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Small lexicon of digestive disorders during pregnancy

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You are pregnant and very proud to be carrying this little baby. Then one morning you wake up feeling nauseous... pregnancy is often accompanied by minor and major pains, some of which affect your digestion. Here is an overview of the most common digestive disorders among pregnant women.  

Petit lexique des troubles digestifs durant la grossesse

Digestive disorders: de moindres maux

Well, it’s official! After all this time and waiting, you’re going to have a baby. You and your spouse are thrilled with the idea that you will soon be welcoming this little bundle of joy who will surely become the most important aspect of your lives. Of course, you dearly hope that your pregnancy progresses without any surprises. But you must come to terms with the fact that it might be cause for a number of ups and downs in your life.

Almost all women experience digestive disorders at one time or another during their pregnancy. Most of the time, they do not pose any danger to health. Nausea, vomiting, reflux, heartburn, bloating and constipation are among the most frequent troubles experienced by pregnant women. But there’s good news: in many cases, it is possible to lessen these problems simply by adopting measures that do not necessarily involve taking medication. And don’t worry. If you must take a medication for digestive disorders during your pregnancy, did you know that there are several that are harmless for you and your baby? Your pharmacist, an expert when it comes to drugs, can provide advice on the best and safest way to use your medication.

Here are a few tips and suggestions on the most common digestive disorders that occur during pregnancy. Remember that you must always ask your pharmacist each time you plan on taking an over-the-counter medication to help ease any of the symptoms described below.

Nausea and vomiting

Nausea and vomiting are the classic ailments of the first trimester and, while they do not affect the pregnancy or the foetus, they are still disagreeable. It is estimated that more than 50% of women suffer from nausea or vomiting during the first trimester of their pregnancy. These problems normally disappear towards the 16th week of pregnancy, but rarely can continue until the end of pregnancy.  

Tips on how to reduce these ailments:

  • Eat frequent and light meals (every 2 or 3 hours).
  • Avoid foods that aggravate your symptoms.
  • Eat crackers before getting up; get up slowly.
  • Avoid eating foods that are too spicy or fat.
  • Keep away from strong or offensive odours, such as cigarette smoke.
  • Do not go to sleep immediately after eating.
  • Take a rest and avoid stress, as it exacerbates nausea.
  • Acupuncture or accupressure bracelets are worth trying.

Consult your doctor:

  • If nausea or vomiting interfere with your daily activities and are intolerable even after following the above tips;
  • If you lose weight;
  • If you show signs of dehydration (dryness of the mucous membranes, concentrated urine, intense thirst, etc.);
  • If you suffer from serious and persistent vomiting.

Constipation and bloating

Many pregnant women will have symptoms of constipation, sometimes accompanied by bloating, especially during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. Constipation is caused by various factors, including the action of some hormones on the muscles of the intestinal wall or the pressure exerted by the uterus on the intestines. Constipation can also contribute to a haemorrhoid problem, also very common among pregnant women.  

Tips on how to reduce these problems:

  • Drink lots of water.
  • Eat a daily diet rich in fibre, such as bran or whole wheat cereals.
  • Increase your fruit and vegetable intake; prunes are an especially good choice (prune juice, dried or pureed prunes).
  • Plan on taking fibre supplements, such as psyllium.
  • Exercise regularly, according to your abilities.
  • Go to the toilet as soon as you get the urge.
  • Remember that calcium and iron contained in some supplements can cause constipation.  

Consult your physician:

  • if your constipation lasts for several days in spite of following the above measures and taking over-the-counter medication as directed by your pharmacist;
  • if you see blood in your stools;
  • if you alternate between constipation and diarrhoea;
  • if you have haemorrhoids that persist, regardless of the advice of your pharmacist.

Heartburn and acid reflux

Heartburn and acid reflux (or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) in medical terms) are common among pregnant women. These symptoms can appear at the start of pregnancy and continue by increasing in intensity or not throughout the pregnancy. They are the result of a surplus of gastric acid in the stomach and the oesophagus.

Tips on how to alleviate these symptoms:

  • Eat less, but more frequently.
  • Reduce or avoid consuming irritating foods or drinks (spicy foods, fatty foods, coffee, tea, citrus fruit and their juice, tomatoes and their juice, chocolate, mint, etc.).
  • Avoid lying down after meals and eating before going to bed.
  • Wear comfortable and loose clothing.
  • Sleep with your head raised slightly if you have acid reflux during the night.
  • Reduce your stress level.

Consult your physician:

  • if the symptoms stop you from eating properly;
  • if you lose weight;
  • if the symptoms appear several times a week or last for several weeks;
  • if the symptoms are accompanied by fever, vomiting, blood in the stools or any other abnormal occurrence.

Your pharmacist can be of great assistance for many common situations during pregnancy. Your pharmacist can show you how to use medication properly, and can also offer numerous tips and help direct you to other healthcare professionals as needed. Don’t hesitate to ask for advice. 

Pregnancy in itself is a happy event, but not without its hurdles. But one thing is certain: once you have your baby in your arms and marvel at its perfection, you will quickly forget about all these little inconveniences! 

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