Painful Gas Causes and Prevention During Pregnancy

In This Article

Gas and bloating are common discomforts of pregnancy. They can be uncomfortable and even painful, caused by a variety of factors, including hormones and diet.

Here’s what you need to know about the symptoms and causes of painful gas and bloating during pregnancy and after childbirth, along with tips on how to find relief and when to call the doctor.

Painful gas during pregnancy
Illustration by Brianna Gilmartin, Verywell

What It Is

Everyone gets and passes gas. Your body makes gas during digestion as the natural bacteria in your stomach and intestines break down the food that you eat. But, you also bring air into your body by swallowing it when you eat, drink, laugh, breath, and talk.

Sometimes gas can lead to bloating. Bloating is when your stomach swells and feels full after eating or from the buildup of gas.

Causes

When you’re pregnant, you may notice that you’re passing gas more than usual, and that it's painful. An increase in gas during pregnancy can be from a variety of causes.

Progesterone

During pregnancy, there is more of the hormone progesterone in your body.

Progesterone relaxes the smooth muscle in your gastrointestinal tract. It causes the food to move more slowly through your system. Digestion slows down, and gas builds up in your intestines.

It may be a little uncomfortable, but the slow movement of food through your intestines allows your body to absorb more nutrients for you and your growing baby.

What You Eat

The foods you eat and beverages you drink may affect gas production. Changing your diet too quickly can cause gas, too.

If you go from a poor diet to one high in fiber and full of healthy fruits and vegetables overnight, your body will not have time to adjust and you will produce more gas for a while. Of course, moving to a healthy diet is great. You may just want to do it more gradually.

How You Eat

Gas can build up if you eat large meals, eat a lot of gassy foods, eat very quickly, or don't chew your food well.

An Expanding Midsection

As your uterus grows, it puts pressure on your intestines. It can become more difficult to control the release of gas, causing it to happen unexpectedly or more often. 

Constipation

When you're having trouble moving your bowels, it can cause bloating and pain. The stool sitting in your intestines makes it more difficult for the gas to pass through and exit the body.

Your Prenatal Vitamin

Prenatal vitamins are important. They fill in the gaps to make sure you and your baby are getting all the vitamins and minerals you both need. But, some vitamins and minerals, especially iron, can contribute to constipation. And, as mentioned above, constipation can lead to more gas.

Stress and Anxiety

When you're nervous, you may breathe more quickly and take in more air. 

Lactose Intolerance

If you haven’t poured yourself a glass of milk in years, but decide it's time to start drinking a lot of milk now that you’re pregnant, you may find you don’t tolerate it the same way you did as a kid. The same goes for ice cream and other dairy products. Lactose intolerance and milk allergies can cause gas, bloating, pain, and diarrhea. 

Symptoms

When gas builds up in your body, it can cause symptoms such as:

Your body releases the gas from your body through:

  • Flatulence (farting or passing wind)
  • Belching (burping)

Treatment and Prevention

Gas is a normal function of the human body. You cannot completely prevent it, even when you aren’t expecting a child. But, there are a few things you can do to try to treat it and pass less gas.

Drink plenty of water: Water and other healthy fluids keep your body hydrated and help prevent constipation. But, you may want to cut down on drinks with carbonation and sugar, such as soda pop.

Use a cup or a glass: When you drink from a bottle or through a straw, you can pull more air into your stomach.

Drink more slowly: Try to take your time and enjoy your beverage at a slower pace. When you gulp it down, you take in extra air with each swallow. 

Cut back on gas-producing foods: Some foods tend to make more gas. These foods include broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, beans, sugary foods, and fried or fatty foods.

Maintain a healthy diet: A lot of healthy foods can cause gas. You may want to try to avoid some of them, but don’t stop eating all the healthy foods in your diet. You want to try to prevent gas, but you don’t want to eliminate the important nutrients that you and your baby need. Not getting the nutrition you need can put your pregnancy and your baby at risk for complications.

Try to eat less of the things that trigger gas, but be sure you’re still focusing on well-balanced meals even if it means you have to deal with a little flatulence here and there. 

Change your eating habits: To help with digestion, try to eat smaller meals more often throughout the day instead of three large meals. Eating quickly and talking while you’re eating can cause you to take in more air. So, take your time, eat slowly, and follow your mother’s advice: Don’t talk with your mouth full. Also, be sure to chew your food, so there’s less to break down once it gets to the stomach. 

Get some exercise: Physical activity during pregnancy is healthy. It helps to prevent constipation and s study published in 2006 show it gets the gas moving on through.

The CDC and ACOG recommend that pregnant moms try to get 30 minutes of exercise each day (150 minutes a week).

Add fiber slowly: Fiber pulls water into the intestines to make it easier for the poop to move through. Regular bowel movements help to prevent constipation, bloating, pain and gas. But, if you add fiber to your diet quickly, it can cause gas. So, do it gradually.

Foods high in fiber are fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains. If you’re dealing with constipation and you’re having trouble getting enough fiber, talk to your doctor about a supplement. 

Maintain a healthy weight: Try to stay within the guidelines for healthy weight gain during pregnancy. Gaining too much weight can put more pressure on your digestive tract causing gas to build up and get trapped. 

Dress comfortably: Wear comfortable clothing that doesn’t put pressure on your abdomen. Tight pants or belts around your waist can press on your intestines.

Skip the chewing gum: Gum chewing can cause you to swallow air. Plus, some of the artificial sweeteners in chewing gum can make you even gassier.

Deal with stress: Learn and practice meditation. Deep breaths and other relaxation techniques can help to relieve anxiety and stress. If you are having a tough time dealing with the stress in your life, consider talking to your doctor. Your doctor can refer you to a therapist or counselor to help you get through it. 

Don’t smoke: When you inhale cigarette smoke, you also draw in air. It’s not good for gas, and it’s not good for your health or the health of your baby. It’s not easy, but try to quit. If you need help, you can talk to your doctor. 

Medicine 

There are a few over-the-counter (OTC) products that treat gas. Some are safe to use during pregnancy.

It’s always best to talk to your doctor before starting a new medicine on your own. Your doctor will want to know what’s going on with you, plus can recommend the best option and dose for your symptoms.

The OTC medicines that treat gas include:

Anti-gas medication: Gas medicine that has simethicone as it’s active ingredient is generally considered safe to take during pregnancy. These include:

  • Gas-X
  • Maalox Anti-Gas
  • Mylanta Gas Minis 
  • Phazyme

Beano: Beano (Alpha Galactosidase) is an enzyme you take before you eat to aid digestion and help prevent gas before it starts. Beano has not been shown to be harmful during pregnancy, but you should ask your doctor before you use it. 

Lactase: Lactase is an enzyme that helps with the digestion of milk and other dairy products. If you are lactose intolerant or you suffer from gas and bloating after drinking milk or eating dairy products, talk to your doctor to find out if a product like Lactaid is right for you.

Antacids: Some antacids, such as Tums and Rolaids, are safe to use during pregnancy. These brands also make a version of their antacid with added simethicone for gas. However, the side effects of some antacids can lead other pregnancy discomforts such as constipation, diarrhea, or swelling.

Some antacids are not safe to use while you’re pregnant. You should ask your doctor for a recommendation based on your needs.

What to Avoid

Before you take any OTC medicine, herbs, or home remedies while you’re expecting, you should talk to the doctor and read the labels carefully to be sure you have the right product. Over-the-counter products that may be safe when you’re not pregnant aren’t always safe to take when you are pregnant. Some of the medicines that you shouldn’t use to treat gas and bloating during pregnancy are:

  • Alka-Seltzer  
  • Pepto-Bismol (Bismuth subsalicylate)
  • Kaopectate (Bismuth subsalicylate)
  • Bicarbonate of soda
  • Products containing aspirin
  • Castor oil
  • Enemas
  • Laxatives
  • Activated charcoal

Be sure to talk to your doctor before using any of the above treatments. Your doctor can work with you and help you safely find relief.

Effects on Baby

The baby does not feel the gas pain or pressure that you do. Your little one is safe and comfortable floating in the protective fluid of the amniotic sac. The movement and sounds of the gas as it makes its way through your intestines may even be pleasant and soothing for your baby.

As long as you continue to eat well and get the nutrients that you and your baby need, gas and other gastric discomforts such as heartburn and constipation, while uncomfortable for you, do not harm your baby.

When to Call the Doctor

Gas can be painful, but it’s not the only thing that can cause abdominal pain during pregnancy. Some of the other issues and complications that can be mistaken for gas are: 

If you aren’t sure whether or not gas is causing your pain, call your doctor. It’s better to get checked out and find out its just gas than to let it go and later wish you got it checked.

Make that call or go to the emergency room if: 

Gas After Delivery

Childbirth certainly affects the GI tract. You can also experience painful gas after your child is born.

Whether you have a vaginal delivery or a c-section, these actions can help relieve gas pain after the birth of your baby: 

  • Get up and walk around as soon as possible. 
  • Change positions often.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Take the stool softener the doctor orders for you.
  • Talk to your doctor about taking Motrin or Tylenol to relieve pain.
  • Use ice to reduce swelling in the perineal area and a local numbing spray to relieve perineal pain.
  • Try not to worry.

Vaginal Birth

The delivery process stretches out muscles and causes swelling and soreness in the perineal area. Add in hemorrhoids and an episiotomy, and it’s no wonder that women do not want to attempt to move their bowels after childbirth.

It’s OK if it takes a few days to get things going again, but any longer than that and it could cause problems.

Constipation and gas can develop when the bowels are sluggish, or you hold the stool in from fear. It may be scary—and a little painful—but you have to try to move those bowels. You aren’t going to break open your stitches, and the passing of the poop probably won’t be as bad as you think it will be. It will actually be much worse if you don’t go. 

Cesarean Section

A cesarean section is a surgery, and surgery slows down the bowels. Constipation and trapped gas after surgical procedures can be very painful. The gas may last for a few days, and it can take even longer if you do not have a bowel movement.

A Word From Verywell

Gas is a normal part of life for everyone, although some people experience more gas than others. During pregnancy, you might notice an increase in gas and bloating because of the changes in your body. It’s completely normal when there’s a new human growing inside of you. 

Gas can be painful and a little embarrassing, but it doesn’t cause any harm to your pregnancy or your baby. You can do what you can to try to prevent it, but you’re not likely to get through your entire pregnancy without dealing with at least a little extra gas. Try the tips above to help you get relief. And, hang in there—just like the other discomforts of pregnancy, this too shall pass.

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Article Sources

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Additional Reading

  • Bernstein C, Takoudes TC, editors. Medical Problems During Pregnancy: A Comprehensive Clinical Guide. Springer; 2017 Jan 16.