Postpartum Gas and Bloating: Treatments and Causes
Let’s face it, no one wants to talk about it, but all of us who have had a baby recently are probably experiencing the most awful gas and bloating that we have ever had.
Our bodies have gone through a lot of changes through pregnancy and after, and when the beautiful pregnancy glow fades, we start to experience some, not so ladylike side effects of birth.
Postpartum gas is a thing, so take comfort in the fact that you are not alone!
Most women that have given birth, whether naturally or by cesarean section are going to experience abdominal gas, bloating, and even bowel incontinence.
While you are in the hospital right after delivery, your nurses will feel your tummy to assess the amount of gas you have and can give you some medicine to help you pass gas.
They will even ask you in front of your family and friends if you have passed gas and had bowel movements yet.
Try not to be embarrassed. All women will go through these things and it is important to let your nurses and doctors know how your body is responding after birth.
Symptoms of Postpartum Gas
One of the most obvious signs of having gas is passing it through flatulence or belching. This can be voluntary or involuntary.
Most people pass gas up to 10 times a day; however, postpartum, you can experience this much more often.
If you are having trouble passing gas, you will also feel very uncomfortable and experience sharp, stabbing pains in your abdomen, cramping, knotted feelings in your abdomen and a feeling of being bloated.
Because your uterus will also be contracting to return to its normal, pre-baby size, you may not realize that the pains you are feeling are gas and may attribute them to normal postpartum cramping.
What Causes Gas after Birth
The scientific name for not being able to control your gas after giving birth is anal incontinence. This also refers to not being able to control bowel movements for up to 6 months postpartum which you also may experience.
One in four women will experience this, so do not think that you are the only one, or that if you do experience this that you will be alone.
Anal incontinence is caused by how pregnancy and birth affect the pelvic floor muscles and nerves. The condition can also be common in women that had anal sphincter injury during delivery.
These injuries typically occur if you had an assisted vaginal delivery or episiotomy. If your baby is much larger than average or in the face-up position, this also increases your risk factor for tears that can lead to anal incontinence.
Gas pains can also be caused by non-pregnancy related factors including:
- Food you eat
- Swallowing too much air
- Chronic health conditions such as diverticulitis, inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, or Crohn’s
- Artificial additives found in sweeteners, gum, and candy
Risks Associated with Postpartum Gas
Most women tend to only have uncontrollable gas or anal incontinence for a few weeks, and up to 6 months after birth. The greatest risk is severe stomach pain that can cause cramping and discomfort.
There are several factors that will increase your risk of developing or worsening flatulence after childbirth:
- Women who are lactose intolerant or have celiac disease have a higher chance of having gas and bloating
- Eating a diet high in fruit, vegetables, whole grains and beans
- Drinking carbonated beverages
- Suffering from chronic intestinal disorders
If your gas pains and bloating are making it increasingly difficult to complete your day to day activities or care for yourself or your newborn, you should definitely consult with your doctor.
Any of the following symptoms are not considered normal and require medical treatment:
- Blood in the stools
- Change in stool color or frequency
- Chest pain
- Persistent nausea or vomiting
Treatments to Get Rid of Gas and Bloating
Over the Counter Treatments
If you are experiencing pain with your gas or bloating, there are treatment options readily available.
When I was in the hospital and experiencing abdominal pain due to gas, I was given Mylicon, an over the counter Simethicone that helps to break up the gas bubbles in the abdomen.
This worked for me almost immediately.
I know that tablets and capsules are not everyone's thing. Mylanta will also do a similar job and is also a great antacid.
It has a reasonably pleasant tasting too, which always helps.
For Sensitive Conditions
For many women that have conditions that lead them to have a greater risk for suffering from gas pains - such as lactose intolerance or IBD - your physical state postpartum could take things to a whole new level though.
If things get too much then reverting to a consultation with your doctor will help you get the approach right to minimize the issue.
The following may also be suitable for common conditions and are freely available without a prescription.
For those who are lactose intolerant, firstly I offer my commiserations.
You have probably been battling this for a long time and know the foods to stay away from. But when you do decide to splurge a supplement like Lactaid can help you break down milk and sugar in your system and allow you to enjoy some dairy.
For the food sensitive, Beano will help you digest those foods which you know are healthy, but come with unwanted stimulation of your flatulence.
Beans, broccoli, brussel sprouts... You know the drill.
Preservative free activated charcoal from Natures Way. Will capture and bind up unwanted waste and gas.
If you are really feeling adventurous you can also crack open a capsule and brush your teeth with the contents.
Constipend, by Relax Slim, is a natural supplement high in magnesium.
This helps repair the damage done to intestinal walls and ease any cramping you may experience while relieving the problem. This makes for a gentler experience and your insides will thank you for it.
Probiotics are also an excellent way to maintain good gut health. The healthy bacteria and yeasts can help your body achieve a good internal balance again.
They will promote a stronger immune system. A great added benefit at a time when you just don’t have the time to get sick.
As with any kind of dietary supplement though you should pay attention to how your body responds to it. Not everyone will be compatible with the different type of supplements.
Nutrition Essentials Probiotics contains a high number of CFUs per serving compared to other probiotics, which promotes better digestive health and increase the amount of healthy bacteria in your gut.
Diet and Lifestyle
Most of the time, after you get home from the hospital, your best option for controlling gas, bloating and anal incontinence will be through diet.
There are certain foods that are known to cause more gas and digestive issues such as constipation or diarrhoea.
Try incorporating the following dietary changes to your routine to eliminate or reduce postpartum gas and bloating.
Avoid Foods that Cause Gas
Beans, onions, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, artichokes, asparagus, pears, apples, peaches, prunes, gum, whole grains, bran, dairy, beer, carbonated beverages. If you feel as though you cannot cut these from your diet, try eliminating a few at a time to see which ones affect you the most.
Reduce Intake of Fatty and Fried Foods
Foods that are high fat will make you feel full longer because fat delays your stomach from emptying which can lead to bloating.
Try eating low fat meals in smaller portions several times per day instead of larger meals fewer times a day.
Cut Back on Fiber
Fiber helps the digestive process and if you are having issues with anal incontinence and having bowel movements frequently, cutting back on foods that are high in fiber may limit your trips to the bathroom.
Eating quickly and taking large mouthfuls increases the amount of air that you swallow. If you take your time and chew your food completely, this will aid in digestion.
Don't use Straws
This is another way to avoid sucking in too much air. You should also avoid chewing gum and sucking on candies, as well as smoking while you are having issues with gas and flatulence to limit the amount of air that you are getting stuck in your abdomen.
Increasing the amount of physical activity you engage in may be hard with a newborn, but this will help your energy levels and move gas through the digestive track.
Make sure to check with your doctor about what level of activity is appropriate for you to start when.
Just remember, although smelly gas and flatulence may be embarrassing and awkward, this symptom of childbirth is temporary and part of your body’s recovery process.
Nearly every woman is going to experience gas for the first few days after birth and 25% of women can experience gas pain and bloating for up to 6 months postpartum.