Pregnant: rumbling intestines

Rumbling bowels during pregnancy is a common complaint among women. The first complaints often start two weeks after fertilization, when a pregnancy test shows positive. For some women a welcome first phenomenon, for others a horrible ailment. Rumbling intestines is the name for intestines that work differently than normal during pregnancy.


Pregnancy officially begins after fertilization between egg and sperm. However, as a woman you may not notice anything about the pregnancy at this time. The first symptoms only occur after the implantation of the egg in the uterine wall. At that time, the production of the pregnancy hormone HCG also begins. And it is precisely that hormone that is responsible for many pregnancy ailments such as nausea and rumbling intestines.

What is rumbling bowels?

The name rumbling intestines sounds a bit un-Dutch and it is, but it is often used colloquially to indicate that the intestines are upset. This is common during pregnancy and at any time. We often see most complaints arise early in pregnancy. This is caused by the major changes during pregnancy. As soon as the egg has implanted, the placenta starts producing the pregnancy hormone HCG (Human chorionic gonadotropin). This hormone is measurable in the woman’s blood or urine. You can test for this yourself using a urine test, which can sometimes detect HCG 1 to 2 days before the expected menstruation. This depends on the amount of HCG in the woman’s body. Not every woman has the same amount of HCG in the body at the same time. This also explains why one woman suffers more from rumbling intestines than another. Most women first experience rumbling bowels at 4 or 5 weeks of pregnancy.

Constipation or diarrhea

The hormones attack the functioning of the intestines. The intestines often work more slowly during pregnancy. This results in blockages or constipation. The stool becomes harder and it is more difficult to get rid of it. Sometimes it is so bad that aids have to be used to get rid of the stool. Diarrhea is the other side of the story: the body extracts too little moisture from the feces because it passes through the intestines too quickly. The result is diarrhea or watery stools. Diarrhea is not a symptom of pregnancy but rather a sign that an infection is present. This infection often disappears on its own and within a few days the bowel movements return to ‘normal’ for pregnancy.

Pain during defecation

A blockage can cause pain. It hurts when you have a bowel movement because the stool has thickened to such an extent that it is hard and has little yield. The anus can then be stretched too much, causing pain. The stool can also remain in the intestines for too long, causing abdominal pain. Bloating may also be present. Less commonly, nausea and a taste of feces in the mouth occur. This is only the case when the blockage is so serious that it seeks a way out.


Eating fiber-rich foods can improve bowel movements. We often eat too little fiber, something that is especially important during pregnancy. Rye bread, whole wheat bread, plums, muesli, gingerbread, legumes, cherries and apricots are examples of fiber-rich foods. Drinking enough water is also essential: this prevents the stool from drying out too much. Women who drink too little water cause problems because the body will extract the necessary moisture from the feces. After all, the moisture has to come from somewhere.
A laxative drink such as rosevicee/rosehip syrup can help to loosen the stool. Orange juice, especially with pulp, is also a good alternative. Do not use laxatives immediately, especially during pregnancy. Consult your doctor or midwife first. This can determine whether the product to be used is safe. If you do use a laxative purchased at the drugstore, do so for a maximum of three days. If the complaints do not disappear after this, please contact your doctor. A habituation to laxatives can quickly develop. It then becomes increasingly difficult to get rid of stool yourself without an aid.
Don’t focus too much on bowel movements. Having no bowel movements for a few days is no problem at all. Normally wash the stool daily, but under the influence of hormones this pattern can change to once every two to five days. Some women even have a bowel movement once a week, although this is less common. The stool may also occur more often, two to three times a day. As long as there is no blood in the stool and no strange symptoms appear, this is not a problem. Bowel movements often return to normal halfway through pregnancy, but can change again towards the end of pregnancy, around 38 weeks.

Abdominal pain, sometimes after eating

Rumbling intestines sometimes also cause abdominal pain. The complaints are often worse than in women without abdominal pain. Although this is annoying, the complaints will pass. In any case, try not to immediately reach for laxatives, but relax by, for example, taking a warm bath or placing a hot water bottle against your stomach. Abdominal pain may also occur after eating, which is more likely to be a result of the food that has been ingested. Spicy or pungent foods such as fruit juices, coffee and carbonated drinks can irritate the stomach and cause abdominal discomfort. Too much food can also cause stomach pain. The stomach contents are smaller, especially towards the end of pregnancy. Try to eat smaller portions throughout the day. Better to have five to six small meals than three large ones.

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