One of the common discomforts of pregnancy can be constipation; in some cases so severe that women have likened the discomfort of having a bowel movement with that of pushing out a baby. Constipation is itself painful and can even lead to other problems such as hemorrhoids so it is best to control and manage it before it become problematic.
Why pregnancy constipation happens
It doesn’t matter if a woman has never had constipation before in her life or even if her previous pregnancies have been reasonably constipation free. Constipation during pregnancy can occur to any woman.
It can happen because the hormonal changes in the body can slow down the process of digestion causing food to move slower through the system.
Consequently the fecal matter remains in the bowel longer and gets drier and harder to pass causing constipation.
Other factors could add to constipation during pregnancy – if a woman is inactive (or is advised not to take vigorous exercise for some reason) this could constipate her.
Also mental stress and worry can add to the problem. A diet low in fiber can further exacerbate the problem.
Another reason for constipation is if a woman is on iron supplements during her pregnancy. Iron is known to cause or aggravate constipation.
How to prevent and treat pregnancy constipation
1. Make sure that you have a high fiber diet that is rich in whole grains, fruit and vegetables which provide the nutrients and the roughage to prevent constipation.
2. Drink plenty of water to prevent drying out of the stool and to keep it soft. And don’t forget to drink extra water if you’re involved in exercise or if the climate is hot and sweaty.
3. Exercise is known to stimulate the bowels and moderate exercise is a good idea for many reasons during pregnancy.
4. Consider stopping or altering your iron supplement. Consult with your doctor to see if the supplement is absolutely required and if so, consider switching to another brand or formulation that is less likely to be constipative.
5. Some bowel softeners available over the counter are OK to take during pregnancy such as Metamucil (Category B) which can help relieve constipation. However, always clear any medications that you plan to use with your health care provider.
6. Laxatives are not to be used during pregnancy because of the risk of dehydration and since they could cause uterine contractions. Mineral oils are also not recommended for use during pregnancy.