Pregnancy often comes accompanied by a range of physical symptoms. Some symptoms are actually good, such as pregnancy glow, and others are not so nice, such as fatigue, nausea, and vomiting. Do you have to add pregnancy bloating to that list? I’m afraid yes. Bloating is one of the not-so-charming pregnancy symptoms.
If you are pregnant and feel like a hot air balloon, then you are probably bloated. While bloating is a prevalent symptom among pregnant women, it’s not a nice feeling, and it’s understandable you want to learn how to manage it.
When does bloating occur while pregnant?
Bloating is one of the most frequent pregnancy symptoms. A study reported that 49% of pregnant women confirmed to experience some level of bloating during their pregnancy. Bloating usually starts in the early pregnancy stage, during the first trimester.
Since bloating is one of the earliest signs of pregnancy, it is usually considered a sign of pregnancy. Some women get this symptom even before they have their first missed period.
What does pregnancy bloating feel like?
Have you ever felt bloated before? Pregnancy bloating and normal bloating feel precisely the same. Sometimes, your pregnancy bloating may seem worse, but that is due to the accumulation of other pregnancy symptoms, such as constipation and back pain. During pregnancy, women also experience more gas accumulation, which can enhance bloating discomfort.
While bloating, pregnant or not, your belly feels full and tight, causing discomfort and pain. Pregnant women affirm that bloating during the first trimester feels like a balloon ready to burst. When you press on it, you can expect your belly to feel tenser, harder, and tighter than usual. Your stomach may get puffy; that is why most women mistake a bloated belly for their pregnancy bump starting to show up. However, it’s unlikely to see a bump in such an early pregnancy stage. While bloating is uncomfortable, it is typically not a reason to worry, and you can still lead a perfectly healthy pregnancy.
How long does bloating last?
Unfortunately, unlike other common pregnancy symptoms that have an expiration date, such as nausea and vomiting, bloating and constipation tend to be long-lasting. That means those symptoms will probably last until the end of the pregnancy.
However, most women experience bloating relief once they exit the first trimester. Not every pregnancy looks the same, and there is not much you can do to control the symptoms. If, after the first trimester, you still experience bloating, you can learn what triggers it and what helps to manage the symptoms.
What causes bloating during pregnancy?
I know what you are wondering right now: “Why do I feel bloated during pregnancy?” Just like any changes and symptoms related to a woman’s reproductive system and pregnancy, there is one thing to blame: your hormones. Changing hormone levels, more precisely, the pregnancy hormone progesterone, are responsible for this particular symptom during pregnancy.
Progesterone is essential for carrying out a healthy pregnancy. It thickens the uterine lining so the fertilized egg can grow, stops ovulating during the rest of the pregnancy, and stimulates endometrium glands to secrete nutrients for the early embryo. Hormone progesterone continues to increase throughout the pregnancy to help your body complete all those functions. On the not-so-bright side, the rise of progesterone also causes bloating, gas, and constipation, among other symptoms.
Why does progesterone lead to those uncomfortable symptoms? Progesterone causes your body’s smooth muscles to relax. When the gastrointestinal tract relaxes, you start experiencing slow digestion. That effect gives nutrients from your food intake more time to enter your bloodstream and reach the growing baby. That’s good news; the bad news is that slow digestion while pregnant can bring side effects such as bloating, cramps, and constipation.
Other causes behind pregnancy bloating
Other factors besides pregnancy hormone progesterone levels can increase bloating and worsen the symptoms.
It is normal for people with food sensitivity, such as gluten or lactose intolerance, to feel bloated and gassy after they have certain foods. If you have any food sensitivity or condition and are planning on getting pregnant, you should talk with your healthcare provider or nutritionist about making a personalized meal plan. Talk with your doctor even if you experience minor discomfort when having dairy products, such as milk or ice cream, because bloating symptoms can increase once you get pregnant.
A weak pelvic floor
Among the myriad of reasons why you may get bloated – pregnancy, drinking beer, celiac disease, bad food choices, etc. – one often overlooked is poor pelvic floor health. The connection between pelvic floor and bloating is complex, involving digestive tract health and bacteria growth. The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that support the bowel, bladder, and uterus; pelvic muscle strength is crucial for regular bowel movements and healthy digestion. When those muscles become weak, they can lead to several pelvic floor symptoms:
- urine leaking – mainly when sneezing, coughing, or laughing
- frequent need to pee
- tampons falling out
- lowe back pain
- constipation and bloating
A weak pelvic floor can enhance bloating while pregnant. Women’s health experts recommend you take a pelvic floor exam before getting pregnant if you have any of the pelvic floor symptoms from the list.
Managing bloating and gas during pregnancy
While there is nothing you can do to make pregnancy symptoms disappear entirely, you can try the following tips to manage bloating and discomfort:
Drink plenty of water
Staying hydrated is vital for your digestive system to function correctly. Drink enough water throughout the day – we recommend between 8 to 10 glasses – especially between meals. A common mistake we usually make is drinking too much water during meals, which can actually make digestion difficult.
When we say stay hydrated, we mean clear water. Sodas, sparkling water, coffee, and beer will enhance bloating and its uncomfortable symptoms.
Eat enough fiver
Another way to tackle pregnancy constipation and bloating is to eat plenty of fiber – whole grains, leafy greens, and fruits. Experts recommend about 25g to 30g of fiber daily; if you struggle to meet those quantities, you can try fiber supplements. However, adding too much fiber to your diet can lead to gas and bloating, so increase your fiber intake gradually and see how your body reacts to it.
Foods to avoid
Certain foods can make bloating worse and raise your discomfort. These are the foods we suggest you avoid while pregnant if you experience bloating or constipation:
- Beans: Beans, grains, and legumes are incredibly healthy, but they can produce gas and bloating. Try reducing their intake as much as possible.
- Dairy products: As mentioned, dairy can cause bloating in lactose-intolerant individuals. Maybe you are mildly lactose intolerant and have never noticed the symptoms before. If your body starts to react to lactose products while pregnant, try to avoid such products.
- Beverages with gas: Carbonated drinks add gas and bubbles to our stomach and digestive system, enhancing bloating.
- Fried and high-fat foods: If you experience severe bloating, try cutting back on fried and high-fat foods, which are harder for your body to digest and can increase the issue.
A gentle abdominal massage can do wonders to make things move, release gas, and improve bloating. This trick only works in early pregnancy; once your baby bump eclipses your intestines, you won’t be able to massage your abdomen anymore.
Start on the right side of your stomach, down by your hip bone, and gently rub your stomach in circular motions. Repeat that circular movement for about 10 minutes.
Physical activity helps expel gas and speed up digestion, improving bloating and constipation. If you are not a fan of going to the gym, a walk in the park or a bike ride will also do the trick. Doctors typically encourage exercise during pregnancy since it also increases your energy levels and improves back and pelvic pain. Remember to talk with your obstetrician before engaging in new physical activities while pregnant.
When to call your doctor about bloating
Bloating is a common symptom of pregnancy, but not a matter of laughing. While you shouldn’t panic if you experience bloating at any point in your pregnancy, it is crucial to know when something more serious could be going on.
We advise you to contact your primary doctor if you feel severe abdominal pain for more than 30 minutes or are constipated for over 1 week.
Get in touch with a professional clinic
Early pregnancy bloating is something to expect during the first trimester. Know that this symptom can extend through the entire pregnancy, causing discomfort and sometimes mild pain. While you can get rid of bloating, you can do plenty to alleviate this symptom. Do you have any more doubts about pregnancy bloating or other symptoms? Feel free to contact our women’s health and abortion clinic in Fort Lauderdale. Our dedicated medical staff will answer all your questions and provide appropriate guidance.