We share our top tips for relieving uncomfortable bloating and trapped wind in pregnancy.
Unfortunately excessive wind and uncomfortable bloating seem to be part and parcel of pregnancy and it's something that most women suffer with particularly in the first and final trimesters. However, while you can't completely control this unpleasant and, lets face it, somewhat embarrassing side effect, there are a few things you can try to make yourself more comfortable.
What causes excessive wind during pregnancy?
While swallowing air when you're eating or drinking can cause wind, it's the hormone progesterone that's largely to blame for the excessive and uncomfortable wind that many women suffer with at some stage during their pregnancy. This hormone helps to relax the smooth muscle tissue in your body in order to make room for your growing baby and prepare your body for giving birth. However, while doing this it also relaxes your intestines. This in turn slows down the passage of food through your digestive tract giving bacteria longer to break down undigested food and causing wind and bloating as a by-product in the meantime.
Some foods can exacerbate these symptoms more than others as they produce more gas when broken down. While these include typically 'windy' foods like pulses, cabbage and cauliflower you may find that you are able to stomach these foods without a problem but are more sensitive to others. Onions, peas and dairy products can be particularly problematic for some. Fatty or sugary foods and refined carbohydrates such as white bread, rice and flour may also make wind and bloating worse during pregnancy as they take longer to pass through your system.
What's more, many women find that symptoms of wind worsen as they near the end of their pregnancy as their 'almost grown' baby presses on their stomach, slowing digestion further.
How can you minimise the symptoms?
Pregnant or not, passing wind up to 40 (yes 40!) times a day is considered to be normal. So, while you won't be able to eliminate the problem entirely there are some tricks you can try to reduce the discomfort of bloating and wind during pregnancy. These include:
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- Starting the day right - It can be a good idea to kick start your digestive system with a cup of hot water and lemon or peppermint tea before you eat breakfast. This can help get yesterday's food moving through your intestines before you consume anything else. Sipping on these drinks throughout the day especially after meals can help reduce bloating too.
- Breakfast like a king - Including some wheat bran as part of your breakfast will also help to stimulate your intestines as this substance is not broken down in your stomach so helps get things moving without causing wind.
- Eat smaller meals - Try eating several smaller, simpler meals throughout the day rather than just having a larger breakfast, lunch and then dinner. This will help your stomach to digest food more efficiently as it will be better able to produce the right combination of digestive enzymes to get food moving through faster.
- Keep fizzy drinks to a minimum - Fizzy drinks contain a lot of sugar and sweeteners as well as a lot of air and can make you particularly gassy after you drink them. For this reason it's best to give them a miss at least while you're pregnant.
- Sit up when you eat - You should always try to sit up straight when you have something to eat or drink as this will allow it to pass through your stomach more easily, helping to reduce heartburn and indigestion as well as bloating.
- Exercise - Whether it's walking, running, swimming or yoga, exercise of any type will help to get your digestive system moving and because of this regular exercise is great for keeping your digestion regular too!
- Say goodbye to gum - Chewing gum is bad for wind on two counts. It not only gets you swallowing excess air that can cause uncomfortable bloating but also contains sorbitol, a sweetener that is absorbed slowly by the body, causing wind as a side effect.
- Keep a food diary - If you've suffered from particularly bad wind since you became pregnant you could try keeping a food diary to see whether a particular food sensitivity is to blame. While you shouldn't ever cut any specific foods out of your diet completely you may find that reducing your consumption can help. However, you should always discuss this with your doctor first to see what they suggest.
- Work your pelvic floor - Sometimes it's just not 'appropriate' to pass wind no matter how much you need to and keeping your pelvic floor muscles in shape will help to give you better control over when and where you relieve your flatulence.
- Wear loose clothes - Trousers that cut into your tummy can make wind and bloating even more uncomfortable so looser clothes are generally a good idea. Staying away from tight tops will also help you to resist the instinctive urge to hold your tummy in when you feel bloated.
- Enjoy a healthy diet - Enjoying a healthy, varied diet with plenty of vegetables, lean protein and wholegrains will keep your digestive system in good shape and will help to minimise wind and uncomfortable bloating as much as possible.