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Digestive Problems During Pregnancy

Constipation, hemorrhoids, indigestion, heartburn, flatulence, and belching are all part of the fun of pregnancy. There's nothing to be embarrassed about here—it's a fact of life.

Baby Talk

When you have to strain during a bowel movement because the stools are hard and difficult to pass, you have constipation.

Constipation

Most of the digestive problems of pregnancy begin with constipation. This condition is universally common in pregnant women for many reasons:

Just because constipation is common in pregnancy, doesn't mean you have to accept it. You can do many things to avoid constipation, including the following:

When you are constipated, don't take a laxative. Not only can it wash necessary nutrients out of your system, it might be harmful to your baby. Talk to your doctor before taking any medicated remedy for constipation.

Baby Talk

Hemorrhoids are a mass of swollen tissue at the opening of the rectum (where stools exit the body).

Hemorrhoids

Straining during a bowel movement to pass hard stools can cause hemorrhoids. These are varicose veins of the rectum that are sometimes called "piles" because they look like piles of small peas.

If you see blood on your tissue when you wipe after a bowel movement, or if you have pain or excessive itching at the opening of the rectum, ask your doctor to check for hemorrhoids. (This might seem embarrassing, but it's nothing he or she hasn't seen before.) If you have hemorrhoids, they will accompany you through the pregnancy and will probably get worse during the pushing stage of delivery. If you take good care of them, however, they might disappear after the birth.

The following tips should help keep these piles from piling up, and if you don't have them yet, these tips will help you prevent them:

If you are bothered by the pain or itching of hemorrhoids, take action. You can use topical creams that are sold in pharmacies to ease the pain and itching. You might also try applying a compress of witch hazel or ice to the hemorrhoids. If the pain is so bad you can't sit comfortably in a chair, go to your pharmacy and buy a doughnut pillow (this is an inflatable pillow with a hole in the middle so your buttocks don't touch the chair!). When all else fails, get off your feet and lie down; this relieves the pressure and the pain.

Flatulence and Belching

The problem of flatulence (also known as "passing gas" or "blowing wind") is caused by a buildup of gases in the large intestine. Belching (also called burping) is the sudden expulsion of gases from the stomach. These are common problems during pregnancy that cause more embarrassment than pain or discomfort. Constipation can cause these problems, and so can certain foods. If you've been clearing out the room lately with odorous flatulence or belching, avoid constipation and steer clear of known gas producers, such as beans, onions, fried foods, cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth © 2004 by Michele Isaac Gliksman, M.D. and Theresa Foy DiGeronimo. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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