Monday 20 November 2017

Pregnany: Digestive issues

Pregnancy can have some uncomfortable effects on your digestive system, such as nausea, heartburn and constipation, and your baby may also suffer with digestive issues, but there are ways to alleviate the discomfort, writes Carmel Doyle

Carmel Doyle

DUE to the many hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy, expectant mothers can experience some uncomfortable conditions such as nausea, heartburn and constipation. So what is the best way to alleviate these conditions, particularly via your food consumption? Valerie Kelly, a spokesperson for the Irish Nutrition & Dietetic Institute and a dietitian at Temple Street Children's University Hospital, says most of the symptoms associated with nausea – with or without vomiting – constipation and heartburn are caused by certain pregnancy hormones, which can have a relaxing effect on the bowel.

" This can bring about a lot of those symptoms. For example, the relaxing effect on the bowel can make everything sluggish and lead to constipation. Similarly, the muscle (sphincter) at the bottom of the oesophagus going into your stomach, which normally prevents acid coming back up the oesophagus, becomes relaxed and can cause heartburn."

Protective mechanism

With nausea, Kelly points to how it is thought that this is caused by the pregnancy hormone called hCG.

"Nobody is sure why the nausea happens, but they think it might be nature's way of limiting exposure to certain toxins in the diet and the environment. So pregnant women are less likely to eat things that might be dangerous for their baby."

For nausea, Kelly's advice is simple: "Smaller meals and often."

She also says it's important not to go too long without eating because that can make the nausea even worse.

"Have quite bland food such as crackers and toast. Try to get fresh air and avoid the smell of food too much."

While the nausea should finish by the 12–14 week mark, constipation and heartburn can continue throughout the pregnancy.

In terms of constipation, Kelly advises pregnant women to try to drink plenty of fluids such as eight to 10 glasses of clear fluid a day, preferably water.

"Include more fibre in the diet. Try to get your five a day of fruit and veg, eating a wholegrain cereal in the morning or porridge and maybe high-fibre bread during the day."


Towards the end of your pregnancy heartburn can also become worse because of the pressure of the baby on the abdomen.

With heartburn, Kelly says people should eat small amounts regularly during the day rather than big meals, and chew their food well.

"It's probably better to avoid spicy foods and not to take too much caffeine or fizzy drinks."

Generally, she says this would mean not having more than two mugs of coffee or three cups of tea per day.

She also says women shouldn't worry if they don't have nausea, heartburn or constipation as not every woman will get these conditions during their pregnancy.

Digestive issues and your baby

Young babies often experience distressing conditions such as colic, reflux, wind and allergies.

"Colic is very common – it can affect up to 25pc of babies and it normally happens between the ages of three and 13 weeks. However, they pretty much

Mother & Babies

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