It is very common for pregnant women to experience gastrointestinal or GI issues during pregnancy. As your little one grows, you will have less available space in your abdominal region for your stomach, intestines, and esophagus to function. On top of that, hormonal changes can affect digestion and several other GI functions.
Most GI symptoms will fade away rather quickly during pregnancy, and they can be treated using over-the-counter remedies. However, to avoid any potential complications, women should know what is considered to be normal and when to call a doctor about GI health. Let's talk about that.
Nausea & Vomiting
During the first 16-weeks of pregnancy, mild to moderate nausea and vomiting is to be expected. This is known all too well as "morning sickness." Nausea is usually one of the earliest symptoms of pregnancy for many women.
If the symptoms are severe, a doctor can recommend medication that will help reduce discomfort and the chances of dehydration. As for mild to moderate symptoms or avoiding medications, dietary changes and vitamin therapy are options.
After the 16-week mark. Vomiting is typically not related to the pregnancy. If your vomiting persists after 16-weeks, please reach out to your doctor as it can be an infection, a bug, and a more serious medical issue in rare cases. Please don't assume it is pregnancy if your doctor hasn't validated it as such.
Heartburn & Acid Reflux
Acid reflux and heartburn affect 3 out of 5 people in the general population. By the third trimester, as many as half of the pregnant women will experience heartburn at some time or another. During pregnancy, the muscle between the esophagus and stomach relaxes because of the hormonal changes in your body. The growing uterus also applies increased pressure on the stomach. This combination creates the perfect environment for heartburn.
Eating smaller portions more frequently can help reduce heartburn. Antacids are generally suggested to help cut down on heartburn. If you experience any pain below your ribs in the upper portion of the abdomen, please reach out to your doctor. It is rare, but epigastric pain can be a symptom of fatty liver disease or preeclampsia.
Diarrhea is rough, and it can be the worst! Typically, diarrhea that lasts only a few days is related to an infection such as gastroenteritis. Another cause is eating something that upsets your stomach. Please check with your doctor to ensure you get the best treatment to avoid dehydration during your illness, as this will affect your growing baby too.
Diarrhea that is onset without an identifiable trigger or that comes with lower back pain and increased vaginal discharge or mucus could be a sign of preterm labor. Please call your doctor immediately you experience that combination of symptoms.
Pregnancy hormones affect the lower GI tract. These hormone changes can effectively slow down the transit of your stool through the bowels. The slowed motion allows more water to be absorbed in the stool, making them more challenging to pass. Specific prenatal vitamins and iron supplements can add to constipation. The latter into the pregnancy it gets, the pressure from the uterus growing can add to the difficulty of passing stool.
Drink more fluids and eat more fiber to prevent constipation. Stool softeners are generally safe to use during pregnancy, but don't hesitate to make sure with your doctor. More severe constipation may require the use of a mild laxative. Please talk with your doctor about any concerns and treatment if you experience abdominal pain, bloody bowel movements, or painful hemorrhoids.
There aren't many women who go through an entire pregnancy without some sort of GI issues. If you experience severe symptoms or are concerned about anything, please talk to your doctor to get everything squared away.