During constipation, passing stools becomes more difficult and less frequent than usual. Constipation causes abdominal pain or discomfort, difficult and infrequent bowel movements, and the passage of hard stools. Constipation affects approximately half of all women at some point during their pregnancy.
Causes of constipation in pregnancy?
In general, anxiety, worry, low-fiber diet and minimal physical exercise may cause constipation. Constipation in pregnant women occur due to hormones that relax the intestinal muscle and by the increasing pressure of the expanding uterus on intestines. Relaxation of the intestinal muscle causes food and waste to move slower through your digestive system.
Sometimes iron supplements may contribute to constipation. Drink plenty of water if you are taking iron supplements. You may need to switch to a different type of iron tablet, but it is important to talk to your health care provider first.
How to prevent or treat constipation in pregnancy?
Prevention and treatment of constipation involve many of the same steps. These remedies are pregnancy-safe, that you can do to help prevent constipation from occurring or treat it if you already have it:
- Eat a high fiber diet. Ideally, you will consume 25 to 30 grams per day of dietary fiber from vegetables, fruits, whole grain breads, breakfast cereals, prunes and bran. (read more about healthy eating in pregnancy)
- Drink lot of fluids. Drinking plenty of fluids is important, particularly when increasing fiber intake. Drink 10 to 12 cups of fluids each day. It is the combination of a high fiber diet and plenty of liquids that best help you eliminate your waste. Hot or humid climates, sweat and exercise may increase your need for additional fluids.
- Exercise. If you are inactive, you have a greater risk of constipation. Swimming, walking and other moderate exercise helps the intestines work by stimulating your bowels. Exercise three times a week for 20-30 minutes each. (read more about exercise in pregnancy)
- Over-the-counter medicines. There are over-the-counter products such as Metamucil (Category B) which may help soften bowel movements and reduce constipation. Always consult your gynecologist before using over-the-counter medications.
- Reduce or eliminate iron supplements. Iron supplements may contribute to constipation. Good nutrition can often meet your iron needs during pregnancy. Taking smaller doses of iron throughout the day rather than taking it all at once can reduce constipation. Talk to your gynecologist about checking your iron levels and recommendations to manage iron intake during pregnancy.
What remedies should not be used for constipation in pregnancy?
Laxative pills are NOT recommended for the treatment of constipation during pregnancy because they might stimulate uterine contractions and cause dehydration.
Mineral oils reduce nutrient absorption therefore should NOT be used during pregnancy.