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What to Eat When You're Pregnant and Vegetarian : Common complaints and how to deal with them - Wind and bloating, Haemorrhoids, Diarrhoea

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Wind and bloating

As well as being prone to constipation, pregnant women also experience more wind, bloating and general digestive discomfort. Food spends longer in the intestines so that more nutrients can be absorbed, but this also means that it has more time to ferment and produce gas or wind.

To relieve the symptoms of wind, bloating and general discomfort, try the following:

  • Avoid foods that are particular triggers. Different foods seem to affect different people, but beans, cabbage and onions are common culprits. To prevent your diet becoming too limited, you could have individual trigger foods on different days, but avoid having several at the same time.
  • Don’t eat large meals.
  • Try to relax and sit up tall at mealtimes.
  • When you eat, chew properly, and avoid gulping air by eating slowly and not talking too much at the same time.
  • Avoid swallowing air when you drink by using a cup or glass rather than drinking from a bottle or through a straw.
  • Avoid fizzy drinks.
  • Take gentle exercise such as yoga or walking to help keep your digestive system working efficiently.

If you are feeling pain rather than discomfort, talk to your doctor or midwife as soon as possible.

Haemorrhoids (piles)

Piles or haemorrhoids are swollen veins around the rectum and anus (back passage). If you have piles you can usually feel them as lumps. They can feel itchy or cause pain and aching. When you go to the toilet they can feel particularly uncomfortable or painful, and you may notice some blood on the toilet paper when you wipe your bottom.

Some women develop piles for the first time during pregnancy; others find existing piles may get worse. Piles are exacerbated by straining when you go to the toilet and by constipation. Vegetarians tend to suffer from piles less often than meat-eaters because they eat more foods of plant origin and have a higher fibre intake.

To treat piles:

  • Follow the advice for constipation .
  • Try not to strain when you go to the toilet.
  • Use moist toilet wipes rather than toilet paper.
  • If the piles stick out, push them gently back inside.
  • Avoid standing up for long periods.

You can talk to your midwife, doctor or pharmacist about a suitable cream or ointment. This may help relieve the itching and inflammation but will not address the cause.

Generally piles become much better after your baby is born. Sometimes they can become worse – particularly if it is a difficult vaginal delivery. However, even then, they should improve as you recover from the birth.

Diarrhoea

Although diarrhoea is a much less common complaint than constipation during pregnancy, some women do find it a problem. There is nothing to worry about unless the diarrhoea is severe and continues for more than a few days. If that is the case, you should see your GP for further tests, such as a stool culture, to rule out salmonella and other infections.

Like so many pregnancy problems, diarrhoea can be caused by changing hormone levels. Though it can be unpleasant, it is not a problem in itself. However, it can cause dehydration. So, if you have diarrhoea, it is important to drink plenty of water or take a rehydration powder, which is available from a pharmacy. Taking a probiotic yogurt or drink may also help.

If you get diarrhoea towards the end of pregnancy, it can be one of the signs that your hormone levels are changing and your body is preparing for labour. It may be that labour is imminent, or mild diarrhoea may continue for several days before you go into labour.

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