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Gas and Bloating during Pregnancy

It is completely normal to have a little gas along with bloating, regardless of whether you are pregnant or not. According to experts, an individual is likely to pass wind 14-15 times a day in average [1]. However, this number tends to get much higher as pregnancy makes you more prone to gas, bloating, flatulence and burping [2].

Why does pregnancy cause gas and bloating?

There are various factors responsible for causing the problem in different stages of pregnancy with the rising progesterone levels being a principal cause [3].

What causes gas during early pregnancy?

The pregnancy hormone relaxes all the smooth muscles in your body, including the gastrointestinal tract, slowing down the digestive process [4]. As a result, the food stays in the digestive tract for a longer time, making you feel bloated and gassy, especially after eating.

Causes in later pregnancy

The growing uterus putting pressure on your digestive tract further slows down the digestion process, causing bloating in the second and third trimesters [4].

Indigestion and constipation are major risk factors for gas, belching and flatulence [5].

Are gas and bloating early signs of pregnancy?

As mentioned above, the high pregnancy hormone levels begin to relax the digestive tract muscles from the early weeks of pregnancy, making gas and bloating two of the earliest pregnancy symptoms [6].

Foods likely to cause gas and bloating while pregnant

Vegetables containing the sugar raffinose [7]:

  • Beans
  • Cauliflower [3]
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Asparagus

Starchy, gluten-rich and fiber-rich foods [7]: Foods rich in fiber are usually broken down in the large intestine (with a few exceptions like wheat bran), which means they take longer to digest in pregnancy.

  • Potatoes
  • Pasta
  • Oat bran
  • White rice
  • Breads
  • High fiber fruits (e.g. raspberries, bananas, apples, pears etc)

Fried fatty or greasy items, junk foods and salty, fried foods take a longer time to break down and digest than other foods [8]. Naturally, it takes even longer to complete the digestion of such foods when pregnant, making it more likely for you to develop gas and bloating. Artificial sweeteners, dairy products, coffee, sugary fizzy drinks, alcohol and chewing gum [9] are some other foods that might lead to the symptoms [10].

Will the gas and bloating affect your baby?

Although it might seem quite harmful, gas, bloating and flatulence do not affect your baby as he is safe inside the uterus, surrounded by amniotic fluid [11].

How to get rid of gas and bloating during pregnancy?

Most cases do not require any medical treatment as the symptoms fade away on their own shortly after delivery. However, there are certain tips and remedies to help you mange the uncomfortable bloated feeling.

Lifestyle tips to prevent and relieve gas pain and bloating

  • Drinking plenty of water to keep your system clean
  • Avoiding the above mentioned foods and drinks
  • Avoiding smoking (as it makes you swallow as well as inhale air) [9]
  • Eating multiple small meals instead of three large ones so you never get stuffed with food [1]
  • Checking your dentures to make sure they fit properly as poorly fitting dentures may make you swallow excess air while eating or drinking
  • Avoiding using a straw when drinking
  • Eating slowly, chewing properly, avoiding gulping your foods and drink
  • Avoiding talking while chewing
  • Wearing comfortable loose clothes to avoid putting any extra pressure on the abdomen [11]
  • Keeping a diet journal to find out which foods are more likely to cause indigestion and gas so you can avoid them in the future
  • Avoiding having something cold right after eating or drinking something hot as it can lead to excess gas production due to the rapid change in your stomach temperature [12]
  • Practicing relaxation techniques and yoga for stress release
  • Following a light exercise routine (e.g. a short walk after meals) to better your digestion
  • Keeping your legs elevated when sitting or lying down after meals as this helps with the digestion process, reducing the pressure of the uterus on your intestines [4]

Home remedies

There are a number of natural remedies that can aid in indigestion and bloating; however, they are not always recommended in pregnancy. Herbs like basil [13], chamomile [14], oregano [15], peppermint [16], fennel [17], cinnamon and garlic are considered safe in later pregnancy, when taken in regular food amounts. However, they should be avoided in the first trimester as the use of herbs is often associated with various complications and birth defects [18].

Medicines for relief

Consult your doctor or midwife in case of severe gas and bloating that refuses to go away with the above lifestyle changes and natural remedies. There are many over-the-counter and prescription anti-gas medications, such as Simethicone (Gas-X, Mylicon) that can provide relief and are safe for pregnant women [13]. Antacids with low sodium contents are often prescribed for curing acid reflux and bloated stomach [19].

When to call the doctor?

Look out for the following symptoms as they might indicate something more serious than just gas and indigestion:

  • Bloating accompanied by severe abdominal pain (especially one-sided) [7]
  • Bloated feeling with severe diarrhea and stomach cramps
  • Excessive gas and bloating along with vomiting, constipation and bloody stools [20]

Published on May 23rd 2014 by under Common Issues.
Article was last reviewed on 23rd May 2014.

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