Pregnancy is often a time of anticipation and excitement, but it also brings physical and hormonal changes that can cause varying levels of discomfort. Common pregnancy-related digestive upsets include nausea, vomiting, heartburn and constipation. In many cases, these discomforts can be eased through small changes in diet, daily routines and activity levels.
How to ease digestive discomfort in pregnancy
Nausea and vomiting
Nausea and vomiting in pregnancy are thought to be linked to changing hormone levels. They affect more than half of all pregnant women.
If you have nausea or vomiting in pregnancy, try these tips to ease the symptoms.
- Eat small meals every two to three hours.
- Try eating a piece of bread or a cracker before getting up in the morning.
- Have a snack before bedtime or during the night.
- Try carbohydrate-rich foods such as fruit, diluted fruit juice, breads and cereals.
- Try adding ginger to your diet. Ask your doctor to recommend a supplement and the best way to take it (for example swallow capsule whole or break it and mix in liquid).
- Do not skip meals.
- Avoid high-fat and fried foods.
- Avoid strong food smells and cooking odours.
- Avoid highly seasoned foods.
If you experience severe vomiting during pregnancy, called hyperemesis gravidarum, you are at risk for dehydration and weight loss. You may need to be treated with medication and receive fluids through an intravenous (IV) line.
Heartburn can occur when the enlarged uterus presses up against the stomach, forcing stomach contents up into the esophagus. It may also be caused by hormonal changes during pregnancy. While uncomfortable, heartburn only becomes a problem in pregnancy if it causes you to stop eating.
To minimize heartburn, try these tips.
- Eat small amounts of lower-fat foods frequently.
- Eat slowly and chew food well.
- Avoid spicy foods that seem to make heartburn worse.
- Avoid lying down for one or two hours after eating.
- Avoid bending after eating.
If you experience heartburn, do not take antacids unless directed by your doctor.
Constipation is another concern during pregnancy, and it affects many women. Constipation is linked to changing hormone levels and pressure from the enlarged uterus on the colon. It also results from a diet low in fibre and fluids and from lack of physical activity.
Try these tips to ease symptoms.
- Increase fibre intake by eating whole grain breads, beans and lentils, vegetables and fruits.
- Drink eight to 12 cups of fluid per day, including water, milk and diluted juice (in water or low-sodium carbonated water).
- Walk or swim regularly to stay active.
If you experience constipation, avoid taking laxatives unless directed by your doctor.
There are many things to consider to help ensure that you and your growing baby are healthy during your pregnancy. While it might seem overwhelming sometimes, it is important to enjoy this time if you can. Nourishing your unborn baby can be one of the most rewarding times in your life.
- Common pregnancy-related symptoms include nausea, vomiting, heartburn and constipation.
- Symptoms often occur because of hormonal changes during pregnancy. Heartburn can also be caused by pressure from the growing uterus against the stomach.
- Small changes in diet and lifestyle can help ease symptoms.
- Always talk to your doctor or dietitian before starting a new treatment for pregnancy symptoms.