Everything You Need to Know About Gut Health During Pregnancy
Whether you’re pregnant or recently delivered your bundle of joy, you might be noticing some strange sensations going on in your gut. Yes, your maternal instinct may be kicking in — but on the other hand, so may digestive issues!
To figure out the ins and outs of digestive health during pregnancy, we caught up with Sarah Greenfield, RD, a functional dietitian who specializes in gut health, as well as the mother of an infant son herself.
Is digestive discomfort normal during pregnancy?
“As your hormones fluctuate with pregnancy, it’s common to have changes in your digestion,” Sarah assures us.
As progesterone levels change, she explains, “Some pregnant women may experience more gas and bloating, while others can experience constipation or diarrhea.”
However, what’s normal for one woman may not be normal for another. That said, Sarah advises checking in with your doctor if you have pain or diarrhea that lasts for over 48 hours.
What digestive changes can women expect throughout pregnancy?
Sarah guides us through the what and why of digestive changes by trimester:
First trimester: increasing levels of progesterone and estrogen “can slow motility and cause bloating”
Second trimester: greater progesterone levels can “slow motility, with women experiencing more constipation”
Third trimester: progesterone and estrogen levels are at their highest and uterine growth (up to 100x its normal size!) “can not only push on your bladder, but also your intestines — throwing digestion out of whack”
How Pregnant Women Can Balance and Restore Gut Health
1. Prioritize Probiotics
As a gut health specialist, it’s no surprise that Sarah’s first tip is to have expectant and new mothers prioritize probiotics.
Taking a probiotic supplement or eating fermented foods — such as sauerkraut, kefir, and kimchi — are “great ways to diversify the gut microbiome,” Sarah explains.
2. Take the Right Supplements
Speaking of supplements, Sarah wants to make sure that you get the right ones for the greatest benefits.
While she outlines her top supplement picks in her Pregnancy and Postpartum Guide, here are a few quick considerations to point out:
ensure that you take a high-quality prenatal vitamin
seek out iron in the form of bisglycinate, which Sarah says is less likely to lead to constipation
3. Diversify Your Diet
A diverse gut is a healthy gut — for pregnant women, new mothers, and everyone else.
If and when possible, switch up your diet so you can benefit from a variety of macronutrients (carbs, protein, fats) as well as micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, etc.). Doing so can help support healthy fetal development as well as maintain digestive health.
4. Find Healthy Ways to Manage Stress
Of course, this step is easier said than done. However, since stress and digestion are intricately linked, you may find that digestive issues abate when you feel more calm and at ease.
“When I was pregnant, I loved doing guided meditations that allowed me to connect with my baby energetically,” Sarah shares.
If meditating isn’t your thing, other helpful ways to reduce stress include:
practicing prenatal yoga
paying attention to your breath
taking soothing baths
For more tips on gut health and nutrition during pregnancy, order Sarah’s Pregnancy and Postpartum Guide.
Michele Ross is a freelance writer and copy editor based in Los Angeles. Clean skincare and hiking make her heart happy.