Pregnancy and digestive issues go hand-in-hand. From morning sickness that strikes any time of day, to diarrhea that has you sprinting and indigestion that gives you dragon breath, uncomfortable issues stemming from your digestive system are common pregnancy side effects. But what about when labor starts? Can contractions cause gas? While you may be familiar with the problems that crop up during pregnancy, once your body goes into action, similar predicaments can occur.
Can contractions cause gas?
The short answer is that, yes, contractions can cause gas. A more accurate way to describe this phenomenon, however, would be to say that contractions cause gas to move through your digestive tract in a more forceful way than it normally would.
Basically, you might have been gassy anyway, but contractions can make that gas worse.
“Gas is common in pregnancy due to the rise in progesterone,” Dr. Cynthia Flynn, a board-certified OB-GYN, tells Romper. “This hormone slows the bowel function down and can cause gas. In addition, the pressure of the growing baby may make it harder to pass the gas.”
The increased amount of the hormone progesterone in the body that causes your muscles to relax in order to prepare your body for delivery can also wreak havoc on your digestive system and cause gas to build up. When contractions start, that gas can be pushed through the intestinal tract. Flynn explains that this gas expulsion occurs “because bowel function can slow down in early labor.”
If you think it’s hard to hold in a pregnancy fart, just wait until you're in the middle of a rough contraction and the need to pass some gas hits you. It is quite unlikely that you'll be able to contain the rumbling of a toot for very long at all.
Is gas a sign of labor?
"It is not uncommon that the onset of labor is accompanied by lots of sensations in the intestines and frequent bowel movements," doula and birthing expert, Megan Davidson, tells Romper. "For many people, this is also the case during the cramps of menstruation, and similar hormonal and physical processes are often at work. For some people this can mean that contractions are accompanied by gas cramps and pressure, which can make it even harder to cope with labor."
Contraction pain vs. gas pain
Contractions can feel different for each woman. From feeling a squeezing sensation to hardening of the belly, early labor contractions can also feel like gastrointestinal discomfort. This discomfort can actually be very real gas pains on top of labor pains. Ouch.
“Contractions are periodic, meaning they come and go. They start as a tightening that intensifies and then dissipates,” Flynn tells Romper. “Gas pain is generally in a more localized area.” Because of the difference in where and how these pains typically occur, Flynn explains that during labor, most people “can easily note the difference.”
Gas pains during pregnancy are also reported to make some people feel as if they're experiencing contractions before the real event occurs. It is always best to check in with your doctor if you feel like you may be in labor, as they will be able to help you determine what is actually happening.
How to relieve gas pain during labor
But if you are truly experiencing gas during labor contractions, what can you do? Luckily there are a few relatively easy fixes that can help relieve gas caused by contractions. "Stretching and position change, a hot shower, not holding anything back (fart if you can!), and spending time laboring on the toilet can all help to relieve gas discomfort in labor," Davidson says. To top it all off, these tips can also help with the general feelings of discomfort that contractions can cause in your back, sides, and upper legs as well.
If you are looking for even more tips on how to relieve gas while you're experiencing contractions, you could also try one of these positions that real moms say relieved gas during pregnancy — just make sure to warn those around you first!
Megan Davidson, a Brooklyn-based doula and author of Your Birth Plan
Dr. Cynthia Flynn, board-certified OB-GYN with JustAnswer, practicing in Florida
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