Excess gas is a common complaint among expectant mothers. A combination of pregnancy-related hormonal and physiological changes can contribute to this irritating increase in gas and bloating. While it can be uncomfortable and sometimes awkward, several strategies can help alleviate gas during pregnancy and improve overall comfort.
Everybody has gas, and healthy people pass gas an average of 10-20 times each day.
Gas and bloating increase with pregnancy due to hormonal changes, a growing belly, and diet changes.
Gas can’t be cured, but some strategies may help to improve discomfort.
Gas during pregnancy is generally not a medical concern but a normal, albeit inconvenient, part of this special time.
What causes gas during pregnancy?
As anyone could guess, intestinal gas is not unique to pregnancy. The average healthy person passes gas 10–20 times each day. So although it’s a universal human condition, it's annoying, especially if it comes with gas pain. It can also be awkward if the gas passes at an inconvenient moment.
If you are pregnant, you may feel extra irritated by an abundance of gas. If you think you have more gas than usual, you are probably correct.
Three main factors cause an increase in intestinal gas and bloating during pregnancy:
- Hormonal changes. Pregnancy brings an increase in the hormone progesterone. Among other things, progesterone causes relaxation of the digestive tract. Motilin, a lesser-known hormone that stimulates digestion, is lower during pregnancy. These hormone differences cause food to move more slowly through the digestive tract. The slower food moves, the more gas it produces.
- Growing uterus. As the uterus grows, it puts more pressure on the intestines. This makes the gas feel more uncomfortable and sometimes makes it more difficult for gas to pass through to the rectum.
- Changes in diet. Food cravings and aversions during pregnancy may lead to unintentionally eating more gas-producing foods.
Not unique to pregnancy, increased gas can also be caused by swallowing air. Swallowed air can result from not chewing food properly, eating too quickly, chewing gum, and drinking carbonated beverages.
How to get instant relief from gas during pregnancy
Although passing gas through burping or flatulence will undoubtedly bring some relief, there is no instant cure for intestinal gas. However, a few things can help move gas along faster toward its ultimate exit (flatulence) and bring relief sooner.
If you are finding yourself in need of instant relief from gas, try changing positions, standing up and moving around, or doing some gentle exercise. Warm liquids may also stimulate the intestines to move gas further toward the exit.
What positions are best to help relieve pregnancy gas?
No position will solve that gassy feeling completely, but lying on your left side may help. This helps take some of the pressure from the uterus away from the digestive tract. Sitting upright and leaning slightly forward may also help. This is thought to stretch the abdominal muscles and make it easier for gas to move through the intestines.
Each woman may find different positions helpful. Just the act of moving around in search of the most comfortable position will also help gas move along.
When does pregnancy gas go away?
Gas during pregnancy is usually an ongoing issue until the baby is born. After birth, when the uterus shrinks, there is less pressure on the intestines and less getting in the way of gas moving through the digestive tract. Digestive processes also move along at a more efficient pace once hormones go back to normal. Some women find a slight relief in the third trimester, likely due to eating smaller, more frequent meals.
Tips for managing gas during pregnancy
Here are a few tips for preventing and managing gas during pregnancy:
- Eat small frequent meals. Eating smaller, regular meals may help you avoid overeating and decrease the amount of gas-producing food in your system.
- Pay attention. Try to be aware of what you are eating, and which foods seem to cause you the most tummy trouble so you can avoid those foods in the future.
- Avoid foods that cause gas. Some common culprits for causing gas are beans, cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, onions, and carbonated beverages. For some people, dairy can also cause gas.
- Eat well. A healthy diet including fiber will help keep those digestive processes running smoothly.
- Drink water. Staying hydrated promotes digestion and prevents constipation, making it easier for gas to follow, move along and exit as flatulence.
- Avoid swallowing air. Some habits will help reduce swallowed air. These include taking small bites, chewing food thoroughly, eating slowly, avoiding chewing gum, and avoiding speaking when you are mid-bite.
- Stay active. Exercise helps promote digestion and helps gas move through the digestive tract. Always talk to your healthcare provider before starting a new exercise routine during pregnancy.
Pregnancy can be a time of great happiness but also brings with it an increase in unwanted gas. In most cases, this is a normal part of the experience and doesn't need medical attention. One approach is to adopt a "better out than in" mindset and let nature take its course. However, if you struggle with gas pains and uncomfortable bloating, changing your diet, staying active, and trying different positions can help relieve and improve your comfort.
- UpToDate. Overview of Intestinal Gas and Bloating.
- UpToDate. Maternal Adaptations to Pregnancy: Gastrointestinal Tract.
- American Pregnancy Association. Pregnancy Gas.
- Gastroenterology and Hepatology. Gas and Bloating.