Pregnancy, for all its joys and changes, can come with its own set of challenges; particularly when it comes to the GI tract. Changes in the body can result in nausea and vomiting known as morning sickness, but other symptoms can also come alongside pregnancy such as acid reflux, constipation, and hemorrhoids. Many of these changes subside after the birth of the child, but some can linger.
Please note that patients considering pregnancy who have Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis should work closely with their obstetrician and gastroenterologist. Women in remission normally have no associated problems with conceiving.
Many women notice, along with the increasing size of the baby, that heartburn becomes more frequent. The growing uterus can crowd the stomach causing acid to reflux into the esophagus resulting in the painful burning sensation associated with acid reflux. Other causes of pregnancy-related reflux is the pregnancy hormone progesterone. Progesterone relaxes muscles during pregnancy, including the small sphincter muscle at the base of the esophagus that keeps acid in the stomach.
As many as 40% of women complain of constipation during pregnancy. To help alleviate constipation, it is important to increase water, fiber-rich foods, and get daily exercise. Dietary probiotics can help improve bowel function by altering the flora in the gut. Before starting any supplement or exercise program, talk to your obstetrician.
Increased pressure within the abdomen, the process of childbirth, hormone changes, and pregnancy-related constipation can lead to the development of hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids occur when veins at the anus become enlarged and swollen. Symptoms include itching, burning, and bleeding during a bowel movement. Blood in the stool can be caused by other factors and should never be ignored. Discuss the treatment of hemorrhoids with your physician. If hemorrhoids do not respond to treatments or do not resolve post-pregnancy, additional therapies are available.