloating in pregnancy. Your body is slowing down because there is so much new going on. Again, the relaxing of muscles in your digestive tract slows digestion and causes gas, which is the cause of heart burn. Here are some tips on how to prevent heartburn during pregnancy:
- Eat small, frequent meals
- Reduce stress by talking with a friend
- Wear loose-fitting clothing
- Again, adjust your diet so you are conscious of gas-inducing foods and habits
Congratulations! You’re pregnant! (Or, someone you’re close to is!) Pregnancy is definitely one of the more positive digestive issues, and we are happy to work with you and your obstetrician to answer your questions and find healthful, effective methods to alleviate your discomfort.