If you are pregnant and gassier than usual, don’t worry. Gassiness during early pregnancy is completely normal.
The average person produces about 4 pints of gas a day and passes gas up to 8 to 20 times each day. As we digest and process food, gas is formed as a byproduct. Gas cannot stay in the body, so it tries to escape via the digestive tract. If it can’t escape, it can create bloating or pain.
Our digestive tract begins with the mouth and ends with the rectum, so gas can escape either through burping or farting, depending on where the gas is formed. If it’s formed in the stomach, due to carbonated beverages for example, you will most likely burp. If it’s formed in the intestinal tract by the normal breakdown of food, then it will become flatulence. If it’s trapped via pressure or constipation, you may experience bloating.
Common foods that cause gas are:
- Fibrous vegetables
These foods are good for you but can cause flatulence when eaten in large quantities. But what causes gas during pregnancy? Is it the same foods, or is there something else behind pregnancy gas?
There are a few reasons pregnant women experience more gas and bloating than usual:
- Lack of physical activity
Progesterone is a sex hormone that is vital to women’s health and a healthy pregnancy. In the first trimester, pregnant women’s progesterone levels are higher than normal. Progesterone causes the body’s muscles, including the intestinal muscles, to relax. Relaxed intestinal muscles may slow your intestinal motility, producing extra gas and gas pain during pregnancy.
As your intestinal muscles relax, the rate of digestion slows down, sometimes by up to 30 percent. Because digestion takes longer, food stays in your system longer and more gas is created. This slowed-down intestinal motility is one of the things that leads to more gassiness during early pregnancy. Because your muscles are more relaxed than normal, it is also harder to control the release of the extra gas during pregnancy, making for potentially embarrassing moments.
Progesterone causes the body’s muscles, including the intestinal muscles, to relax. Relaxed intestinal muscles may slow your intestinal motility, producing extra gas and gas pain during pregnancy.
Progesterone is not the only culprit behind increased gas during pregnancy, however. The foods you eat also contribute to gas during early pregnancy. Certain foods are difficult to digest, such as cruciferous vegetables like cabbage and broccoli. As your gut bacteria work extra hard to break these fibrous foods down, they create more gas for your body to expel, which can cause bloating during pregnancy.
A lack of movement and exercise can also lead to more gas; moving your body enhances digestion. The extra buildup of gas can also cause pain and abdominal bloating and make it difficult to feel comfortable.
Having gas during pregnancy can be more painful because of your growing uterus and the extra amount of gas.
As your uterus puts pressure on your bones and organs, it also puts pressure on your intestines. This can make it painful when gas is building and traveling through your intestines. Some of the symptoms of gas during pregnancy are:
- Abdominal pain
- Feeling of pressure
If you experience frequent pain with gassiness, try these tips to find relief:
- Lie down on your side
- Lie down on your back with one leg raised
- Change into looser clothing that doesn’t press on your belly
- Refrain from chewing gum or smoking
- Try to de-stress
Chewing gum and smoking both draw air into your stomach, which can increase gassiness during early pregnancy. If you’re pregnant and feeling a lot of painful gas, reducing these things can help alleviate some of that pain.
Lying on your back with one knee raised can help you pass gas that is painful. If it’s too painful to lie on your back, try lying on your side. Breathe deeply and slowly to help your body’s digestion move more efficiently and pass painful gas. This can sometimes help early pregnancy bloating.
Stress can make you unconsciously hold back your gas, as your intestinal muscles are sphincters that open when you’re relaxed. Stress can also cause bloating during pregnancy. Take yoga classes, meditate, or journal about the mental and physical stressors in your life, and talk to your doctor about other ways you can find relaxation during your pregnancy.
Now that you know a few reasons behind increased gas during pregnancy, what can you do about it?
Try some of these tips to prevent excess gassiness during early pregnancy:
- Reduce carbonated drinks.
- Avoid fried foods.
- Don’t use a straw when drinking.
- Eat smaller meals more frequently throughout the day.
- Avoid tight clothing around your waist.
- Increase low-impact exercises like swimming or walking.
- Drink more water and stay hydrated.
- Eat slowly.
- Avoid artificial sweeteners.
- Take doctor-approved anti-gas medication.
Because flatulence is caused by bacteria breaking down large food particles in the intestine, you can easily reduce the amount of gas you have by chewing your food thoroughly. Drinking enough water to stay hydrated can also relieve constipation symptoms and help you have less gas during early pregnancy.
If you’ve already tried these tips and are still experiencing early pregnancy bloating and frequent gas, keep a food journal and track which foods seem to make you gassier. Everybody has a unique digestive system, so what causes bloating during your pregnancy may not be the same for everyone else.
Some people who are sensitive to dairy become very flatulent, and some people just can’t handle cabbage. It’s different for everyone, so a food journal can go a long way to helping you discover what foods are tough for your body to digest and might be causing gassiness during early pregnancy.
Sometimes the symptoms of abdominal pain and gas can mean that something other than gas is happening. If you’re worried about gas during early pregnancy and none of these tips are working for you, talk to your doctor.
No matter which trimester you’re in, watch for these symptoms and talk to your doctor if:
- The pain increases and doesn’t stop
- You have severe nausea and vomiting
- There is blood in your stool
- You have unrelenting constipation
- You feel that you are having contractions
These symptoms may be signs that something else is wrong. Some health issues that may be confused for gassiness during early pregnancy and constipation are:
- Round ligament pain
- Braxton-Hicks contractions
- Urinary tract infection
- Irritable bowel syndrome
Your doctor will want to know all of your symptoms, so don’t be embarrassed to tell them exactly what you feel and what’s happening. Bring in your food journal, and tell them what’s going on.
Having gas during pregnancy is completely normal, but it can be painful and embarrassing.
Follow the tips listed to reduce and avoid extra gas buildup in your intestines. If you still experience painful gas, take it easy and give yourself time to relax, destress, and lie down. Stay hydrated and keep your doctor in the know about your symptoms so you and your baby stay safe and comfortable.
Painful gas during pregnancy is fairly common. It’s often caused by your expanding uterus and increased progesterone. Keep track of what you’re eating, and avoid activities that increase your gassiness.