Pregnancy and you blog

Gas in pregnancy: Why it happens, what to do

By Mary M. Murry, R.N., C.N.M. April 23, 2013

When you're pregnant, you're likely to worry about some big things. Is your baby healthy? How bad will labor really be? You're also likely to worry about some little things. Will your stretch marks go away? What's up with the hair on your tummy? You might even find that you worry about things that seem too embarrassing to discuss at all. Why do you burp so much? Why do you pass gas at inconvenient times?

Let me reassure you that you're not the only one who struggles with gas in pregnancy.

Some pregnant women could enter a burp contest with a group of 10-year-old boys and win! Take me, for example. When I was pregnant with my first baby, I was a guest on a radio talk show. I burped throughout the entire show, leaning back from the microphone and hoping the sound wasn't on the air. And it isn't just burps that come at inconvenient times. Flatulence can be unexpected and embarrassing, too. 

What makes pregnant ladies so gassy?

In early pregnancy, before your uterus is big enough to crowd your intestines, pregnancy hormones are hard at work. The increase in progesterone slows digestion, providing more time for gas to be produced. Your body responds by removing the gas with burps and farts. This gas can also lead to a feeling of bloating, especially after a large meal.

As your uterus enlarges, your intestines are shifted and crowded in your abdomen. This slows digestion even more. Your expanding uterus also pushes on your stomach, which can increase a feeling of bloating.

As if this weren't enough, the muscle-relaxing effect of pregnancy hormones leaves you less able to control the passing of gas. Before pregnancy you might have been able to hold your gas, but now your muscles don't respond as well. This can lead to some embarrassing moments.

It's not hopeless, though. Aside from blaming it on the dog or your partner, you can reduce the effects of gas in pregnancy:

  • Get moving. With your health care provider's OK, exercise can stimulate digestion — helping things to move along faster.
  • Watch what you eat. Avoid foods that tend to cause gas, such as fried or fatty foods, onions, cauliflower and cabbage.
  • Watch what you drink. If milk seems to cause gas, try drinking it icy cold. Keep carbonated drinks to a minimum.
  • Don't eat too much at once. Try smaller, more frequent meals.

If gas in pregnancy feels more like abdominal pain at any point or you notice severe diarrhea or blood in your stool, consult your health care provider.

Have you been surprised by how much gas you're experiencing during pregnancy? Please share your stories.

April 23, 2013