You are not alone if you are having a nightmare about giving birth on a toilet. Find out whether pushing hard to poop cause labor or hurt the baby plus get some remedies to relieve constipation during pregnancy.
Constipation is one of the significant not-so-happy side effects of being pregnant. Whether in the first or third trimester, going to the bathroom trip is hard.
All the pushing and straining to get the hard poop out of your body can make you wonder – can straining to poop cause a miscarriage? or can pushing hard to poop cause labor? – depending on what stage of labor you are in. I have done that!
Thought of giving birth on a toilet used to wake me up at night during my first pregnancy. I mean, it’s a valid concern some of us have because the muscles used in pushing poop out are the same as pushing the baby out!!
And ever since I learned that pooping doing labor is common from a birth class, I was constantly thinking about the opposite, can pushing hard to poop cause labor?
To get a good night sleep, I had to do some research and clear my queries about whether pushing hard to poop cause labor or cause water to break.
Stick around if you are wondering about the same questions. I have got all the answers for you, plus natural remedies to relieve constipation during pregnancy.
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Constipation during Pregnancy
Constipation starts in the first trimester, as early as progesterone levels start to rise around the second or third month of pregnancy. And it gets worse as pregnancy progresses and the uterus grows for some women.
Approximately 11-38% of pregnant women experience constipation, and for some women, it lasts throughout nine months.
Just like with many other pregnancy symptoms, hormones are to blame for constipation during pregnancy.
Elevated progesterone levels during pregnancy cause smooth muscle to relax and slow the passage of food through the intestines.
This delay increases the amount of water the colon absorbs from the stool, making your poop solid and difficult to pass. And all the pushing and straining early in the pregnancy can cause anxiety about going to the washroom.
My hysterically silly concern was, can pushing hard to poop cause a miscarriage? And as I was progressing in my pregnancy, I wondered, can pushing too hard to poop cause labor or water to break?
My concerns were legitimate as everything happens from one and only “down there.” Here is what I found out after my research.
Can Straining to Poop Cause a Miscarriage?
No, pushing or straining to poop won’t cause a miscarriage. While wiping afterward, the blood you may see maybe from broken blood vessels near the rectum or anal fissures. It has nothing to do with vaginal discharge.
And you can’t force yourself to miscarry by pushing hard to poop, but you can surely get hemorrhoids by it. Pressure on the vein around the rectum because of straining might result in hemorrhoids and anal fissures. And these will cause pain and discomfort, but they can’t force you to miscarry or hurt your baby.
Sometimes pooping during pregnancy brings cramps-like feeling. This is primarily due to slower digestion during pregnancy, causing bloating and constipation, leading to cramps like feeling in the abdomen.
In a healthy pregnancy, straining while pooping does not cause a miscarriage. But if you have been diagnosed with placenta previa, you don’t want any straining or pushing while pooping to avoid pressure-initiating bleeding.
If you are constipated and finding it hard to poop, it may be best to talk to your doctor, and they will recommend a pregnancy-safe stool softener. I found Colace, a stool softener, very helpful. If you have hemorrhoids, use TUCKS pads or make your own pad with witch-hazel and aloe helped a lot to ease the pain ‘’down there’’.
Making changes in your diet, drinking enough water, and exercising regularly can help you manage your problem so you can enjoy your life away from the toilet.
No, pushing hard or straining to poop does not cause labor.
Can Pushing Hard to Poop cause Labor?
Taking castor oil to bring on the labor by inducing bowel moment has been used in the past. And midwife or doula still recommends midwife’s brew (main ingredient- castor oil) to bring on labor when pregnant women are full-term or overdue or want to avoid medicated induction. And most women (me included!) think castor oil stimulates the bowel, and that’s what causes labor.
However, it’s not pooping or bowel movement that causes labor. An interesting research study published in 2010 experimented with castor oil’s effect on a pregnant woman’s uterine tissue. They found that the uterine tissue exposed to castor oil had a significant contraction compared to the uterine tissue exposed to the salt solution. This study suggests castor oil has some effect on creating uterine contractions and encouraging bowel movement (1).
Another explanation that I came across was that dehydration caused by multiple bowel moment by taking castor oil causes antidiuretic hormone (ADH) to be released from the brain.
ADH is structurally similar to oxytocin and is released from the same part of the brain as oxytocin (2). So, along with ADH, oxytocin is also released in response to dehydration, causing the uterus to contract.
So, it’s not the bowel movement that causes labor. However, I couldn’t find a scientific study validating this idea, but it does make some sense.
So, you can strain or push hard as much as you want because pushing hard DOES NOT cause labor!
Wait, Ignore what I just said.
Labor is very unpredictable, and it can happen anywhere you are. Whether you are at the grocery store, cooking a meal, or at the spa, you can go into labor anywhere. So, the possibility of going into labor while you are straining to poop is still there.
That being said, pushing hard or straining is not going to do any good to you, but if you have to do it, go ahead and do it. Because pooping is important too!!
Now that you know pushing hard does not cause labor (most of the time!), let’s look at what you can do to avoid the pushing and straining in the first place so that you can relax on your washroom trip.
How do You Relieve Constipation During Pregnancy?
If you are worried about straining much, check with your doctor or get advice from a nutritionist. They can recommend some pregnancy-safe supplements or food to make your bowel movement regular.
Meanwhile, here are some strategies to deal with constipation so you don’t have to strain to poop.
You probably already know how important it is to include fiber in your diet to keep things moving when you go to the washroom. Including 25-35 grams of fiber in your meal will help you relieve constipation issues. Fibers are of two types:
Insoluble fiber makes it easy for the poop to pass through the digestive tract. Here are foods rich in insoluble fiber,
- wholemeal bread and Wholegrain cereals
- Wheat bran
- Lentils, Kidney beans, and Chickpeas
- Dried fruit such as prunes, apricots, figs, and raisins
- Vegetables such as cabbage, celery, watercress, spinach, broccoli.
Soluble fiber attracts water in the stool and forms a gel-like substance in the intestine. It serves as a food for good bacteria in the intestine. Which improves intestinal health. Here are foods rich in soluble fiber
- Oat cereal and oat bran
- Fruits such as strawberries, citrus fruits, apples, pears
- Vegetable such as beans, carrots, asparagus, green peas
- Chia seed, Flaxseed
Still constipated? Try adding psyllium, the seeds from plantain, to your diet. Start sprinkling on your food at a time.
Do not use it much, as it can carry away all the nutrients before it gets absorbed in the intestine. Always check with your doctor before using psyllium.
Also, avoid white rice, white bread, pasta, and refined cereal from your diet as it will keep you clogged up.
Drinking 10-12 glasses of water (8-ounce) is essential, particularly when increasing your fiber intake. A combination of a high fiber diet and fluid (water and/or fruit or vegetable juice) every day makes your stool soft and easier to pass.
Prune Juice was a lifesaver during my pregnancies. It might work for you! Another trick that worked for me was taking hot water and lemon in the morning before breakfast to help stimulate peristalsis.
Regular exercise is important for regular bowel movements. Walking or swimming can help food digest and move faster from the intestine.
Pelvic floor exercises are great for not only keeping your bowel movement regular but will help you in your upcoming labor.
Here is a great program, The Perfect Pregnancy Nutrition and Fitness bundle, to guide you about your food choices (includes 80 recipes) and prenatal exercises. This course covers over 20 specially crafted workouts designed for mom-to-be.
This fitness plan is designed to teach you physical therapy workouts to perform from the first trimester to strengthen your pelvic floor and core muscle, your shoulder and back muscle before they are strained during pregnancy to minimize diastasis recti and get you prepared for various labor positions.
Find out more about The Perfect Pregnancy Nutrition and Fitness Plan here.
The probiotic acidophilus, found in yogurt, helps repopulate intestinal flora with healthy strain stimulating better food break down in the intestine to keep things moving.
Food high in probiotics includes yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, and other fermented food. You can also take good prebiotic fibers.
Go easy at Mealtime
Try breaking your meal into 5-6 smaller portions throughout a day rather than a big meal. This will allow the stomach to digest food better and get things moving smoothly. It may also help with gas and bloating.
Supplements such as prenatal vitamins, calcium, and iron supplements can worsen constipation. Talk to your healthcare provider about alternatives or adjustments in dosage.
Magnesium is an essential mineral that our bodies need to function properly. It regulates the contraction of muscles in our body and helps in releasing the poop.
Ask your healthcare practitioner about taking a magnesium supplement to fight constipation. Taking magnesium supplement at night may relax achy muscles and help you sleep better.
I used magnesium supplement for both pregnancies from first trimester to help digest the food and de-stress at night. I highly recommend trying magnesium supplement!!
You can also include magnesium-rich food in your diet,
- Leafy green- Spinach, Kale
- Nuts and seeds
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 vegetables, fruits, lentils), drinking enough water, and staying active can all combine to prevent constipation in pregnancy by counteracting the natural digestive slowdown of pregnancy.
When to See a Doctor?
It is advisable to see your healthcare professional before taking any natural remedies for constipation in pregnancy.
Seeing a doctor is also advisable if you experience,
- Stomach pain
- Constipation longer than 1-2 weeks
- Bleeding from rectum
I hope this article has helped you relieve your worries about pushing hard to poop and going into labor. Straining or pushing hard to poop does not cause labor, but it can certainly give you painful hemorrhoids.
So, increase your water intake, eat fiber-rich food, go for a walk or take a stool softener (of course, consult our doctor!) to strain less during your trip to the washroom.
And if nothing is helping, take solace in knowing that you will get back to your regular routine once you have a baby.
- O’Sullivan MD, Hehir MP, O’Brien YM, Morrison JJ. 17 alpha-hydroxyprogesterone caproate vehicle, castor oil, enhances the contractile effect of oxytocin in human myometrium in pregnancy. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2010 May;202(5):453.e1-4. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2010.03.023. PMID: 20452486.
- Osilla EV, Sharma S. Oxytocin. [Updated 2020 Aug 11]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507848/