Constipation in Pregnancy: How to Get that Bowels a move on?

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Having hard time going number two? Constipation is often an early sign of pregnancy and sometimes bothers some women for nine months. Worry not, there are ways to treat constipation in pregnancy naturally and prevent it down the line.

Irregular bowel movement causing gassy and blotted feeling are very common side effect of pregnancy. Both of my pregnancies were blemished by cramping, bloating and gassiness throughout 9 months, thanks to constipation, which affects approximately 11-38% of pregnant women (source). Added discomfort along with morning sickness didn’t end there, I developed painful hemorrhoid due to straining. Then, it was time to take it seriously to get that bowel to move on.

In this article, we’ll answer following question and much more,

  • When does constipation start during pregnancy?
  • What causes constipation in pregnancy?
  • How do you relieve constipation during pregnancy?
  • Can I prevent constipation during pregnancy?

When does Constipation Start during Pregnancy?

Constipation generally starts in first trimester, as early as progesterone level start to rise around second to third month of pregnancy. It may get worse as pregnancy progresses and uterus grows. Some women experience constipation throughout nine months.

What causes Constipation in Pregnancy?

Possible causes of constipation in pregnancy include,

Hormones

As with many other pregnancy symptoms, you can blame it on hormones for constipation during pregnancy as well. Elevated progesterone levels during pregnancy cause smooth muscle to relax, which slows the passage of food through your intestines. This delay increases the amount of water that the colon absorbs from the stool, which makes it more solid and difficult to pass result in constipation.

Prenatal Vitamins

Taking prenatal vitamin is pivotal as it helps cover any nutritional gaps in the mother’s diet. But higher content of iron or calcium can cause constipation.

Uterus

Rapidly growing uterus during second and third trimester, compresses intestines and pushes stomach upward, also contributes to the problem.

How do You Relieve Constipation during Pregnancy?

You don’t have to succumb to constipation for nine months, there are plenty of strategies to deal with constipation in pregnancy.

Fiber

There is no secret when it comes to treating constipation with fiber. Including 25-35 grams of fiber in diet each day helps you eliminate waste from your body.

There are two types of fiber:

Insoluble fiber gives bulk to the stool and makes it easy to pass through the digestive tract. Insoluble fiber is found in following foods,

  • Wholegrain cereals and wholemeal bread
  • Wheat bran
  • Kidney beans, lentils, Chickpeas
  • Dried fruit such as apricots, prunes, raisins and figs
  • Vegetables such as celery, watercress, cabbage, broccoli, spinach

Soluble fiber attracts water in the stool and forms a gel like substance in intestine. It serves as food for good bacteria in the intestine, which improves intestinal health. Soluble fiber is found in following foods,

  • Oat bran and oat cereal
  • Barley
  • Fruits such as apples, citrus fruits, strawberries, pears
  • Vegetable such as carrots, beans, asparagus, green peas
  • Flaxseed, Chia seed

Still clogged up? Try adding psyllium, the seeds from a plantain, to your diet. Do not go overboard with it, first sprinkle it on your food. But be sure to check with your doctor first before trying psyllium as it can carry away nutrients before they are absorbed in your intestine.

Try to avoid white bread, white rice, refined cereals and pasta they tend to back things up.

Fluid intake

Drinking 10-12 glasses of water (8-ounce) is important, particularly when you are increasing your fiber intake. Combination of high fiber diet and fluid (water and/or fruit or vegetable juice) every day make your stool soft and easier to pass.

Prune Juice was life saver during my both pregnancies. I always have it in my pantry.

You can also try hot water and lemon in the morning before your breakfast to help stimulate peristalsis.

Exercise routinely

Regular exercise is important for regular bowel movement. Walking or swimming for 10 min can help things moving in your digestive tract. Do not go overboard with exercise, make sure to consult your healthcare practitioner.

Pelvic floor exercises can help keep your bowel movement regular when practiced regularly.

Get your probiotics

The probiotic acidophilus, found in yogurt, helps repopulate intestinal flora with healthy strain stimulating better food break down in intestine to keep things moving. Food high in probiotic includes yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir and other fermented food. You can also take good probiotic supplements.

Go easy at mealtime

Try breaking your meal in to 5-6 smaller portion throughout a day rather than a big meal. This will allow stomach to digest food better and get things moving smoothly. It may also help with gas and bloating.

Supplements

Supplements such as prenatal vitamins, calcium and iron supplements can worsen constipation. Talk to your healthcare provide about alternative or adjustment in dosage.

Magnesium

Magnesium is an essential mineral that our bodies needs to function properly. It regulates contraction of muscles in our body and helps in releasing the bowel. Ask you healthcare practitioner about taking a magnesium supplement to fight constipation. Taking magnesium supplements at night may relax achy muscles and help you sleep better.

You can also include magnesium rich food in your diet,

  • Leafy green- Spinach, Kale
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Legumes
  • Wholegrain

Can I Prevent Constipation in Pregnancy?

Regular exercise and clean eating habits encourage a healthy digestive system, which can prevent constipation in pregnancy. Including lots of fiber in your diet (Whole grain, leafy green vegetable, fruits, lentils), drinking enough water and staying active can all combine to prevent constipation in pregnancy by counteracting the natural digestive slowdown of pregnancy.

Are laxative pills safe for constipation in pregnancy?

Laxative pills are NOT safe for the treatment of constipation in pregnancy because they might stimulate uterine contractions and cause dehydration.

Mineral oils should NOT be used during pregnancy as they reduce nutrient absorption.

Can Straining When I Poop hurt the baby?

Certain personal concerns become important when it comes to safety of baby when you are pregnancy. Most of us has turned to Dr.Google before asking questions to our doctors to avoid embarrassment.

For instance, we may wonder “Can straining when I poop hurt the baby”? Or “Is it bad to push hard when pooping while pregnant?” Because all you want is safety of your developing baby.

Fortunately, answer to this question is NO. The straining is unlikely to harm your baby. However, it may hurt you. All that straining may lead to painful hemorrhoids-swollen veins in rectum. So may want to take it easy in the bathroom.

When to see a Doctor?

It is advisable to see your healthcare professional before taking any homemade remedies for constipation in pregnancy.

Seeing a doctor is also advisable if you experience,

  • Nausea/Vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Constipation longer than 1-2 weeks
  • Bleeding from rectum

Conclusion:

Healthy fiber-rich diet, lots of water and regular moderate exercise are key to combat constipation in pregnancy. Most moms find relieve to their constipation with these simple remedies. Also, remember to take it easy in the bathroom to save yourself from added discomforts.

How About You?

Did you experience constipation in pregnancy? What helped you? Please comment below.

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