Constipation can be painful, but it’s quite an annoyance when you’re pregnant. Upwards of 50 percent of all pregnant women will suffer from this symptom when they’re with child. You can be constipated early in pregnancy, or later. It’s a universal pregnancy symptom, related to hormonal changes and dietary reasons.
Causes of Pregnancy Constipation
One major cause of constipation in pregnancy is the increase in progesterone (a hormone). Progesterone relaxes all the smooth muscles in your body, including the muscles in your digestive tract. This basically slows down your digestive system, taking it longer for food to pass through your intestines.
Later in pregnancy, constipation is more of an issue because your expanding baby and growing uterus adds extra pressure on your rectum.
If you take iron supplements (iron is recommended to ward off anemia, which is a common pregnancy complication), this can make constipation worse.
Tips to Relieve Constipation During Pregnancy
So what can an expectant mother do to get relief from constipation? Prevention is always the best method to handle constipation in pregnancy. One way to prevent constipation is to drink plenty of water and other fluids. Dehydration can make constipation worse, and it can make being constipated painful. (You have enough pregnancy aches and pains! Drink enough water during the day to get relief from one major pain.)
Make sure that you eat plenty of fruits and vegetables during the day, especially fruits and veggies that are packed in fiber. If constipation is a major problem for you in pregnancy, make sure that you eat some prunes and other dried fruit. Prunes will quickly relieve constipation. (They aren’t just for the elderly; pregnant women can benefit from them too!)
It’s also recommended that you exercise on a regular basis. This may help things flow better, and it will leave you feeling healthier. Exercise also gets your body revved up and in shape for labor and delivery.
To prevent constipation, make sure that you head to the bathroom when you feel the urge to go. Never put it off. This will only make pregnancy constipation worse.
If constipation is quite a problem, talk to your doctor before taking any medication. Remember that all medications have the potential to cross the placenta to your vulnerable baby. No medicine is 100 percent safe. In general, though, stool softeners (like Colace) are generally “OK” for pregnant women, since the active ingredients aren’t absorbed into your body.