You’re tired and grumpy and sickness is starting to set in. And now, you can’t find a way to relieve yourself: you’re constipated. The life of a pregnant woman is not one to envy, and just when you think matters couldn’t get worse, they find a way to prevail.
Irregular bowel movements are common with most pregnancies.
Constipation during pregnancy can leave you cranky and miserable, and will make you feel even more bloated than you felt before. And if you’re wondering what is causing you to become constipated, think about the reason for all of your other pregnancy-related distress: hormones.
Table of Contents
- Causes for Constipation During Pregnancy
- 10 Things You Can Do to Stop Constipation During Pregnancy
- Can Constipation During Pregnancy Be Serious?
Causes for Constipation During Pregnancy
We’ve established that it is those pesky hormones that are causing your constipation, but why exactly do hormones cause constipation? There are muscles in your bowels that help you push when trying to go to the bathroom, and pregnancy hormones have a way of making these muscles relax.
Your hormones are trying to make your uterus relax, too, and prepare the body for pregnancy. But it’s a process that causes several muscles in the body to relax. Since your bowel muscles have now relaxed, you won’t be able to go to the bathroom as efficiently.
There is also the issue of the muscles becoming sluggish, which in turn makes the food stay inside of your digestive tract for longer.
While this may seem like a bad thing, the longer the food stays in the digestive tract, the more time the nutrients have to make it into your bloodstream. Nutrients that make their way into your bloodstream will be delivered to your baby, so it is a good thing in that sense.
The bowel is also suffering from something else: a growing uterus.
Your uterus will be growing and growing. And many of your internal organs will be pushed up, to the side, and simply moved over in an attempt to make more room for the baby. After all, your organs need to go somewhere. But the uterus will also cause your bowel to move and will take up valuable space needed by the bowel to be able to do its business.
So, not only are the hormones causing your bowel muscles to relax and become sluggish, but your growing uterus is causing a disruption in your normal bowel movements.
And there’s more.
Virtually every doctor walking the planet will recommend that a pregnant woman takes her prenatal vitamins – it’s a necessity. Unfortunately (and fortunately), these same good-for-mom vitamins are filled with iron. And what does this iron do to you? It causes you to become clogged up and constipated.
As you progress into your pregnancy, you’ll also likely be advised to take an additional iron supplement.
And don’t even think of not taking your prenatal vitamin. Seriously. These vitamins are vital to the health and development of your baby, but they will cause you to become constipated. Constipation during pregnancy can lead to:
Hemorrhoids are not something any woman wants to discuss, but most women will get hemorrhoids when they’re pregnant. And all of these issues are caused by the constipation you’re suffering from.
10 Things You Can Do to Stop Constipation During Pregnancy
Relief or prevention is right around the corner. There are several things you can do to try and avoid constipation. You should be doing all or at least most of the following:
1. Change Up Your Diet
Diet is a major factor in your regularity, or lack thereof at the moment. You want to eat foods that can help you go. Here are a few foods you should be adding into your diet:
- Whole-grains (pasta, bread, etc.)
- Dried fruits
- Fresh fruits
- Vegetables (raw or lightly cooked)
2. Add Fiber Slowly
The goal of your diet change is to add in more fiber. But if you increase your fiber too quickly, you’ll have intense gas and bloating that will make you feel even worse. Instead, increase your fiber slowly over time. A good idea is to add in more fiber to your meals each day. A little brown rice or beans with your chicken will do the trick. And in the morning, eat a kiwi or prune. Go slowly, and you’ll find that you’ll move towards regular bowel movements again.
3. Eliminate “Clogging” Foods
There are certain foods that have a way of causing you to get clogged up. These foods, while very delicious in most cases, should be eliminated or very limited in your diet if you’re constipated. Here are a few of these foods (and there are many):
- White rice
- White bread
- Pasta (unless it’s whole-grain)
4. Put Less on Your Plate
A swelling plate that is teeming with more food than you can imagine eating under normal circumstances will cause you to become constipated. Eating until you’re as stuffed as a burrito will lead to hours spent on the toilet. Eat smaller meals and start spacing out your meals evenly. Instead of a pound of chicken, eat a third of a pound, spread over three meals. Smaller meals are easier to digest and will allow foods to flow through the body easily.
5. Drink Often
If you don’t drink enough, you’ll cause your stool to become hard. Sorry ladies, it’s true. You need to ensure that you have adequate water intake (at least 8 cups a day), and that’s all you need to keep your stool soft. But you can also drink a few different liquids, such as fruit juice and broth, which will be helpful for your little clog. A few tips to unclog with liquids are:
- Prune juice
- You’ll find old women drinking prune juice daily. A cup in the morning will help you keep things moving along all day long.
- Hot water and lemon
- A trick that many women suggest is to drink a hot cup of water and lemon – think of it as a tea. The mixture of the two will help intestinal contractions start, and actually stimulates the peristalsis.
6. Schedule Bathroom Time
This may seem juvenile, and it sounds quite silly as I write this sentence, but you need to schedule in time to go to the bathroom. The problem is that many women feel rushed because they know it will take them a little longer to go. If you have to head to work at 9 o’clock, make sure you allow yourself some time in the morning to sit down and go. The key is to schedule in a time, so you can find some relief. And it works for a lot of women, especially women that are always on the go.
7. Take a Look at Supplements and Medications
The supplements (hello prenatal vitamins) and medications you’re taking may be the culprit. Antacids are also known for causing women to get backed up. So, you want to take a good look at all medicines and vitamins you may be taking. If the problem persists, discuss alternatives to must-have supplements recommended by your doctor. A slow-releasing iron supplement or adjustments to your current dosages may be all that is needed.
8. Consider Fiber Supplements
There are supplements for seemingly everything, including fiber. If you can’t find a way to add more fiber into your diet, a fiber supplement will allow you to find some relief. Always ask your doctor for advice when it comes to taking any supplement when you’re pregnant.
9. Add Probiotics to Your Diet
Good bacteria will help your gut break down food and allow it to pass with greater ease. While many people are afraid of bacteria, the kind found in yogurt or probiotics is normally more than enough to keep your gut healthy and things moving along.
If you’re not moving, you’re lessening your potential of going to the bathroom. Exercise has been shown to help keep bowel movements regular, and something as simple as a 10 – 20 minute walk around the neighborhood may help you go to the bathroom with greater regularity.
Note: We didn’t mention laxatives of any kind. You should never take a laxative while pregnant unless ordered to by your doctor. Laxatives may not be safe for use during pregnancy depending on the type, so consult with your doctor to ensure your baby’s health isn’t at risk.
If you’re wondering which exercises you can do to move things along, there are quite a lot. A few of the most recommended exercises that woman are encouraged to do if they have constipation during pregnancy include:
- Swimming: The go-to exercise for pregnant women. A dip in the pool will help with your sciatic pain, swelling and can even relieve nausea. Your joints and ligaments will also be relieved thanks to you floating in the water. After a couple laps in the pool, you’ll get your heart rate up, and you’ll find that you’re now passing bowel movements much faster.
- Walking: You don’t need a gym or pool to get the daily exercise you need. A brisk walk is free, and you can do it all the way up to the day you deliver your baby. Schedule in a walk in the morning or afternoon. Many women that work throughout their pregnancy will also walk during their lunch break. Just be careful to avoid hiking (when your belly blocks your view), slippery conditions (no snow or ice) or going to too high of an altitude.
- Yoga: There are yoga classes designed specifically for pregnant women. These classes are a great way to get the body moving, and you’ll also find that you’ll make many friends at your new classes. Even if you’re not flexible, these classes will ease you into the process and can be very beneficial during labor.
- Cycling: Ideally, indoor cycling on a stationary bike. Cycling is very easy on the joints and won’t hurt your ankles or knees at all. There is no risk of falling off of the bike unless you faint, and if you do go to a cycling class, inform your instructor that you’re expecting.
- Dance: Group dance is a lot of fun, and if you are a dancer or have danced before, this is a great way to stay limber during your pregnancy. It should be noted that dance may require extensive balance depending on the type of dance you do. If you do engage in group dance, try to find a class that is geared towards expecting mothers as this will be better suited for you.
We’re also seeing many women follow their normal exercise routine while pregnant. The only thing you want to remain cautious with at this time is overexertion. You’re pregnant, and you don’t want to push yourself to your extreme limits as this can cause more harm than good.
Take it slow and have fun. But don’t push yourself to the point of feeling sick.
Can Constipation During Pregnancy Be Serious?
For the vast majority of women, constipation is nothing more than aggravating and uncomfortable. Bowel movements need to occur so that you don’t get backed up to the point where you actually hit toxic levels.
But don’t worry; to reach this level, you would have had to not pass a bowel movement for quite some time.
You need to go. Even if it is not as much as normal, you do need to go. If you have any of the following symptoms, you will need to contact your doctor immediately:
- Severe abdominal pain
- You pass blood
- You pass mucus
While you may view your hemorrhoids as serious business, it’s important to note that they rarely cause serious problems. Hemorrhoids are painful, embarrassing and uncomfortable as the veins in the rectal area swell.
But you’ll be happy to know that once you have given birth, it will only be a matter of weeks before the hemorrhoids go away.
If you do have a bowel movement and there is blood involved, you will want to consult with your physician. Stool that is abnormally large and hard can cause painful tearing that will need to be monitored and evaluated.