Pregnancy and Digestion
Pregnancy is clearly a time of significant and important physical, mental and emotional changes but the effect on the soon-to-be mother's digestive system doesn't always receive as much attention as it deserves.
Although many women relish these changes and their connection to their growing new family member, it's really crucial that you are aware of how pregnancy affects your digestive system and what you can do to make your pregnancy more comfortable, healthy and enjoyable for both yourself and your baby.
Urination and DigestionThe increasing pressure that occurs from the uterus and the changes to your hormones during pregnancy will impact your urinary tract. As the uterus puts pressure on the bladder, you may find you are urinating more often.
Your hormones also trigger a widening of the ureters, which are important structures for bringing urine to the bladder from your kidneys. The result is that your urine flow tends to become slower, which can also put you at a higher risk of a urinary tract infection. Your newly increased blood volume means that your kidneys filter more blood as well.
On the other side, however, kidneys also might not be processing the sugar and protein from your foods quite as well as they normally would when you're not pregnant. In turn, the nutrients can end up in your urine.
Cravings and PregnancyCravings are perhaps the one aspect of a woman's pregnancy that are well publicised when it comes to the digestive system. In fact, the jokes about a pregnant woman craving pickles and ice cream are common ones. However, cravings can involve many different kinds of foods. It could be that your sense of taste and sense of smell changes, which then affects cravings and dietary choices.
A pregnant woman has a greater saliva production, which is also more acidic as well. This will mean that oral hygiene becomes even more important to prevent tooth decay. You may even find that your gums become more easily irritated.
Nausea and VomitingThe first trimester of pregnancy tends to bring morning sickness. This can mean you feel nauseous and your appetite may not be quite as robust as usual. Some women will vomit from morning sickness but most will experience the nausea. You could also feel constipated because pregnancy hormones mean that your digestive muscles are relaxed, resulting in food travelling through at a slower rate. Pressure on your colon can also reduce the frequency of bowel movements.
Another pregnancy symptom you may experience is heartburn because the esophageal and stomach muscles can become relaxed. When combined with the uterine pressure, food contents can flow back up, leading to heartburn.
Metabolism and DietYour metabolism can also get a boost during pregnancy, leading you to consume a greater proportion of nutrients to help the foetus as it continues to grow and develop. It's important to see your doctor regularly to check up on your body and health as your pregnancy progresses.
Eating a varied and nutritious diet becomes more important than ever, not only to support the growing foetus but also to help prevent some of the uncomfortable digestive effects of your pregnancy. Ensure you have an adequate intake of fruits and vegetables to meet your fibre requirement each day and also drink plenty of fluids to keep you hydrated and help to prevent constipation.
Regular exercise such as brisk walking can similarly help to improve digestion. If you look after your own body during pregnancy, you can not only ease digestive discomfort but you can also help to give the necessary nutrients to your baby.