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Digestive Problems in Pregnancy

In This Article:

Indigestion, heartburn, constipation, and hemorrhoids

Indigestion and heartburn

Many women start to experience episodes of indigestion and heartburn during the second trimester.

Causes

Indigestion results from slower movements of the digestive tract under the influence of pregnancy hormones combined with reduced space in the stomach from the growing baby. The muscular valve at the top of the stomach is also softened by hormones and this can allow stomach acid to flow up into the esophagus, causing heartburn.

What to do

Avoiding large meals, especially late at night, helps prevent indigestion and heartburn. If you suffer from heartburn at night, try sleeping in a propped up position with your head higher than your feet. For relief from heartburn, a liquid antacid preparation can be helpful; ask your doctor for advice on which medications are safe. Some women find that slowly drinking a glass of milk eases the discomfort.

Constipation

During the second trimester, constipation often becomes a problem.

Causes

Under the influence of the softening effect of pregnancy hormones, the digestive tract becomes less active. As a result, fecal matter spends more time in the large intestine, allowing reabsorption of fluids and leaving solids hard and difficult to pass. Not drinking enough fluids increases the likelihood of constipation.

What to do

Dietary fiber in the form of vegetables and whole foods, with an increase in fluid intake usually corrects the problem. Laxatives are not recommended during pregnancy. They can stimulate contractions and lead to dehydration. Talk to your doctor if these steps don't resolve your constipation.

Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids are dilated blood vessels around the inside of, or protruding from, the anus. Their constriction by the anal muscles and sensitivity to the acidic environment leads to a feeling of discomfort in mild episodes and pain in more severe cases. They are more likely to occur during the third trimester.

Causes

The hormonal softening of the tissues around the anus increases the risk of developing hemorrhoids. Pressure of the baby's head on the blood vessels is also a factor, as is constipation.

What to do

Treatment of constipation and avoiding pushing or straining to pass a stool are important in the prevention of hemorrhoids. Ask your doctor which over-the-counter creams for relieving discomfort are safe. If hemorrhoids are protruding and causing great discomfort, it's often possible for a health professional to "reduce" them by pushing them gently back into place.



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excerpted from:

Excerpted from Pregnancy Day by Day.
Copyright © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited.
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