For some women, it isn’t a twinkle in the eye or a missed period that alerts them to their pregnancies; it’s a sudden increase in gas. While it might be funny the first few times you toot for two, it can also be frighteningly painful and leave you wondering if you should head to the emergency room.
It’s a stinking gift that the pregnancy fairy bestows upon you (and the helpless victims in your vicinity) and is one of the most common pregnancy complaints. The bad news is it only gets worse as your pregnancy progresses, and left unchecked, it can lead to constipation and eventually haemorrhoids. The good news is that there is lots you can do to ease the discomfort and embarrassment. Besides some simple lifestyle changes, there are natural remedies that are probably in your pantry right now.
Why the excess wind?
You can blame the increase in progesterone for the slowing of your digestive system. Its effects are noticeable well before your bump arrives and squishes your insides even further. The bigger your bump gets, the more pressure on your digestive system and the greater the discomfort and resulting gas. There’s no doubt that Mother Nature has a sense of humour, because the Relaxin that is preparing your body for labour also makes it more difficult to hold it in. As if that isn’t enough, your super pregnancy sense of smell may mean that your emissions suddenly smell extra nauseating. In addition, the fact that you’ve probably improved your diet will add even further fuel to the fire.
Expect belching, flatulence and a new ability to clear a room as a result. The gas can also cause cramping that can vary in severity from ‘ouch’ to ‘oh-my-gosh-I’ve-dislodged-the-baby’!
Because it is such a common problem, there is a wealth of general advice to deal with the problem. The American Pregnancy Association, the Mayo Clinic, the March of Dimes and others recommend a series of lifestyle changes to alleviate excess gas.
– For immediate relief, drink a glass of lukewarm water.
– Keeping well hydrated and eating plenty of fibre will keep things moving.
– Eating smaller meals more often is also known to help.
– Cut out fizzy drinks and avoid drinking through a straw or chewing gum.
– Physical activity will help, sometimes the best thing to do for immediate relief is to go for a brief stroll.
– Digestion starts in the mouth, so you can give your poor system a good head start by chewing thoroughly.
– The most common advice for relieving gas problems is to avoid foods that are known to cause gas. Things like beans, broccoli and onions have an especially bad reputation. The American Pregnancy Association cautions against cutting out food groups, it’s more important to ensure that you and your baby are getting the nutrients you need. Steaming your vegetables and pre-soaking beans before eating will help a bit.
Holding it in will only increase the pressure in your tummy so in the case of pregnancy flatulence, better out than in!
Natural remedies for excessive pregnancy gas:
People have been using natural remedies to treat digestive ailments for thousands of years.
– Ginger: Ginger has been used medicinally for many thousands of years. In Chinese medicine, ginger is a known digestive stimulant. Ginger is the most well studied of all the natural remedies, and has widely been regarded as one of the most effective. The best way to make use of the ginger, chew on a raw piece after meals. University of Maryland medical centre says no more than 1gram per day for pregnant women.
– Chamomile: Aside from its wonderfully relaxing properties, Chamomile is also soothing to the digestive system. It’s been used as a herbal remedy for all kinds of ailments and scientists are starting to understand just how it works by isolating the chemical compounds responsible for some of its many benefits. For digestive ailments, including bloating and flatulence, Chamomile is best consumed as a tea when pregnant.
– Peppermint: Another digestive herbal superstar, peppermint has been used since Egyptian times. The review in The International Journal of Food Sciences in 2012 concluded it was one of the most effective herbal remedies, stating that there was a ‘significant body of evidence’ to prove its efficacy. Brew yourself a cup of peppermint tea and feel the relief.
– Rooibos tea: It’s been a faithful fixture in many South African kitchens for generations, and when consumed as a tea can ease pregnancy gas. In 2006, the Journal of Basic and Clinical Pharmacology published research that identified the compounds involved in the digestive properties of Rooibos tea. The South African Rooibos Council has comprehensive information about the many studies on Rooibos tea.
Red flags: when to call your doctor/midwife:
It can be difficult to distinguish gas pains from other abdominal pains, some red flags are:
– Blood in the stool
– Extreme cramping
– The pains are accompanied by vomiting, extreme constipation that won’t resolve.
– You have a fever too
Because it can be so difficult to distinguish gas pains from uterine cramping, it’s always best to contact your healthcare provider if you are concerned. Rest assured you would not be the first pregnant woman to present at an E.R, only to find gas at the bottom of the problem.