The pregnancy period includes many hormonal, emotional, and physical changes. pregnancy constipation is one of the common symptoms among pregnant women. About 16 to 39% of women suffer from constipation at some point during pregnancy. The onset of constipation differs from one woman to another. Some women suffer during the first two months, while others experience it in a later stage.
How can you tell if it’s constipation, especially if you naturally have few bowel movements? What are the main causes? How can you naturally treat it and when should you consult a doctor?
Symptoms of pregnancy constipation
- You are able to poop only a few times a week.
- You feel pain while pooping.
- Your belly is swollen and gassy.
- Your stool is lumpy and hard.
Constipation during pregnancy causes
- Increase in progesterone level: During pregnancy, a woman’s body produces more progesterone hormone. This causes relaxation in the intestines and the bowel so they are not able to squeeze waste out of the body. This makes the body consume more time to absorb nutrients and water from the food you eat. The longer the food stays in the body, the longer the large intestine takes to absorb the moisture out of it. The waste dries out and is hard to pass during pooping.
- Growth of the fetus: When the fetus grows, the uterus becomes heavier. This heaviness puts pressure on the bowel, making it hard for waste to move out of the body.
- Iron in prenatal vitamins: Taking iron supplements during pregnancy is essential to help your body make blood for oxygen to circulate through the baby’s body and yours. However, iron might make it difficult for bacteria in your bowel to break down food leading to constipation.
Treatment of constipation in pregnancy
- Eating fiber-rich foods: Bowel habits highly depend on the right nutrition. To avoid constipation during pregnancy, you have to eat 25 to 34 grams of fiber daily. Fibers soften the stool. You can find fibers in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. You can also take a fiber supplement upon your doctor’s recommendation.
- Including probiotics in your diet: Millions of healthy bacteria live in the gut and help it function correctly. Probiotics may help repopulate the gut bacteria with healthy strains that encourage normal and regular bowel movements. Yogurt is one of the top foods that are rich in probiotics.
- Drinking water: Drinking eight cups of water a day is essential. Pregnant women need more fluids to soften their stool. During pregnancy, drink 12 cups of water a day. You can also include other fluids like low-fat milk and fresh juice with no added sugar, especially prune juice.
- Exercising: During pregnancy, working out is not the easiest thing due to the heaviness of the pelvic area and joints, especially if you’re not used to it. However, exercise can help you avoid constipation. Twenty to thirty minutes of moderate workout, three times a week can make a big difference. You can just walk, do light aerobics, or try yoga.
- Reducing iron supplements: After consulting your medical advisor, you can take fewer iron supplements and compensate with an iron-rich diet according to your needs and pregnancy state.
- Taking a laxative: Natural changes in lifestyle don’t work with all pregnancy constipation cases. You might need to take a laxative. You have to check with your gynecologist to find a suitable and safe one.
When to see a doctor?
- If you’ve been constipated for longer than 1-2 weeks.
- If you bleed from the rectum or suffer from abdominal pain.
- Constipation in Children and How to Treat It
- What You Need to Know About Pregnancy Leg Cramps
- Swelling During Pregnancy: When to Worry
Sources used in this article:
- Pregnancy constipation – Cleveland Clinic
- Pregnancy week by week – Mayo Clinic
- Constipation and pregnancy: What to know – Medical News Today
- Treating constipation during pregnancy – National Center for Biotechnology Information
- Constipation in pregnancy – American Pregnancy Association