Flatulence is a nice way to say gas. Inadvertently passing gas at the wrong moment can be humiliating, but gas is a fact of life whether you're pregnant or not, explains Chesapeake, Virginia-based gastroenterologist, Dr. Patricia Raymond, MD. "Everyone has around 500ccs of gas in their system every day," says Dr. Raymond. In fact, she says most of us pass gas between 14 to 20 times a day without even knowing it.
Yet when you're pregnant, gas problems can arise for a couple of reasons. The most obvious: as your uterus expands and your baby grows, there's less room for that 500cc of gas that you produce each day. Also, pregnant women often eat healthier diets. Added dairy, fruits, and vegetables all contain simple sugars that your body may have problems breaking down, like lactose in milk and glucose in some fruits.
As Dr. Raymond explains, your body may not have the right enzymes in the small intestine to absorb certain sugars. These particles then travel to the large intestine, where your body's bacteria break down the sugar and as a result produces hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and yes, some methane. Eventually, the gas has to exit your system through the rectum.
Another gas-causer is air that enters your body as you chew and gulp. Some of this gas can be expelled through burping, some is absorbed through your body, and some eventually travels out the other end.
Dr. Raymond suggests these two tips for managing pregnancy gas problems:
- Keep a record of what you eat and how your body responds to it. If you feel bloated or gassy a few hours after eating certain foods, your body may have problems processing those foods. Avoid these foods or take over the counter enzyme supplements so your body can process certain foods.
- For general gas complaints, you can try antacids that in Dr. Raymond's terms "make big gas bubbles smaller," or a charcoal-based tablet that absorbs the gas.
Consult with your healthcare provider before taking any medications, even those sold over the counter, as these medications can interfere with your body's ability to absorb pregnancy vitamins. Overall, Dr. Raymond says the solution can be simple, "Just let it go—you can get away with a lot when you're pregnant."