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Pregnancy Diaries: 'I had to eat the same food every day for nine months to avoid swelling up like a balloon'

By As told to Maddison Leach|

Ever wonder if other women experience pregnancy the same way you do? Now is your chance to find out.

Our new series, Pregnancy Diaries, is all about sharing real women's true pregnancy stories ¨C the highs, the lows, the hilarious and the shocking from conception all the way to birth.

In this diary entry, mum and business owner Vanessa Hutchinson reveals her IBS diagnosis forced her to eat the same meals every day for nine months while pregnant.

Want to share your own pregnancy story? Email it to mleach@nine.com.au?

Vanessa Hutchinson with her first child, son Oscar.
Vanessa Hutchinson with her first child, son Oscar. (Supplied)

"I was a teenager when I first noticed the signs of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. At the time I was eating whatever I wanted and suffering from unpleasant side effects like bloating and stomach aches, which worsened in my twenties. I didn't realise back then that my gut struggles to digest a range of common foods such as wheat, dates, apples, onion and garlic.?

Once I was partying carefree on the beach in Thailand after a week of eating tropical fruit smoothies and onion-rich stir fries. A stranger congratulated me for being pregnantˇ­ only I wasn't. I was just bloated! I knew I had to sort out my IBS issues so I saw a dietitian who introduced me to the low FODMAP diet.?

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Once I became pregnant (for real!) with my first child Oscar, now 2, I had to be even more cautious with my eating. Hormonal changes during pregnancy can contribute to increased gastrointestinal symptoms, which may trigger or cause IBS symptoms to worsen.

By that time, I'd been managing my IBS pretty well and I knew what FODMAP trigger foods to avoid. But considering there are so many things you can't eat when you have IBS, it's not easy when the pregnancy cravings hit. Plus, the challenge is always there when you go out to eat and don't know exactly what's in a sauce, for instance.?

Just eating one small piece of onion will make me feel sick for days. Once I became so bloated on an international flight after eating a supposedly 'safe' meal that I literally blew up like a balloon for the whole 14-hour flight. The thought of ballooning accidentally whilst beach-ball pregnant made me nervous to say the least.?

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Mid-way through that pregnancy I was thrown another curve ball when I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, which limited my food intake even more. No FODMAPS, no carbs, raw foods or alcohol were allowed, so I had no fun at all while pregnant.

In February 2022 I became pregnant with my second child, Maya. By then I was juggling my busy business with a boisterous toddler. I had started my business Fodbods to create a range of FODMAP-friendly snacks and whilst the flexibility of running my own business meant that I had some control over my workload,? my stress levels were often sky-high.?

Vanessa Hutchinson poses during her second pregnancy.
Vanessa Hutchinson poses during her second pregnancy. (Supplied)

As stress can exacerbate IBS symptoms, I decided I would follow a strict trigger-free diet and keep dining out to a minimum to be on the safe side. Though it's very important to eat a variety of foods when pregnant to nourish you and baby, that's a challenge when you are food restricted. Cooking for myself at home, I pretty much stuck to the same simple core meals for nine months.

Breakfast was eggs and avocado on gluten free toast with lots of tabasco sauce (funnily enough my gut is fine with spicy food), for lunch I'd have a toasted wrap with chicken, avocado, cheese and spinach. For afternoon tea I'd whip up some corn tortillas with heaps of melted cheese. Then dinner was soba buckwheat noodles, cooked salmon or meat, bok choy and edamame with a dressing of tahini, soy sauce, lemon juice and maple syrup. Frozen dumplings also made a regular appearance.?

I had lots of snacks between meals to ensure I got a range of nutrients and stay full. I usually ate my Fodbods snacks, like the mint choc protein bars for dessert to keep me full overnight. It definitely got boring, but I still enjoyed eating everything.

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Vanessa Hutchinson with her second child, daughter Maya asleep on her chest.
Vanessa Hutchinson with her second child, daughter Maya asleep on her chest. (Supplied)

Fortunately, both of my pregnancies were pretty easy, and I felt good other than morning sickness and the tiredness vortex in the first trimesters. I was also very lucky to have wonderful birth experiences. Both Oscar and Maya, who was born in October, are healthy and doing well.

I know it's a pain when you're pregnant to give up your favourite foods like sushi, oysters and soft cheese. However, when you think of all the pregnant women out there who also have to deal with IBS, and the fact that IBS in general affects three out of 10 people, there are a lot of women missing out on a lot of food all the time. And when you finally meet your baby, it's definitely all worth it."

Vanessa's IBS diagnosis led her to develop Fodbods ¨C Australia's only FODMAP certified snack bar ¨C specifically formulated for IBS sufferers.

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