Common Gastrointestinal Complaints
Everyone is familiar with the nausea and other conditions that sometimes accompany pregnancy. How common are they, and is there anything an expectant mom can do to relieve them? Early pregnancy nausea and vomiting occurs in about half of pregnant women, beginning about two weeks after the first missed period. This lasts usually no longer than the first trimester, but that can feel like a very long time under these circumstances.
Mild nausea is common, but any extreme condition may be a sign of hyperemesis gravidarum. That can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. Discuss the possibility with your physician so you can be tested, if needed. Late pregnancy nausea can occur as well, from twisted or obstructed bowels.
Eating small, frequent meals is preferable to larger ones three times per day. Certain fruits can help, such as berries, peaches and cantaloupe. Taking needed liquids between, rather than with, meals is helpful. That will produce less stomach expansion. Avoid carbonated drinks.
Heartburn is another common condition. As a result of hormonal and other changes, the odds of experiencing it are higher during pregnancy. Increased levels of progesterone are thought to be a prime culprit, since it causes loosening of the sphincter, driving acid up into the esophagus. It also slows the emptying of stomach contents, which can be a contributing factor.
Changes in nutrition can help alleviate the problem. Avoid high fat foods, chocolate (yes, that’s a tough one to give up) and fried foods. Foods high in raffinose, such as cabbage, broccoli and lettuce should be reduced as they tend to produce gas. Cutting down on caffeine and alcohol and quiting smoking are essential lifestyle changes, at least for the duration.
Common antacids, such as TUMS (also a good source of calcium) are a good idea. Not only is the material helpful, but sucking on them contracts the esophagus, which helps reduce the problem.
Constipation is a common problem, both during and immediately after pregnancy. Medically, constipation is defined as an inability to move the bowels more than three times per week. But most women will regard themselves as constipated if they can’t eliminate at least once per day.
The condition can occur from many causes, including psychological ones. If rectal tearing occurred during delivery as a result of straining, the rectum takes a while to heal. Women, many unconsciously, try to hold stool to avoid the pain of defecation. After a C-section the bowel can be temporarily paralyzed, a condition called an ‘ileus’.
Walking can help relieve symptoms, since it often eases tension and loosens the bowels. Drinking the right kinds and amounts of fluid will also help. Some vitamin and mineral supplements can be beneficial, such as extra, easily digested calcium. Commercial laxatives should be avoided, but there are special types that physicians sometimes prescribe, such as Docusate.
Eat right, engage in a regular, appropriate exercise program and your difficulties can be minimized.