Signs & Symptoms of Gas Pains in Pregnancy

By Amy Sutton
Stefan Dahl Langstrup/iStock/Getty Images

As uncomfortable and embarrassing as it may be, gas is just one of those things that sometimes comes along with pregnancy. Gas pain can be hard to distinguish from other pains that are associated with growing and carrying a baby, but you quickly learn if what you're experiencing really is just gas or if it could be something else. Ask your doctor about the best ways to avoid and treat gas during pregnancy.

Causes of Gas

Gas is something everyone experiences at times. It happens when air gets into the digestive tract, which can be caused by drinking or eating too quickly, drinking carbonated drinks, chewing gum or sucking on hard candy, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Some gas leaves when you burp, some is released through the anus and the rest remains trapped in the intestines. Bacteria in the intestines can also cause excessive gas, along with weight loss and diarrhea.

Certain foods can cause gas as well, especially carbohydrates. While some foods may give one person gas, they may have no effect on another. Common foods that cause gas include apples, pears, beans, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, milk products, soft drinks and breads.

During pregnancy, gas can be worse because of a hormonal surge that sometimes slows down the gastrointestinal tract, notes WebMD. As a pregnancy progresses and the uterus grows, there is less room in the abdomen for the gas, and this can cause bloating.

Gas Symptoms

General symptoms of gas include passing gas, burping, bloating and abdominal discomfort. Gas pain is caused by gas that is not moving through the intestines normally. This type of pain often feels like cramping and does not occur on just one side or the other.

Gas bubbles are sometimes hard to distinguish from small movement of your baby early on in pregnancy. A fetus normally begins to move at around seven weeks, but you may not feel it until 13 to 20 weeks, or sometimes later. These early movements sometimes feel more like flutters than gas bubbles.

Sharp pain, intense cramping or pain on just one side could be caused by something more serious. Consult your doctor if you experience any of these types of pains or pain that does not go away, advises the American Pregnancy Association website.

When It Normally Occurs

Gas and bloating can happen at any time during your pregnancy, but it usually begins late in the first trimester. This is when progesterone, which helps you stay healthy during your pregnancy, begins to cause excess gas and bloating.

Progesterone relaxes the gastrointestinal tract and slows down your digestion, according to MayoClinic.org. This gives nutrients more time to get into your bloodstream and make it to your developing baby.

Prevention is the Best Medicine

Stay active to lessen the severity of the gas you experience during your pregnancy. Safely exercising increases the activity in the GI tract, which helps food move through more quickly. It also helps reduce swelling, bloating and constipation, states the American Pregnancy Association website.

Lay off the foods that make you gassy. Keep track of what you eat to help determine which foods are causing your gas pain. Do not drink carbohydrate drinks or those with artificial sweeteners. Limit fried foods and avoid overeating, opting instead for smaller meals spread out during the day. Eat your food slowly and chew each bite well.

Avoid dairy products if you are lactose intolerant or if they seem to be triggering your gas pain. Replace your milk with a lactose-free milk or increase the amount of the other calcium-rich foods in your diet instead. Drink plenty of water to stay properly hydrated and avoid using a straw.

Safe Treatment Options

Ask your physician what type of over-the-counter gas medication is safe for you to take during your pregnancy. Some types of gas remedies with simethicone should be safe for you to take, according to the Women's Specialty Healthcare website.

Activated charcoal tablets are not safe for pregnant women, though, warns the BabyCenter website. Always check with your doctor before taking any type of medication during your pregnancy, including over-the-counter options.