Constipation in pregnancy

How to Cope With Constipation During Pregnancy

December 18, 2019
2 min read

With pregnancy comes a number of changes to your body. For many moms-to-be, constipation is one of the symptoms of pregnancy.

If you’re experiencing infrequent or uncomfortable bowel movements. -- in other words, constipation -- don’t worry. This is quite common during pregnancy for many different reasons, which we’ll explain.

Learn what can cause constipation during pregnancy and what you can do to alleviate or prevent the discomfort.

What's in this article:

What Causes Constipation in Pregnancy? Prevention and Home Remedies Immediate Constipation Relief Potential Complications of Constipation

What Causes Constipation in Pregnancy?

Constipation can happen at any time in life, but you may be more susceptible to this condition during the later stages of pregnancy, perhaps when you’re in the third trimester. The potential causes of constipation at this time include:

  • Having higher levels of the hormone progesterone, which can slow down digestion
  • Taking iron supplements, which can irritate your digestive tract
  • Physical changes such as the weight of your uterus putting pressure on your rectum, which can worsen constipation if you already have it.

Prevention and Home Remedies

Having infrequent bowel movements or stools that are difficult to pass can be quite uncomfortable even at the best of times, but these symptoms of constipation can be even more unpleasant when you’re pregnant and dealing with a host of other aches and pains.

You may wish there were a miracle cure, or a medical formula, for immediate relief from your pregnancy constipation, but unfortunately there isn’t. Instead, focus on changes you can make to your diet and levels of activity, which may get things moving in time.

Here are some you can take to help prevent or relieve constipation during pregnancy:

  • Drink lots of fluids, such as water, prune juice, and other 100 percent fruit juices.
  • Consume high-fiber foods, aiming for at least 25 grams per day. Include vegetables, fruits, beans, whole-grain products, and bran cereal in your diet. Increasing your fiber intake suddenly can cause a side effect of excess gas, so take care to eat your meals slowly and avoid swallowing too much air. Also, avoid carbonated drinks and chewing gum to help prevent a build-up of gas.
  • Exercise regularly. Check with your healthcare provider to find out what you can safely do. Even simply walking more can help encourage your digestive system to get going.
  • Instead of eating three large meals a day, eat smaller meals more frequently throughout the day to make the food easier to digest.

Immediate Constipation Relief

If you’re finding that the lifestyle changes listed above don’t work for you, turn to your healthcare provider. Your provider may recommend one of these over-the-counter medications, which can help you pass hard stools, but are not a cure for constipation:

  • A bulk-forming agent, which works by absorbing water and adding moisture to your stool to make it easier to pass. Make sure to drink extra fluids if you’re taking this medication.
  • A stool softener, which adds liquid to your stool to soften it
  • A stimulant, which uses a chemical to stimulate intestinal activity.

Potential Complications of Constipation

If the symptoms of constipation persist for several weeks or longer, this indicates chronic constipation, which can lead to complications such as:

  • Hemorrhoids, which are swollen veins in your anus
  • Anal fissures, which are tears of the skin in your anus
  • Fecal impaction, which is when hardened stool accumulates in your intestines
  • Rectal prolapse, which is when your rectum protrudes from the anus.

To help avoid complications, it’s safest to get in touch with your healthcare provider at the first signs of constipation or pain.

FAQs at a Glance

  • Q : Is constipation a sign of early pregnancy?
  • Q : What can you take for constipation when you’re pregnant?
  • Q : How do you prevent constipation when taking iron?

Don’t let constipation ruin your last few months of pregnancy! Talk to your healthcare provider, and make some of the lifestyle changes we’ve listed in this article. In time, things will get moving down there, and you can get back to more enjoyable tasks such as shopping for baby gear, decorating your baby’s nursery, or even just putting your feet up for a bit.

One thing to keep in mind is that, at the other end of the spectrum, you may experience diarrhea from time to time during your pregnancy. You should always mention this to your healthcare provider, especially if you suspect it may be caused by something like food poisoning or a tummy bug.

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