Gastrointestinal Distress in Pregnancy: Prevalence, Assessment, and Treatment of 5 Common Minor Discomforts

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Abstract

Gastrointestinal discomforts are a very common complaint in pregnancy. In fact, most pregnant women will experience at least one discomfort. This article focuses on 5 common conditions that occur in pregnancy: gastroesophageal reflux disease, diarrhea, constipation, hemorrhoids, and pica. While these conditions do occur in men and nonpregnant women, they occur more frequently in pregnancy because of the anatomic and physiologic changes associated with gestation. The type and severity of symptoms can vary from individual to individual, making treatment a challenge for healthcare providers, particularly when caring for pregnant women because the effects of medications and other treatments on the developing fetus are often not extensively studied. While these discomforts are rarely life-threatening, they can cause significant distress and impair quality of life. The goal of this article was to provide a summary of the anatomic and physiological changes during pregnancy that contribute to the increasing incidence of these discomforts and to provide information about each condition including prevalence, symptoms, and treatment modalities.

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