It's Not Contractions! It's Just Gas!

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It's Not Contractions! It's Just Gas!
It’s the holiday season! Time to celebrate and enjoy our loved ones with lots of food and fun.   If you’re pregnant, you’re likely to enjoy the food much more than the loved ones. Being pregnant during the holidays lets you overindulge without all the guilt. You are eating for two, aren’t you? First, let me dispel that myth…. no, you are NOT eating for two! Let’s not blame this sweet innocent developing fetus for your lack of willpower to push away from the table. Is it this little one’s fault that you had to have a third piece of pumpkin pie? Let’s put the blame where it belongs…. on you! Your fetus does not LOVE Aunt Mary’s turkey and dressing so much that you have to keep going back getting seconds, thirds, and so on… As the holiday season fast approaches, there is a look of glee and gluttony in the eyes of most moms to be. It doesn’t help that pregnancy enhances the taste buds and turns eating into a hobby in and of itself. Throwing in Thanksgiving and Christmas really creates a perfect storm of turkey, dressing, giblet gravy, pumpkin pie, and spice cake.

So let’s talk about the aftereffects of such a grand meal. If you’re pregnant, it won’t be pleasant. Because the pregnant uterus tends to compress the stomach and bowels upward, it is highly likely you will experience discomfort. Sharp, shooting pains throughout the abdomen is bound to occur. You may even experience some nausea and vomiting if you have really overindulged. You will know it’s not labor, because the uterus will remain soft. Contractions* on the other hand, will be painful. Many times, the pain will start in the lower back and radiate around the abdomen. The whole uterus will be firm. You may feel pressure in the vaginal area at the same time this is occurring. True contractions are going to be regular, lasting approximately 30 seconds and then subsiding. You will be able to set your watch by them. Gas pain will be sporadic. Is it just gas or are you having contractions? Think long and hard before you call 911 or have your loved ones bring you to the ER. You may want to consider taking some Gas-X first to see if the symptoms will subside.

While we are on the subject of overeating, let me mention other negative effects of yielding to the temptations of the holidays. Swelling, indigestion, bloating, and constipation will all happen to some degree.  Remember the saying you learned in elementary school? You are what you eat. If you eat bad foods expect to feel bad. If the foods you’re eating have a high salt content, you’ll see an increase in swelling in the face, hands, legs, and feet. There may even be an increase in your blood pressure.

Let's continue to play this out, shall we? You overeat because you’re pregnant and you’re eating for two (yada, yada, yada….). After a gluttonousness meal, you began feeling uneasy, and your stomach doesn’t feel so great. In your mind, the obvious answer is that you’re in labor. Forget the fact that you ate half the turkey, all the green bean casserole, and a whole sweet potato pie, because that’s irrelevant right now. You suddenly began having sharp shooting pains all over your tummy and yet your uterus remains soft. Ahhh, but you have an explanation for this! All the women in your family always had back labor; they never hurt in their uterus. You think to yourself this is perfect timing. The whole family is here from out of town. Everyone can celebrate this joyous occasion.

Your pain is getting more severe. Someone thinks it’s best to just call the ambulance. The ambulance comes and takes you to the hospital and you are rapidly taken to labor and delivery. (Side note: the whole family, who drives their own vehicles, beats the ambulance to the hospital and makes it up to labor and delivery before you…go figure!) You come up on the stretcher, writhing in pain. The baby will be here any minute! You’re sure of it! The nurse puts you on the monitors and lo, what is it that she sees? No contractions…. She checks your cervix and it hasn’t changed from you last office visit. She says, “It's not contractions.” You explain to her the whole back labor thing that happens with the women in your family. She gives you the side eye and tells you she’ll call the doctor. Your OB comes in, looks at the monitor and rechecks your cervix. The doctor confirms what the nurse has said, “It's not contractions. It’s just gas!” You are given medication for gas and taught what real contractions feel like and how to time them. After your discharge, you walk out looking sheepishly and now your family is giving you the side eye as they think about the football game they could have been at home enjoying.

How can you avoid such a conundrum, you ask? Let me explain! First, start with small meals. Instead of one huge meal where you sit down and eat more than Uncle Joe, eat a small meal, let that digest, and then eat a little more. This will also help prevent indigestion, nausea, and vomiting. Next, drink plenty of water. Being pregnant, especially in the third trimester, which is 28 weeks and beyond, the stomach has a limited capacity. The perks of water are you will be less likely to drink other high calorie drinks such as fruit juice, soda, and tea. These can cause fluctuations in your sugar level, which will make you feel lightheaded and dizzy. Last, allow yourself one serving of dessert. That’s right, I said ONE! Overindulging on those high calorie sweets will have you feeling awful. So as you longingly stare at the desert table, ask yourself will it be worth all the misery that you will potentially endure later. Will it be worth the trip to labor and delivery to hear, “It's not contractions? IT’S JUST GAS?” Will it be worth your family making fun of you for years to come? Think about it. You are so much stronger than you think!

*Consult your obstetrician for any signs or symptoms of labor!

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  • Pamela Lacy
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