Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Trouble with Number Two

So, the bane of a pregnant woman's existence is gas, bloating and constipation and no one wants to bring it up. Early in the first trimester, gas is really bad. It's embarrassing and painful and inconvenient and it HURTS and so it's scary, because the woman, newly pregnant, thinks something is wrong with her pregnancy. Gas gets trapped when peristalsis slows down and that might just be a result of the early pregnancy. The smooth muscle of the colon and the female reproductive tract can often mimic each other. So there is cramping with the pregnancy, which is a very commonly reported symptom and then there's the added discomfort of the gastrointestinal symptoms. Take Gas-X or Phazyme and eat yogurt and all the products that are now in vogue as probiotics. Safe in pregnancy, all of them and effective, all of them.

Bloating is also the female complaint of the century and it doesn't get better with pregnancy. It is trapped gas and retained fluids and it can make the waistline of your jeans stop coming together too early for you to even begin to think of wearing maternity clothes. The measures for gas should relieve the bloated feeling too. And as always, keeping those bowels moving: lots of fluids and roughage ( my mother's word for fiber ). Fiber Con, Citrucel and Metamucil, Benefiber and the list goes on isn't just for keeping us "regular" ( which we need to do anyway ) . The benefits of fiber keep coming up for a myriad of healthful reasons like reducing the incidence of heart disease and colon cancer and breast cancer and who knows what, next week. And it really helps with bloating.

And fiber is essential for the relief of constipation that many females seem to be born with and most pregnant women complain about. First of all, we need a lot of water as human beings. We are made of water and we need water to stay alive. Our intestinal tract really needs water when we're pregnant because if we don't drink enough water to help build our 50% increased blood supply, then our body "steals " water from our intestines to make up the shortfall. If we don't have enough water in our intestinal tract, we get constipated. Keep it moving with water. Add stool softeners, as needed. Everyday is okay. You can find softeners in lots of prenatal vitamins ( and the cheaper over-the-counter brands are fine ). Take gentle laxatives, if you need to: Senekot, Miralax, Dulcolax won't hurt a pregnancy and can really be necessary sometimes, especially if you don't drink the required water ( 64 ounces, minimum, everyday . And when you use the fiber of your choice, in pill, powder or even cookie or cracker form, you MUST add water to the mix so you don't get hard, dry stools, that don't move. I liken it to the brick effect. Very hard ( pun intended ) to pass those.

Drink water, eat foods high in fiber, supplement fiber, add softeners, use a gentle laxative as necessary. Non-prescription relief for gas and bloating is safe in pregnancy. Probiotics like yogurt are full of beneficial bacteria and calcium and protein too. Probably all great remedies for all of us, whether pregnant or not. Makes it a lot less uncomfortable, embarassing, inconvenient and much more pleasant for us and everyone around us too. It all comes back to our mothers, doesn't it? An apple a day ( fiber ) and drink your water. Mothers are so smart.