Pregnancy has some annoying symptoms and gas and bloating are two of them. It's really uncomfortable and can end up being a little embarrassing — especially when you get to the point when you can't control it anymore and you accidentally let one loose in front of your boss. So understandably, some women will go to great lengths to try to relieve their pregnancy gas, but what are some things you should avoid, no matter how helpful they may seem to be? Turns out, there are five things you should never do to relieve pregnancy gas, according to an OB-GYN.
Why do we get so gassy anyway? It's because those pesky pregnancy hormones relax "smooth" muscles, according to Dr. Jamil Abdur-Rahman, an OB-GYN and medical travel blogger along with his twin brother for TwinDoctorsTV. Abdur-Rahman explains to Romper in an email interview that our bodies have two types of muscles — the skeletal muscles, which are muscles we can control like your biceps, and "smooth" muscles, which we cannot control. Smooth muscles "carry out vital functions that are beyond our conscious control. The uterus is a big collection of smooth muscles. Smooth muscles also surround the GI tract and the bladder," Abdur-Rahman says.
These muscles involuntarily contract without conscious input from us. "The smooth muscles that surround the GI tract for example squeeze the GI tract, moving gas and food through the tract without us having to think about the muscles doing that. They just do it automatically. Same thing for the smooth muscles that make up the uterus." So when we have our period or when we are in labor, we don't have to concentrate on making those muscles contract — they do it automatically. Abdur-Rahman says another key characteristic of smooth muscles is that when these muscles are stretched, they tend to involuntarily contract. That's how your full stomach moves food from there to your intestines to "get rid of it. That's also how a full uterus contracts to expel menstrual blood. The problem with this tendency to automatically contract when stretched is the fact that, during pregnancy, the enlarging baby stretches the smooth muscles of the uterus. This makes the pregnant uterus want to reflexively contract, something that is not desirable during a developing pregnancy."
And this is why our bodies produce those hormones we all come to know and "love" during pregnancy, in order to prevent the contractions from coming too early. However, this creates the problem of all of your smooth muscles relaxing — including those muscles around your GI tract, Abdur-Rahman explains. "This makes the GI tract sluggish and prevents it from moving food and air through it as well as it normally does. The result? "Indigestion, heartburn, bloating, and excessive gas." So here's what not to do to get rid of that gassiness during pregnancy.
Castor oil is a serious no-no when it comes to relieving gas pain in pregnancy, according to Abdur-Rahman. If you take it, he says it could “result in excessive stimulation of your GI tract, leading to irritation of your GI tract’s neighbor — the uterus.” This could lead to preterm contractions and labor, he says.
Abdur-Rahman says he’s heard of some pregnant women trying to use fennel seed to relieve their gas pains. However, horrifyingly, “While effective at alleviating gas pain, fennel seed has been shown to increase the risk of pregnant women developing blood clots in the legs and/or lungs. So, we advise that pregnant women avoid using fennel,” he says.
3Laxatives & Enemas
Like castor oil, many pregnant women want to turn to laxatives — or even enemas — while they’re pregnant to relieve gas. Also like castor oil, doing either of these things can stimulate your uterus too much and cause you to have preterm contractions or labor. “The uterus and the GI tract lie next to one and other, and when the GI tract is excessively spasming, it can irritate the uterine smooth muscle,” Abdur-Rahman says.
4Baking Soda & Lemon Water
While this method may work, because baking soda is a form of salt, this is not a good option for pregnant women — since salt can worsen your already annoying swelling from pregnancy, Abdur-Rahman says. “Additionally, excess salt can increase the blood pressure. For women who suffer from pregnancy-induced hypertension, this can present a problem.”
Apparently women are even using cinnamon to relieve gas pain. And again, while the method could potentially work, it comes with some risks. “Much like enemas, laxatives, and castor oil, cinnamon can lead to preterm labor and in large amounts is a no-no,” because it stimulates the GI tract, which in turn can stimulate uterine contractions, according to Abdur-Rahman.
If you need to relieve gas, healthy and safe ways to do so include chewing gum, hydrating, consuming ginger, and eating smaller, more frequent meals, instead of three big squares a day, Abdur-Rahman says. Good luck and I hope your gas pains go away quickly, without using the above five methods.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.