Swollen belly in pregnancy: causes and remedies

Whether it’s the beginning of pregnancy or the last trimester, a swollen belly is one of the most common problems of expectant mothers. Here’s what it’s causing and what you can do to alleviate it.

Abdominal swelling (swollen belly) is fully one of the most embarrassing ailments of pregnancy, as well as among the most common .

The cause is excess gas in the stomach and intestines, which can cause an uncomfortable feeling of heaviness and tension . This is why many expectant mothers complain of having a swollen and hard belly, often already at the beginning of pregnancy .

All this can have rather “inconvenient” consequences, such as the appearance of frequent episodes of belching and flatulence . In addition, it can cause painful abdominal cramps and stomach aches , which when particularly intense can be a source of concern for the expecting mother.

Swollen belly in pregnancy: when does it appear?

Abdominal swelling usually occurs around the eleventh week of pregnancy . It is not uncommon, however, that the swollen belly appears immediately and is therefore one of the symptoms of the first days of sweet expectation .

For these reasons, some mothers-to-be might confuse this manifestation with the first hints of a real pregnancy belly , even if in reality the fetus is still too small to cause visible growth in the abdomen.

Swollen belly in pregnancy: the causes

Abdominal heaviness and swelling are caused by progesterone , which relaxes the muscles of the stomach and intestines, and slows down the progression of food inside the digestive tract.

This phenomenon is extremely useful in pregnancy, because it increases the absorption of nutrients necessary for the growth of the child. On the other hand, however, it favors the production of gas by the bacterial flora present in the digestive tract.

To make the situation worse, we then have the enlargement of the uterus , which as the pregnancy progresses compresses the stomach and intestines, further slowing down digestion and causing acid reflux and constipation.

Swollen belly in pregnancy: remedies and useful advice

Here are some simple remedies that can help you fight intestinal swelling.

  • Drink plenty of fluids, preferably away from meals: proper hydration will help prevent constipation , which can contribute to aggravating the problem of swelling. To avoid putting too much weight on your stomach, however, try to drink before or after a meal , not during it. In addition to water, the intake of fennel-based herbal teas can be very useful , which favor digestion and the expulsion of intestinal gas.
  • Limit “at risk” foods: fried foods or foods high in sugar and fat , as well as carbonated drinks and caffeine , slow down digestion and promote gas production. For the same reason, it is better to reduce the consumption of unpeeled legumes and some vegetables, such as broccoli and cauliflower .
  • Avoid large meals: it is better to spread them out over the course of the day , so as not to burden the stomach and intestines too much.
  • Chew slowly: this will help you reduce your gas intake. Also avoid talking while you eat and limit your chewing gum .
  • After meals, wait at least two or three hours before going to bed: lying down shortly after eating slows down digestion.
  • Keep active: even a short walk can help stimulate digestion. Furthermore, physical exercise is an excellent remedy against anxiety and stress , which can favor excessive intestinal gas production.
  • Consult your trusted doctor: in case of severe discomfort, he can prescribe you to take supplements or medicines compatible with pregnancy.

Swollen belly in pregnancy: when to worry?

As unpleasant and annoying as it may be, a swollen belly does not pose a danger to mother and baby .

In the event of abdominal pain or cramps , however, it is always necessary to contact your doctor : these symptoms, in fact, may require further investigations to rule out the presence of other problems.

Kathryn Barlow is an OB/GYN doctor, which is the medical specialty that deals with the care of women's reproductive health, including pregnancy and childbirth.

Obstetricians provide care to women during pregnancy, labor, and delivery, while gynecologists focus on the health of the female reproductive system, including the ovaries, uterus, vagina, and breasts. OB/GYN doctors are trained to provide medical and surgical care for a wide range of conditions related to women's reproductive health.

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