Changes in Digestion
When you are pregnant, your digestion and metabolism can change significantly. Pregnancy affects the hormones that control digestion, which can lead to issues such as constipation, heartburn, and nausea. This can lead to a feeling of heaviness or fullness in your stomach.
Let’s explore how pregnancy can affect digestion in more detail:
Constipation is a common symptom of pregnancy and is caused by the increased levels of progesterone in your system. Progesterone relaxes the smooth muscles of the intestines, slowing down digestion and causing constipation. As progesterone levels increase throughout pregnancy, it can wreak havoc on your digestive system. The most common symptom is constipation, which can be uncomfortable and even painful if symptoms persist or worsen.
Additional factors that may contribute to constipation during pregnancy include:
- increased water intake to ensure enough hydration for baby
- slowed motility (movement) of the small intestine
- decreased dietary fiber due to morning sickness or food aversions associated with pregnancy.
When these issues arise in combination with high progesterone levels, they all add up to very uncomfortable bowel movements!
Pregnant women can help alleviate constipation by:
- drinking plenty of water every day
- eating healthy complex carbohydrates
- including high-fiber foods like beans, nuts, whole grains, dark leafy greens, dried fruit and bran cereal in their diets
- regular exercise to enhance blood flow throughout your body.
If the problem persists despite lifestyle changes then pregnant women should seek advice from a health care provider about safe medications for relief from their constipation.
One of the more unpleasant digestive changes that can occur during pregnancy is heartburn. This burning sensation in your chest occurs when acid from your stomach rises up into your esophagus. It can be made worse when you’re lying down, after eating a large meal or consuming spicy or acidic foods like citrus fruits and tomato products. Stress can also be a trigger for heartburn.
The best ways to avoid heartburn during pregnancy include:
- Avoiding acidic, greasy and fatty foods.
- Keeping meals small.
- Sleeping in an elevated position (not on your back).
- Wearing loose-fitting clothes around the middle of the body to help reduce pressure on the stomach.
Over-the-counter antacids are often recommended to reduce the effects of heartburn, although it’s important to talk to your doctor before taking any medication while pregnant. Reducing stress levels with yoga or regular exercise may also help combat milder cases of heartburn.
Nausea and vomiting
Nausea and vomiting are common in early pregnancy and are often referred to as morning sickness. This common digestion symptom is caused by hormonal changes in the body that can begin as early as one week after conception and can continue throughout the first trimester. For some women, nausea can last into the second trimester.
Nausea usually happens when the stomach is empty, between meals or in the morning. Vomiting may or may not accompany nausea and it generally occurs less frequently than nausea does. If vomiting does occur, it’s usually related to feeling extremely ill from a particular smell or food. It’s normal for some women to have occasional bouts of short-lived nausea or vomiting during their pregnancy even after 14 weeks, but if this happens more frequently it should be discussed with your doctor or midwife.
Other causes of digestive issues during pregnancy include:
Fortunately, most of these issues can be easily managed with lifestyle changes like avoiding spicy foods and eating more fiber-rich foods along with plenty of fluids throughout the day.
During pregnancy, many women experience abdominal discomfort in the form of gas, bloating, or cramps. These discomforts can often range from mild to moderate in severity, depending on the individual. Many women also experience a feeling of heaviness or fullness in their abdomen, which can be quite uncomfortable.
In this section, we will take a look at the different kinds of abdominal discomforts that can occur during pregnancy and how to manage them:
Abdominal cramps are a common symptom of pregnancy and may be very uncomfortable for some women. These cramps, which sometimes feel like menstrual cramps, are caused by the uterus expanding and contracting as it grows to accommodate the developing baby. It is normal to have intermittent abdominal discomfort throughout pregnancy, but if you experience any sharp, persistent pains or consistent abdominal soreness it is important to contact your doctor for advice.
In addition to cramping, other common causes of abdominal discomfort during pregnancy can include gas, constipation, indigestion and round ligament pain due to changes in muscle tone that occur as the uterus expands.
To alleviate mild cramping or abdominal discomfort at home, try:
- Exercising regularly (but not strenuously)
- Wearing loose clothing or a belly band to add support while walking or engaging in gentle stretching exercises
- Eating small meals more frequently
- Drinking plenty of fluids
Abdominal bloating is an uncomfortable feeling of fullness in the abdomen. It can be caused by gas, stress, or premenstrual hormonal fluctuations, and it is common in pregnancy as well. Women who are bloated while pregnant may experience tightness in the abdomen, gassiness accompanied by abdominal rumbling, and sharp pains that come and go.
One of the most common causes of abdominal bloating is constipation. As the growing baby puts pressure on the intestine and rectum, it can cause difficulty passing stool. This can lead to a buildup of gas and bloating. Eating too much fiber or dairy products can also bring on bloating during pregnancy.
Other possible causes include hormone changes or gases released by foods you’ve eaten that your body has difficulty digesting – for example fatty foods or certain fruits and vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and onions which contain an enzyme that produces gas when broken down in the digestive tract. Over-the-counter medications such as antacids or ibuprofen can also cause bloating during pregnancy, so talk to your doctor first if you’re considering using any kind of medication while pregnant.
Fortunately there are some things you can do to help ease abdominal bloating while pregnant:
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Eat smaller meals more frequently throughout the day
- Avoid carbonated beverages
- Avoid eating fatty or spicy foods
- Try light physical activity like walking or swimming
- Talk with your doctor about taking a mild laxative if necessary
Round ligament pain
Round ligament pain is a common symptom of pregnancy and can occur in any trimester. This pain, which is located right above the pelvic bone, is caused by the round ligaments in the uterus stretching as it grows. Round ligament pain may be experienced as an uncomfortable sensation on either side of the abdomen, a sharp or aching sensation or an intense stabbing or shooting feeling deep inside. These sensations generally last for only seconds up to several minutes and are usually accompanied with stretching from the round ligaments which often causes a noticeable bulge in that area.
Round ligament pain can occur after physical activity such as running, jumping or even rising from a sitting position too quickly and can also be triggered by sudden movement of the body such as coughing or sneezing. Generally these pains will not last longer than 20 minutes and should not be cause for concern unless they occur regularly more than twice per day or become increasingly more severe with time.
Drinking lots of fluids and avoiding sudden movements may help reduce intensity and frequency of round ligament pain during pregnancy; if you are concerned about your symptoms please consult with your healthcare provider immediately to formulate a proper treatment plan based on your specific needs.
Being pregnant can come with many physical discomforts, other than an expanding belly and a growing baby inside. From digestive issues to aches and pains, many pregnant women experience a wide range of physical discomfort.
This section will go over some of the other common discomforts associated with pregnancy, including how to deal with them:
Gas and indigestion
Pregnancy can bring a host of different tummy troubles, some of which have similar signs and symptoms. Gas and indigestion are typically the main culprits for pregnancy-related belly discomfort. These issues typically arise within the first trimester, when your body is adjusting to rising hormone levels that relax the walls of your digestive tract. This can allow gas to accumulate in your intestines, while also slowing digestion and making you more prone to heartburn.
Some common signs and symptoms of gas and indigestion during pregnancy include:
- Abdominal bloating
- Pressure, cramps or pain in the abdomen
- Rumbling or gurgling sounds in your abdomen
- Flatulence (Passing wind)
Fortunately, there are a number of simple strategies that you can use to ease this discomfort. For instance, eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day – instead of three large meals – can help reduce bloating. Avoiding processed foods, artificial sweeteners and sugars can also help reduce gas buildup. In addition, engaging in exercises that helps you relax – such as yoga or exercise walking – can also aid digestion.
Braxton Hicks contractions
Braxton Hicks contractions typically feel like strong, tightening sensations that come and go in the abdomen area. This type of contractions is also referred to as false labor and normally do not become more frequent nor intense over time. Its purpose is to exercise the uterine muscles and prepare it for real labor.
For pregnant women, Braxton Hicks contractions can start at around the sixth month of pregnancy or earlier, however, many don’t feel them until later in their pregnancy. At first these may be experienced as an uncomfortable tight sensation that usually dissipates quickly, but can become stronger and last longer as pregnancies progresses although they are still generally shorter and less intense than true labor contractions.
Common signs that they are Braxton Hicks contractions include:
- Contraction sensations originating from the front or side of your abdomen rather than all over
- No changes in intensity or frequency after walking or changing positions
- Constructive pain (i.e., pain only when you touch a certain area) localized in one part of your lower abdomen.
Braxton Hicks contractions are normal during pregnancy and will go away by themselves with no medical treatment required unless they become frequent and painful. In some cases it might be a sign that the body is preparing for labor, therefore it is important to monitor them closely, time them if needed, rest frequently throughout the day and keep an eye out for any other changes that could signal potentially real labour.
Pressure in the pelvis
Pressure in the pelvis can be a common symptom of pregnancy, especially as the pregnancy progresses into the later stages. This pressure can be caused by the baby’s head descending into the pelvis in preparation for labor. Additionally, hormone levels during pregnancy contribute to weakened ligaments and pelvic joints that cause a changing center of gravity and an increased sense of pressure.
The increased size of your belly can also place pressure on your pelvis and abdomen. This pressure can cause aches and pains throughout your pelvic region, which can range from mild discomfort to outright pain, depending on how much pressure is placed on these areas.
Women who experience significant discomfort should consult with their health care provider as soon as possible to ensure that any underlying issues are evaluated and addressed. Additionally, women should practice appropriate posture when standing or sitting to help reduce tension on these areas. Simple stretching exercises may also help alleviate some discomfort associated with this symptom.
Signs of Preterm Labour
Preterm labour is labour that starts before 37 weeks of pregnancy. While some signs of preterm labour are obvious, like stomach cramps or contractions, other signs may be subtle and easily mistaken for common pregnancy discomforts. It is important to know what to look for to be able to recognize the signs of preterm labour.
Signs of preterm labour include:
- Regular contractions
- Lower back pain
- Pelvic pressure
- Cramps similar to menstrual cramps
- A change in vaginal discharge
- A feeling of pelvic heaviness or fullness
Regular contractions are one of the most common signs of preterm labour and are described as regular tightening and/or pains in your abdomen. These contractions might begin as somewhat intermittent but will eventually become more frequent, often lasting between 30 seconds to 1 minute each time.
Other symptoms that may accompany regular contractions are:
- Low backache or pressure.
- Pelvic pressure or heaviness.
- Change in discharge like increased vaginal mucous pink tinged with blood (not period).
- Abdominal cramps with or without diarrhoea occurring shortly after the contractions have started.
- An urge to bear down (as if having a bowel movement).
These signs should not be taken lightly, contact your healthcare practitioner as soon as possible if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms – even if you don’t think they’re serious. Save important information about your symptoms for when you visit your doctor and take note of the intensity, duration and frequency of any contractions you’ve been experiencing. Contractions before 37 weeks could mean preterm labour is beginning, so it’s important to get medical attention right away.
Low back pain
Low back pain is a common symptom of preterm labor. It may feel like an aching pain, or it can be sharp and intense. The pain may remain in the lower abdomen and is not typically felt in the upper abdomen, but some women feel it in their trunk or near the umbilical area. In some cases, this type of pain is associated with labor but can also be caused by stomach problems or pelvic misalignment.
Although preterm labor often causes low back pain, it’s important to remember that such discomfort is common during pregnancy and isn’t necessarily an indication of preterm labor.
While abdominal cramps during pregnancy can be a normal part of the process, if accompanied by other signs of preterm labor, they can be a cause for concern. Abdominal cramps that are associated with preterm labor may experience menstrual-like sensations and can occur anywhere in the abdomen. They may come and go in mild, moderate or severe intensity and be accompanied by tightness, activity or pain.
It is important to note that just because you are experiencing abdominal cramps you do not necessarily have to worry as there are many things that may cause these sensations apart from preterm labor. However, if you’re also experiencing any of these other regular signs combined with your abdominal cramps including:
- Lower backache
- Pelvic pressure
- Frequent contractions (more than 6 per hour)
- A vaginal discharge/ leak fluid
that could indicate preterm labour. If so speak to your doctor right away and get further testing done.
When to See a Doctor
As your body changes throughout your pregnancy, it is important to be aware of any new and sudden sensations that may be occurring. This is especially important when it comes to pain or discomfort in your abdomen, as it can be a sign that something is wrong.
In this article, we will discuss when to see a doctor if you are feeling discomfort in your tummy while pregnant:
Severe abdominal pain
Severe abdominal pain, especially during the second and third trimester of pregnancy can result from various issues. It is essential that you contact your healthcare provider immediately to determine the cause.
Possible causes for severe abdominal pain during pregnancy could include:
- Ectopic pregnancy
- Placental abruption
- Urinary tract infection
- Preterm labor
- Spontaneous rupture of membranes (water breaking) early in pregnancy
If you suspect any of these issues based on your symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention right away. If you have persistent abdominal pain and are pregnant, it would be wise to contact your obstetrician to see if further testing and evaluation is needed. Your obstetrician may order tests such as blood work, an ultrasound and possibly even a CT scan or MRI scans to diagnose the issue accurately.
Persistent nausea and vomiting
Persistent nausea and vomiting is a common complaint for many pregnant women. While it can be harmless, in some cases it may indicate a more serious medical condition. During pregnancy, morning sickness sometimes develops into more severe forms of nausea and vomiting, such as hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). HG is characterized by persistent vomiting that lasts beyond the first trimester and can lead to dehydration, nutrients deficiency and weight loss.
If you experience persistent nausea and vomiting during your pregnancy, it is important to speak with your doctor right away. The doctor will review your medical history, lifestyle habits, lifestyle factors (such as stress), symptoms as well as any medications that you are taking to help diagnose the underlying cause of your condition. The appropriate treatment regimen may include supportive measures such as dietary changes or anti-nausea medication for relief of symptoms. In addition, regular checkups are strongly recommended to monitor any complications such as abnormal fetus development or infections related to the condition.
Bleeding or spotting
Bleeding or spotting during pregnancy can be concerning and should be discussed with a healthcare provider. Light bleeding or spotting is common in early pregnancy, although any amount of bleeding should be reported to a doctor or midwife.
Depending on the amount of bleeding, its color (bright red, brown-tinged, watery), and when it occurs during the pregnancy, your healthcare provider will advise further action. If you experience heavy or painful bleeding accompanied by cramping and/or a fever, seek medical attention right away as this may indicate an ectopic pregnancy.
It is important to note that bleeding alone does not necessarily mean that you are having a miscarriage; your doctor can help assess the cause of the bleeding and advise what course of action is necessary.