Is It Gas or Contractions?

Tummy troubles are all too common in pregnancy. Find out if your current issues are just gas pains -- or something bigger!
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Your baby can mess with your digestive system. First there's morning sickness. Then, as hormones slow the digestive process and your growing baby starts to squeeze everything in your abdomen, you may end up with gas, indigestion, and a whole host of other issues you don't even want to talk with your BFF about.

So it can sometimes be tough to determine whether that uncomfortable feeling in your belly is your baby signaling her impending arrival -- or simply your lunchtime burrito causing trouble. Answer these questions to figure out if it's gas or labor that's making you uncomfortable.

  • Is it happening like clockwork? Labor contractions tend to develop a rhythm. "You develop a pattern with labor contractions, where they're coming every four to five minutes and progressively getting stronger," says Paul du Treil, M.D., director of maternal and child health at Touro Infirmary in New Orleans. Gas will come and go on an irregular schedule and will often be a sharper pain, as opposed to early labor contractions, which many experts liken to strong menstrual cramps. So break out the stopwatch and find out if the pain is coming at regular intervals.
  • Are you having any other issues? With labor, there should be more going on down there. "Bloody mucus or a change in vaginal discharge increases the likelihood that it's real labor and not a false alarm," says Bart Putterman, M.D., an ob-gyn at Texas Children's Pavilion for Women in Houston.
  • Have you eaten something that can cause gas? Thanks to the squeeze your baby is putting on your digestive system, any foods can be gas-inducing culprits. And though cruciferous veggies such as cauliflower and broccoli and high-fiber foods like beans may be loaded with baby-growing nutrients, they're prime candidates for loading your belly with gas. If the gas pains continue, consider cutting gas-inducing goodies out of your diet until your baby arrives.
  • Is your belly tightening up? While gas pains can cause a bloated feeling in your tummy, labor pains involve a big muscle contraction all along your abdomen. "There's an uncomfortable tightening in the stomach during labor, where the whole stomach feels hard," Dr. du Treil says. If your tummy hardens every time you're experiencing pain, it's likely a contraction, not gas.
  • Can you get relief? Typically, gas pains resolve themselves pretty quickly once you hit the loo. If a restroom visit helps, it means that the baby is hanging out in your uterus for a little while longer.

It can be hard to know when those contractions are the real thing. Here are some tips to help you figure out whether you are actually in labor or whether you're experiencing false labor symptoms.

Copyright © 2014 Meredith Corporation.

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