Month 3 Fix tummy troubles
Even if you’ve never had any digestive problems, you may find that during pregnancy you experience constipation, diarrhoea or even both. Luckily, there are many ways to prevent and manage these concerns.
CONSTIPATION WHAT CAUSES IT?
HORMONAL ISSUES: Pregnancy hormones cause a general slowing down of your bowels. Specifically, progesterone relaxes smooth muscles throughout the body, which in turn leads to constipation.
CHANGES IN DIET: Very often during pregnancy, you eat differently than before, which can affect your digestion. For example, when you find out you’re pregnant, you may start eating more fibre, and a sudden increase can, in fact, cause constipation. Fibre needs to be increased gradually.
POSITION OF UTERUS AND BABY: Your growing uterus puts pressure on the bowels, making it more difficult to have full bowel movements.
STRESS: The stress and anxiety that many of us experience during pregnancy can also slow down digestion and in turn lead to constipation.
HOW TO PREVENT IT
FIBRE: It is essential that you get sufficient dietary fibre. Fibre is found in fruits and vegetables, legumes, bran cereals, brown rice, seed bread, nuts and seeds. Many find that increasing specifically soluble fibre in the diet can help with constipation. Soluble fibre is found in the flesh of fruits and vegetables, oats and legumes. If you ate little fibre before your pregnancy, introduce it slowly – perhaps with a fruit in the morning.
WATER: You can eat all the fibre you want, but if you don’t drink enough fluids, you’ll find your constipation does not improve, and your stools become hard and difficult to pass. If you find it difficult to drink plain water, add a dash of lemon juice or stick to herbal tea and soups, which will also contribute to your fluid intake.
EXERCISE: If you’re not moving on the outside, you won’t move on the inside. Light exercise can help to improve digestion as well as to alleviate stress and keep your weight gain in check.
BREATHING: Try some deep breathing to help de-stress and make you feel more relaxed.
SMALL REGULAR MEALS: Large meals can also cause your digestion to become sluggish. Therefore, it is best to keep to small regular meals and snacks throughout the day.
IRON SUPPLEMENT: Some iron supplements can lead to constipation. Chat to your doctor about a slowrelease iron tablet alternative.
PROBIOTIC SUPPLEMENT: A probiotic supplement can be beneficial to improve digestion, but once again discuss with your doctor first to make sure it’s safe.
WHEN TO CALL THE DOCTOR
If you experience severe pain, cramping and/or bleeding, then it’s advisable to call your doctor. Try to avoid straining, as this can lead to (or worsen) haemorrhoids. These are varicose veins around the anus that start off like little peas and can swell to feel like grapes when they protrude. You may not know you have them until you see fresh blood on the toilet paper. It’s important to keep this area clean and dry. Speak to your doctor about special creams that can be used to shrink haemorrhoids.
NOTE: Before trying any natural remedy, discuss with your doctor.
FIBRE SUPPLEMENTS: There are many fibre supplements on the market that claim to improve constipation. However, not all of them are safe during pregnancy.
A good option is a psyllium-husk-based fibre supplement, which is generally considered to be safe during pregnancy.
DIGESTIVE BRAN: Many use digestive bran to combat constipation. However, depending on the amount of fibre you already have in your diet, this can in fact worsen the problem.
Therefore, it is best to use a small amount and increase gradually depending on your tolerance.
PRUNE JUICE: Some women swear by prune juice during pregnancy. Once again, this comes down to individual tolerance. Try a little first and see if it works for you.
PROBIOTICS: These are the natural bacteria found in the gut, which play a role in digestion. By supplementing with probiotics, it can help to treat or manage constipation.
DIARRHOEA WHAT CAUSES IT?
HORMONAL CHANGES: The hormonal changes that can cause constipation can also cause diarrhoea in some of us.
PREGNANCY VITAMINS: You might find your pregnancy multivitamin causes loose stools. Talk to your doctor about other options.
CHANGES IN DIET: By trying to eat healthier for your baby, you may now be consuming more fibre than you’re used to, which may lead to diarrhoea.
EXERCISE: Sometimes exercise can lead to loose stools – especially if your body is not used to it.
FOOD POISONING: While food-borne illnesses are not specific to pregnancy, you may experience such an illness differently during your pregnancy.
HOW TO PREVENT IT
FOOD PREPARATION: Choose food that has been cooked properly. In addition, be careful when eating leftovers. Make sure they have been stored properly and reheated thoroughly.
PROBIOTICS: If you do suspect that you’ve had a food-borne illness, try taking a probiotic supplement (with your doctor’s permission) that will help to rebalance the bacteria, manage the diarrhoea and prevent a recurrence.
GRADUAL CHANGES: Make any changes to your diet gradually.
CHANGE YOUR VITAMIN: If you suspect your pregnancy vitamin is to blame, discuss with your doctor if you can try a different brand.
WHEN TO CALL THE DOCTOR
Most cases of diarrhoea during pregnancy subside on their own. What could be a cause for concern is that diarrhoea can lead to dehydration, which is a serious problem. Be sure to contact your doctor if:
■ You are sick for more than 48 hours
■ You have a fever
■ You develop severe dehydration and decreased urine production
■ You have blood in your stools and/or severe cramping
FLUIDS: Be sure to drink plenty of fluids – specifically water, clear soups and herbal teas. It is a good idea to consider having a rehydration solution – you can buy one or try our recipe below.
REST: Take it easy, and be sure to get plenty of rest to allow your body time to recuperate and for your immune system to recover.
EAT CORRECTLY: Go for small, light meals, and follow the guide below as to which are the better foods to combat diarrhoea.
■ White rice
■ White toast
■ Vegetable broths
■ Chicken breast (skinless)
■ Potatoes (without skin)
■ Fizzy drinks
■ Skins of fruits and vegetables
■ Greasy, fatty, creamy or rich foods
■ Spicy foods
■ Tough, sinewy or fatty meat
■ Artificial sweeteners or artificially sweetened foods
• 8 t sugar
• 1 litre boiled water ❯❯ Mix together, allow to cool and drink throughout the day.