Scientists with unusual research priorities have demonstrated that couples who fart together tend to stay together. That’s good news. The better, stinkier news for expecting parents is that pregnancy is a real gas. Along with weird cravings, constipation, and roughly a suitcase a piece worth of prenatal vitamins, pregnant women get gas. Thanks to hormonal and physiological changes, women wind up farting for two.
“A number of factors contribute to flatulence during pregnancy,” Dr. Michael Cackovic, an obstetrician-gynecologist at The Ohio State University, explains. “Increased progesterone concentration plays a major role in decreasing the activity of colonic smooth muscle.”
The average person farts up to 20 times a day, passing anywhere from 500 to 1500 milliliters of gas, but for women this number inflates when they get pregnant because their bodies produce more progesterone. Progesterone causes intestine muscles to relax to make room for a growing baby. However, these relaxed muscles make it much easier for farts to slip out. As the fetus grows it puts extra pressure on the abdomen. This contributes to pregnant women not just farting more, but farting more often on accident in inopportune places like at work, with the in-laws, or during an exam from an obstetrician.
Relaxation also makes is harder to push waste through the GI tract, slowing digestion. Prenatal vitamins contribute to further constipation creating a perfect gas storm. Bloating, burping, and farting inevitably follow.
“Pregnant women often complain of abdominal bloating and constipation likely caused by hormonal changes that affect small bowel and colonic motility,” Cackovic says. “Additionally, the pregnant uterus can cause a mechanical slowing of bowel transit and this certainly could worsen as pregnancy advances into the third trimester.”
Finally, pregnant women’s diets can further contribute to excessive farts, but it’s not necessarily strange cravings for pickles and ice cream that do it. Rather, healthy dietary changes brought on by having a baby, such as eating more fruits and vegetables, can increase gas — especially if women were eating carelessly prior to pregnancy.
Gas is not, in and of itself, a bad thing. Farts just are. But, for pregnant women, build up can become harmful. If women are experiencing abdominal pain or constipation for over a week, they should contact their doctors. Still, excessive gas passing is nothing to worry about and poses no danger to a growing baby. That said, moms-to-be can reduce some of their discomfort by drinking plenty of water, getting enough exercise and sleep, and limiting dairy, pork, and processed foods, which can make flatulence worse.
As powerful and plentiful as pregnancy farts are, they’re ultimately a symptom that pregnancy is progressing in a healthy way. So they should be welcomed with plugged noses and open arms. Small adjustments might offer relief, but nothing helps more than having a supportive partner farting by their side, Cackovic adds.
“Reassurance over the temporary inconvenience and support are the keys to getting through this.”