How and Why of a slow digestive system in Pregnancy & Postpartum!
A sluggish digestive system accompanied with multiple changes happening on nearly front becomes a challenge for expecting and new mothers. Nearly 40% or more women experience digestion related issues at some point of their pregnancy.
During pregnancy, intake of supplements such as Iron pills, increased hormonal level, and a pressing uterus on abdominal area are some of the primary causes of constipation, bloating, and even haemorrhages. On the other hand, a weakened digestive system just after the delivery limits one’s capacity to process nutrient dense and complex foods.
A careful selection of foods that would nourish the body and provide it with ample of fiber to keep the digestive system on track is absolutely essential for a happy and healthy experience of bearing a child!
In this post, we will learn about the changes your digestive system undergoes during pregnancy and following the delivery. This will help in understanding the primary causes of common digestive issues experienced during this fragile period.
A Sluggish Digestive System – Pregnancy and Postpartum
One of the most important changes that the body of an expecting mother undergoes are increased levels of Progesterone in the blood stream. Healthy Progesterone levels are required to preserve and nurture the fertilized egg and inhibit pre-term labor.
Constipation – Hormones are to be blamed!!
Progesterone relaxes the abdominal muscle’s contraction such that bowel movement slows down. Due to slow movement, food spends more time in the digestive tract (small intestine and large intestine). This increased duration leads to extraction of water, causing stool to get drier and hence difficult to pass through. This leads to constipation, which is although quite common, but should be watched for carefully in case one is not able to pass motion for 2-3 days in a row.
Why heartburn, bloating, and acid reflux?
Heartburn and acidity are fairly common digestion related issues experienced during pregnancy with third trimester being the worst. While nearly 50-90% of the women experience the same, only a small percentage observes severe health issues arising around it. Hence, even though it is not something you should really worry about, handling these uncomfortable changes in your digestive system would only help to make your child bearing experience a pleasant one!
An increased progesterone level lowers the esophageal sphincter pressure. Esophageal sphincter is the lowest part of our food tract before food enters into the stomach. While the stomach is full of acid content, a lowered pressure would open the pathway to a backward movement of stomach’s contents causing heart burn and feeling of acid reflux.
Poor assimilation of food due to relaxed digestive system and slow gallbladder can also cause bloating and peripheral issues leading to high level of discomfort.
On the other hand, a growing uterus and hence its additional weight on the digestive system organs makes it difficult to empty the digestive tract.
Your digestive system in postpartum!
Just after the delivery, new mother’s body is depleted of energy and it is undergoing a huge transition towards pre-pregnancy phase over a short period of six weeks. So, while your body is recovering the changes of past 9 months in such a short span of time, focus of the bodily functions changes and digestive system suffers.
In Ayurveda, it is considered that Vata Dosha gets aggravated during pregnancy and after child birth. As Vata is the physical energy of motion, it is essential for the movement of nutrients down to nurture the growing fetus and later for the movement of a fully developed baby to the new world. An increased Vata Dosha leads compromises the health of a new mother such that she has lowered digestive power (Agni), Immunity level, and strength to carry out strenuous tasks. Hence, a food and lifestyle regime is prescribed for a new mother such that she is able to recover, gain strength, and get required nutrition after the arrival of the baby.
In our next post of this series, we will look into detail some external factors and selection of foods that can aggravate the situation of constipation, and learn how to get relief naturally while staying nourished. Stay tuned!!