Bloating During Pregnancy

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Pregnancy is associated with a whole host of biological changes and unfamiliar symptoms.

Nausea, swollen feet, and glowing skin are some of the changes that are commonly recognized in pregnancy, but many people are less aware that abdominal bloating can occur, too.

What is Bloating?

The term bloating is used widely but can describe a range of different sensations.

Bloating is an uncomfortable feeling of fullness in the abdomen or belly. This might mean your stomach feels tight, swollen, or even painful. Some people notice that their tummy looks like it is distended, too. It may even feel challenging when you press on it.

Why Does Bloating Happen?

During pregnancy, your levels of progesterone increase.

Progesterone stimulates tissues within the smooth muscle to relax. Smooth muscle is found within your bowel or digestive tract.

Increasing progesterone causes your bowel to relax and slow down. When your bowel processes food more slowly, there is more time for gas to build up within it.

This build-up of gas can lead to bloating.

Some women also find bloating is associated with constipation, excess burping, and flatulence (farting).

When Does Bloating Happen?

Bloating can occur from the first few weeks of pregnancy and continue until delivery. The same is true of any excess gas or constipation.

Unfortunately, bloating may increase during pregnancy. This is because the pressure from your growing baby can slow your digestion down even further. This further increases the amount of gas being produced in the digestive tract.

Luckily, most women find that the symptoms of bloating settle following the birth of their baby.

What Can I do to Manage Bloating?

Bloating can be very uncomfortable, so, understandably, many women want to find a way to relieve their symptoms.

There are plenty of lifestyle changes that could help you minimize bloating.

  1. Drink plenty of water

  2. Exercise every day - even a gentle 30 minute daily walk could help

  3. Maintain a healthy diet including fibre, as this will help to keep your bowels moving

  4. Avoid gas-inducing foods such as sprouts or cabbage

  5. Speak to your midwife if you take iron supplements, as these can worsen constipation. An alternative treatment may be available if you need to take iron.

Medical Advice

If you are experiencing very painful bloating or are unable to open your bowels due to constipation, you should speak to your midwife or doctor.

There's no need to put up with severe pain, as pregnancy-safe medications are available to help with bloating or constipation if required.

Final Thoughts

Bloating in pregnancy is common due to high levels of progesterone slowing down the digestive system.

A healthy lifestyle including a good diet, adequate hydration and gentle exercise could help to minimise bloating.

Women with uncomfortable symptoms of bloating should speak to a medical professional regarding a prescription for a pregnancy-safe medication to alleviate symptoms.

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