Your digestive tract experiences some significant changes during pregnancy. Perhaps the most dramatic occur late in pregnancy when your developing baby compresses your stomach and intestine. Your first trimester, however, isn't without its own share of digestive changes. These are mostly due to hormones, and can lead to a number of symptoms.
Your First Trimester
The first trimester of your pregnancy is the time from your last menstrual period -- two weeks before you conceived -- until the end of the 13th week. During this time, your developing baby is very small. By the end of the 13th week, the typical baby is not even 4 inches in length and weighs just over an ounce. As such, your baby needs very little nutrition, but hormones are already impacting your digestive tract.
In the early weeks of pregnancy, your hormone levels spike. These hormones are responsible for many of the symptoms of early pregnancy -- headaches, fatigue, backache, morning sickness, and digestive upset. The digestive symptoms largely result from pregnancy hormones slowing the rate at which the digestive tract functions, which helps you extract all possible nutrition from your food.
While there's nothing you can do about the hormones of early pregnancy -- or the slowing of your digestive tract -- you can help maximize digestive function and alleviate symptoms by working with your intestines. Eating several small snacks rather than a few big meals will help optimize digestive function. You should also try to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, as these are rich in fiber. Fiber and water both improve and speed digestive function.
Another problem you may experience with regard to early pregnancy digestion of food is that the iron in your prenatal vitamins can exacerbate hormone-related digestive slowing. As such, you may feel very nauseated or bloated after eating, particularly around the time you take your prenatal vitamin. While you shouldn't stop taking your vitamin without talking to your doctor, you may wish to discuss switching brands -- some women are more sensitive to certain brands of prenatal vitamins than others.
- AmericanPregnancy Association: Baby Size
- “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”; Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel; 2008