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Constipation While Pregnant

Constipation While Pregnant

 

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Pregnancy and Constipation

Being pregnant for most women is an exciting time.  Even despite some uncomfortable side effects of being with child, such as morning sickness, most women state that it’s completely worth it – especially once they see their baby for the first time.

 

Learning about what changes your body may go through during pregnancy is a great way to decrease stress or anxiety while pregnant. If you know what you may be in for, then you have time to learn how to deal with any symptoms ahead of time.

 

This brings us to the topic of pregnancy and constipation. Surely, not many women want to discuss the topic of not being able to move bowels regularly, but if you’re pregnant, then you might want to educate yourself on the topic, because there is a chance that you will experience your fair share of constipation during your pregnancy.

 

If you’re pregnant, and experiencing bloating, abdominal discomfort, difficult bowel movements, and hard, dry stools, you might be experiencing constipation. Constipation can be extremely frustrating and painful especially during pregnancy. However, the good news is that there are some things you can do to decrease these symptoms. 

 constipation while pregnant

 

How Common Is Constipation In Pregnancy?

Constipation during pregnancy is a relatively normal occurrence. At some point during pregnancy, more than half of women will experience constipation and other bowel problems. Many women state that they tend to deal with constipation more in their third trimester.  In fact, some say that the last month it can be fairly challenging for them to have regular bowel movements. Thankfully, there are several ways a pregnant woman can prevent and relieve constipation during pregnancy.

 

Why Does Pregnancy Cause Constipation?

A main cause of constipation during pregnancy is an increase in the progesterone hormone. Progesterone causes relaxation of muscles in the body, including intestines. When the intestines work slowly, it decreases the speed of digestion and increases the water that the colon absorbs from the stool, which makes for hard stool and leads to constipation.

 

During pregnancy, many women take prenatal vitamins. While these vitamins are good for pregnant women, they are full of iron, which becomes deficient in many pregnant women. The sudden increase in iron can cause constipation.

 

Another cause of constipation comes later in pregnancy. As the uterus grows, it put pressure on the intestines. This pressure makes the stool harder to move through the intestines. So, if you’re experiencing some discomfort due to constipation, know that once you deliver your bundle of joy, your bowel movements should become more consistent.

 

When Do You Start To Get Constipated During Pregnancy?

Constipation can occur at any time throughout pregnancy, but it is most likely to begin around the second and third month of pregnancy. If not handled at the first signs, constipation and the discomfort that goes along with it may worsen as your pregnancy progresses. No matter where you are in your pregnancy, if you are experiencing nausea, vomiting, bloating, abdominal pain, hard stools, and are not passing bowels regularly, it is important to immediately consult with your doctor.

 

What Can You Do To Prevent And Relieve Constipation During Pregnancy?

Eat Your Fiber. One way to prevent constipation during pregnancy is to make sure your diet is high in fiber. It is suggested that pregnant women eat at least 25 to 30 grams of dietary fiber every day. Not only does fiber help keep you regular and prevent constipation, it also gives you vitamins and antioxidants needed to maintain you and your baby’s health. To increase fiber in your diet, try adding  fresh fruits, vegetables, prunes, lentils, whole-grain bread, and peas.

 

There are many fiber-friendly recipes you can try to get the necessary fiber you need. Don’t be afraid to try new foods and double up on some of the fiber foods you normally eat, like fruits and vegetables.

 

Get Hydrated. Staying hydrated is another great way to decrease the likelihood of becoming constipated during pregnancy. Water is probably one of the best liquids you can be drinking, as it is without calories.  Pregnant women should drink about eight glasses of water each day, but you can have more than that if you desire. Water keeps bowels soft and aids in the bowels moving through the digestive tract. If you are having trouble drinking this much water, you can also add clear soups, tea, and naturally sweetened fruit juices.

 

Eat Small Meals. Another suggestion is breaking meals into five or six small meals each day. Eating several small meals throughout the day allows for easier digestion. When you eat large meals, this overwhelms the digestion system, which can overwhelm your stomach and leads to issues in digestion.

 

Take A Probiotic. Make sure to take your probiotics. Probiotics stimulate the bacteria in your intestines that help to break down food more easily and encourage regular bowel movements. They are often found in many yogurts, Kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi. Doctors can also suggest a probiotic supplement. It is always best to consult your physician before adding any kinds of vitamins and supplements.

 

Get Moving. Regular exercise is great in helping the digestive system work properly. Make sure to get your doctor’s approval before starting an exercise routine to ensure the safety of you and your baby. You certainly don’t want to overdo it or try new exercises that could harm you. Some great exercises include walking, swimming, biking, water aerobics, yoga, and any other mild to moderate exercise. If you don’t feel like exercising alone, ask your partner, a friend, or a family member to do it with you.  It can be fun to team up and get fit! Try to exercise for 30 minutes three times a week or 20 minutes four times a week.  Still, if you’re just not into exercise, even exercising one or two days is better than none.

 

OTC Aids. If these do not aid in helping you get relief from constipation, you might need to add an over the counter product like Metamucil. Metamucil helps soften the bowels and can be found at any drug store. Make sure to talk with your doctor before taking any over the counter medications.

 

Since one of the causes of constipation is an increase in iron, you may need to decrease the amount of iron supplements. Most people can get enough iron by maintaining a healthy, balanced diet. Also, breaking up the amount of iron supplements taken throughout the day rather than taking them all at once can be beneficial. Check with your health care provider before making changes to prescribed supplements.

 

Stool Softener. Your doctor may prescribe a stool softener. Stool softeners can aid in the discomfort and pain of constipation on a short term basis. They moisten the bowels which allows for easier passage through the digestive system.

 

By following the above suggestions and consulting your doctor, constipation is typically short lived and resolves itself. There are some cases, especially if not tended to, where constipation can lead to fecal impaction and will need to be removed by a doctor. This is very rare, but make sure to contact your doctor if the constipation is not relieved in one to two weeks.

 

Can Constipation Hurt The Baby?

Thankfully, constipation during pregnancy does not harm or affect the baby. You can rest assured that your baby is getting all its nutrients and growing just fine, even if you’re having problems with emptying your bowels.

While the baby is unharmed by constipation, it can lead to other forms of discomfort like hemorrhoids, rectal bleeding, and rectal fissures for the pregnant woman. For the health of your baby, make sure to always consult a doctor before adding any new supplements, taking new medicines, and adding exercise to your routine. Doing all of these things will increase the safety of your pregnancy.

 

How Long Does Constipation Last During Pregnancy?

Some women experience constipation for a short time, like a month or two. Others state that they only struggled with constipation during their last trimester. Unfortunately, some women can experience constipation throughout their entire pregnancy, though most women do not.

 

Fortunately, by changing your eating habits, increasing water intake, and exercising more, you can increase your chance of having healthier bowels. The good news is that these steps can be taken at any point during pregnancy. It is never too early or too late to make positive changes to decrease the likelihood of becoming constipated during pregnancy.

 

Lastly, remember to contact your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms of constipation that are not getting better despite your attempts at relief.  Having constipation is certainly no fun, and to experience it heavily during your pregnancy can surely frustrate you. If this is where you are, don’t be afraid or embarrassed to reach out for help from your physician. The advice of your health care professional may be the best tool in aiding in constipation during pregnancy.

 

Mayo Clinic, Is It Safe to Take Stool Softeners to Treat Pregnancy Constipation?, August 2017.

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Problems of the Digestive System, January 2014.

National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, Treating constipation during pregnancy, August 2012.

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  • Dominica Applegate
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