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Lowdown on the down below

Hemorrhoids? Constipation? Horrible gas? No one said pregnancy was always ladylike. Get the lowdown on the stuff that can be so hard to talk about, let alone live through.
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Pregnancy changes your whole body, including your digestive system. Even before you get a positive test, you might notice your stomach is more easily upset than usual. Over the next nine months, there will be even more changes. Understanding can help you deal.

Ok. It was me. Pregnancy also makes the digestive process slow down. That helps you and baby get more nutrition from your food, but also lets foods spend more time fermenting in your stomach. And like a shaken beer, all of that fermentation can cause gas to build up. If flatulence is a big problem, it’s safe to take an enzyme-based anti-gas dietary supplement, or over-the counter anti-gas medications.

So, why can’t I go? Slowed-down digestion can also lead to constipation, which, in turn, can lead to hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids are veins and connective tissues around the opening of the rectum that have become swollen or inflamed. The pressure from the baby’s weight in late pregnancy can also be a major aggravating factor. Take care not to strain or linger on the toilet — if nothing’s happening, try again later, and ask your health care provider to recommend or prescribe a stool softener.

Help for the pain in the... You may be able to prevent (or at least postpone) hemorrhoids by getting lots of fiber in your diet — experts recommend 25 to 35 grams a day during pregnancy. Drinking lots of water and taking a quick walk after meals can also help your digestive system keep moving.

For really severe hemorrhoids, try sitting in a tub filled with a few inches of warm water with a cup of Baking Soda. Medicated ointments and pads for hemorrhoids are also safe to use in pregnancy. And boy, they can be really helpful, too.

Sandy and Marcie Jones are the authors of Great Expectations: Your All-in-One Resource for Pregnancy & Childbirth. Order your copy from Barnes & Noble

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