Constipation is a problem no one likes to talk about. But if you’re pregnant, you’re probably going through bouts of it. With so many changes going on in your body, it’s no wonder you’re having trouble “going.” Between hormones, prenatal vitamins and that continuing pressure on your womb, your digestive system is feeling a little overrun and under the weather.
What causes constipation when you’re pregnant, and is there any way to get relief? We’re going to share 8 remedies for constipation and reveal the causes of your bathroom woes.
Table of Contents
- What Causes Pregnancy Constipation?
- Is Constipation Harmful to Your Baby?
- 8 Remedies for Constipation
- Relief Is Out There
What Causes Pregnancy Constipation?
A combination of things may be making it difficult to “go” when you’re pregnant, but hormones are the primary culprit.
During pregnancy, your body produces progesterone to support your growing baby. Progesterone causes the muscles in your body, including the ones in your digestive tract, to relax. Sounds great, right? Not exactly.
When your digestive system slows, food hangs around for longer in your digestive tract. This gives the food more time to get to your baby, but there’s a downside: constipation.
2. Expanding Uterus
While hormones are largely to blame for your infrequent bowel movements, there’s another culprit as well: your expanding uterus. As your uterus continues to grow, making room for your new baby, it reduces the space normally taken up by your bowel. With less room to function as normal, you’ll find it harder to go.
Not much can be done about this as it’s a vital part of the pregnancy process, but your body will adjust to the changes eventually.
3. Prenatal Vitamins
Those prenatal vitamins you’re taking are supplying your baby (and your body) with vital nutrients. But all that extra iron is also contributing to your colon congestion.
Unfortunately, this is something that you’ll have to live with. Prenatal vitamins are crucial, and you should never stop taking them. Even though they may be making you constipated, they are extremely important for you and your baby. Your doctor will likely advise you to take an additional iron supplement when you’re halfway through your pregnancy.
Is Constipation Harmful to Your Baby?
Generally, constipation does not affect the baby – it’s just another uncomfortable symptom for mom. But there are occasions when this condition is a sign of something more serious.
If you’re experiencing severe constipation along with abdominal pain, bouts of diarrhea and bleeding, see your doctor right away.
8 Remedies for Constipation
Constipation can be difficult to deal with, especially if it leads to straining. Straining can cause hemorrhoids (not fun), which can also lead to rectal bleeding.
The good news is that you’ll go back to being regular after the baby is born. In the meantime, you can try these 8 remedies to get the relief you crave.
1. Fill Up On Fiber
Fiber is your first and best line of defense against constipation during pregnancy. High-fiber diets prevent constipation because it holds onto water and gets things moving through the intestines.
Fiber-rich foods include fruits, vegetables, beans and cereal. If you can’t get enough fiber from your diet, you may consider a supplement. Women who are pregnant should aim for 25-30 grams of fiber per day.
2. Stay Hydrated
Never underestimate the importance of staying hydrated during your pregnancy. For some women, this may mean doubling their intake of water.
During your pregnancy, you should be drinking at least 96 ounces of water per day. Water will keep your bowels soft, and help ensure that waste moves through your digestive tract. You may also consider drinking a glass of fruit juice every day. Prune juice in particular is helpful for the digestive tract.
Some women also found relief by drinking a warm liquid right after waking up. Warm lemon water can help move things along while also stimulating your digestive system and preparing your stomach for breakfast.
3. Eat Smaller Meals
This tip will also help with other pregnancy woes, like bloating and indigestion. Eating smaller meals will give your digestive system a break. Right now, everything’s moving slowly because of your hormones, expanding uterus and your prenatal vitamins. Don’t overload your system by eating more at each meal. By eating less food, you give your body a chance to absorb and process your food.
4. Stay Active
Exercise keeps everything moving – literally. Physical activity stimulates the bowels, making it easier to go. Aim for 20-30 minutes of exercise three times per week. Make sure that you talk to your doctor before you start your exercise routine. Walking is a good option if you can’t do anything too strenuous. Hiking, swimming and yoga are also excellent forms of exercise during pregnancy.
While exercise is great for you and the baby, it’s important to remember not to overdo it. Strenuous exercise can cause other issues, so consult with your doctor before starting a new workout routine.
5. Make Time for the Bathroom
It may seem strange and unnecessary, but try to schedule in time for the bathroom after meals. Your system is more active after you eat, so try to prepare for that. If you have to be at work by 8 AM, for example, try to make sure that you take your fiber supplement (or eat your high-fiber breakfast) by 6:30 or 7. This will give you enough time to use the bathroom without feeling rushed or having to put off the urge until later, which can make constipation worse.
6. Ask Your Doctor about the Supplements You’re Taking
Prenatal vitamins are essential to a healthy pregnancy, but they can also lead to constipation. If the vitamin you’re taking is high in iron and you’re not anemic, you may consider asking your doctor to recommend a different vitamin with lower iron levels. Never switch your prenatal vitamin (or any other doctor-recommended supplement) without talking to your doctor first.
Your doctor may recommend taking a slow-release iron supplement, or adjust your dosages to improve your constipation.
7. Try a Probiotic
Probiotics, the good bacteria, help stimulate the bowels and get things moving. They also improve nutrient absorption, which is especially important during pregnancy.
Talk to your doctor about adding a probiotic to your supplement routine. You can also get probiotics from yogurts with live cultures and other cultured dairy foods.
8. Try a Stool Softener
If you’re having a hard time finding relief, literally, an over the counter stool softener may get the job done. Avoid taking laxatives, which can cause an electrolyte imbalance.
Talk to your physician about which stool softeners are safe for use during pregnancy.
Relief Is Out There
Constipation is a part of being pregnant, but that doesn’t mean that you have to suffer until delivery day. Fiber is the most effective weapon against constipation, but staying hydrated and active will help as well. Probiotics can improve your digestive system overall, and eating smaller meals will help prevent you from overloading your system. If all else fails, an over the counter stool softener may give you relief, but be sure to talk to your doctor first to make sure that it’s safe for you and your baby.