It’s early on in your pregnancy, but already your pants are tight and your belly feels big – no, it’s not your imagination! Bloating is a common symptom of pregnancy, usually showing up in the first trimester, around week 10 or 11. Like so many other bodily changes during pregnancy, hormones are to blame – namely, progesterone.

Progesterone is the hormone that is responsible for maintaining a healthy pregnancy (“pro-gestation”). When progesterone levels rise, it can also cause things like bloating and gas, because it relaxes smooth muscle (like the uterus). The intestines are also smooth muscle, and an increase in progesterone slows down digestion, which contributes to the bloating. Higher progesterone levels are also the culprit behind the lovely gas so many women experience during pregnancy – the relaxed smooth muscle means that when the expanding uterus presses against the rectum, more flatulence occurs.

While there’s no way to completely avoid bloating during pregnancy, there are ways to lessen discomfort.

What You Can Do About Bloating During Pregnancy

Drink more water. Hydration is important during pregnancy, but especially to help reduce bloating. Getting enough fluids can reduce the risk of constipation, which can cause bloat.

Think small. Meals, that is. Try eating smaller meals more often, instead of 3 bigger ones. Eating larger meals means your body has to work that much harder (and longer) to break that food down, and with the added progesterone, can result in added gas and bloating. Smaller meals place less demand on your relaxed intestines and will help to cut down on gas. As an added bonus, it will keep your blood sugar steady, preventing crashes in energy, and will curb hunger, as well.

Slow and steady. When you eat quickly, you take in more air, which contributes to bloating. Same thing with eating meals while anxious or preoccupied (ie, while you’re working, in a meeting, etc). Slow down, practice being mindful at each meal, and focus on your food, enjoying your meal, rather than scarfing it down quickly to get something else done.

Choose foods/drinks wisely. If, like many, you can’t live without your daily Diet Coke, you might want to reconsider. The carbonation in soda only adds to feeling bloated, and if you’re drinking a lot of caffeine and not enough water, dehydration can leave you feeling tired and puffy. Eating greasy or fatty foods, combined with slower digestion, is also a recipe for sluggishness and bloating.

Did you experience bloating during pregnancy? How did you combat it?