Constipation, defined as having three bowel movements or less per week, is not unusual in pregnancy. While constipation will not hurt your baby, it is uncomfortable and can lead to other painful issues like hemorrhoids or anal fissures.
Let’s look at what causes constipation, how to prevent it, and some methods for getting relief.
What Causes Constipation in Pregnancy?
When the leftover food waste stays in the lower part of your digestive tract rather than moving out it causes constipation. In pregnancy there are four potential causes for an uptick in constipation. These include:
Hormone changes in your body, especially in the first trimester. Progesterone relaxes your intestines so that they don’t squeeze the waste out as efficiently. And, the longer the food stays in the bowel, the drier and harder to pass it becomes.
The growing baby puts extra pressure on your bowel, which can also slow down the movement of waste leaving your body.
The iron in your prenatal vitamin makes it harder to break down food.
You may not be getting enough fiber, water, or exercise.
How to Prevent It
Fortunately, the best ways to combat constipation are natural and good for you and your baby!
First, add high-fiber foods to your diet because it softens your stools. 25-30 grams of fruits (like prunes), veggies, whole grains, beans, peas, and lentils will go a long way.
Next, drink lots of water. You might find that you need even more than the daily 8 (8 oz) glasses recommended. Mix it up with other fluids such as smoothies, low fat milk, and juices without added sugar.
Also, increase your physical activity. Walking, swimming, and yoga are good low-impact choices.
Finally, ask your medical provider about other options for your prenatal vitamin. One with less iron might be easier on your system.
Methods for Getting Relief
You probably want to avoid laxatives during pregnancy because of the risk of dehydration, but your doctor might be able to recommend effective stool softeners or high-fiber supplements with psyllium or polycarbophil.