Are you having trouble with constipation during pregnancy? Yep, I hear ya!
And you’re not alone. Around half of pregnant women experience this bunged up feeling at some point.
This constipation is making you feel uncomfortable and miserable, right? Well, the good news is that a few simple changes can help give you some relief.
That’s why I’ve written this guide on relieving pregnancy constipation, just for you. It has everything you need to know. Perhaps even TMI! But guarantee if you follow this guide, you’ll get the relief you need.
Pin this guide for later; you may read it when you are stuck in the loo.
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Constipation In Pregnancy Guide
Am I constipated?
You know that feeling when you need to do a poo, but you just can go? Nothing is coming out, no matter how hard you try. Well, if that’s what you’re feeling, then you’re constipated. Signs you’ll notice when your constipated are:
- Being unable to poo for 2 or more days
- Straining as you poo
- Poo that is hard, dry or lumpy
Also be on the lookout for other like stomach ache, cramps, bloating or nausea. They are all early warning signs you are constipated. But it’s really easy to pass them off as common pregnancy symptoms, especially in the first trimester.
What Causes Constipation in Pregnancy?
Your body is changing so much to cope with your pregnancy. These subtle changes are the cause of your constipation. Thanks for that one Mother Nature.
These are the three main culprits:
Your main pregnancy hormone is called progesterone. Your body uses this hormone to signal that you’re pregnant. One of the main changes progesterone makes is to relax your muscles.
The good news is that stops you going into preterm labor. The bad news is you digest your food slower, and your bowels slow down. Together those two side effects are a recipe for constipation during pregnancy.
Hormones are the main cause of pregnancy constipation in your first trimester.
As your bump grows, you’ll feel a lot more pressure on your internal organs. Hand’s up if you feel like you have a bowling ball between your legs? Yep, thoughts so.
Well, all that weight is pressing on your lower organs. That includes, you guessed it, your rectum.
I want you to imagine you’re walking down a hallway when no one is around. It’s easy, right? You’re walking at your own pace with plenty of room.
Now think of walking down that same corridor with a big crowd gathered on one side.
“Excuse me”, “Sorry, can I just squeeze past?….”
You get the picture. You have less room and that totally slows you down. You’re having to maneuver yourself past in the only available space.
That exactly what is happening to your bowel as you get bigger in this pregnancy. You’ll notice that increased weight is more likely to cause constipation in your third trimester.
Has pregnancy left you with constant heartburn, pain, headaches, or nausea? It’s easy to reach for medication for a little relief and to get through the day.
Think about any medication you have taken recently. Could it be causing your constipation?
Common culprits include:
- Iron supplements
- Narcotic pain relief
- Blood pressure medication
If you think one of your medications is causing your constipation, don’t stop taking it right away. Have a word with your doctor. They may be able to give you a different medication or brand that doesn’t bung you up.
11 Ways to Relieve Constipation in Pregnancy
Well, you’re here because I promised you relief from this dreaded constipation right? Well, let’s get on with it.
I always think it’s best to start at the beginning. What I mean by that is before reaching for medications, there are things you can so to ease your constipation. Now, these might not give you instant relief now, but they’ll you keep it at bay in the future.
1. Healthy Diet
You’re probably fed up hearing that a healthy diet will fix pretty much anything, right? Well, in this case, it couldn’t be truer.
I want you to think about your diet. Are you eating foods that are good for you? By that, I mean fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Or are you scoffing too much fast food, meat, and dairy?
Cleaning up your diet can help to give you a good clean inside? Try eating better for a few days and see how quickly your bowel movements change.
If you want to know my top food for constipation, then I’d recommend pears. They are amazing for relieving constipation. That’s a top tip I picked up from the physiotherapists I work with on the postpartum ward.
2. Drink water
Again it’s another simple recommendation. But it works. You see water is essential to helping your poo to ‘move along.’ If you’re dehydrated, your body is going to hold onto your food as long as it can.
I’d recommend plain water, but fruit juice and coffee are great for helping stimulate your bowels. Herbal teas can help. However, be careful to use one that’s suitable to drink in pregnancy.
Are you avoiding exercise in case it hurts your baby? Or maybe this pregnancy already has you so freaking exhausted? I hear you, the thought of exercise in pregnancy probably fills you with dread.
Now you don’t need to be a hardcore gym bunny, but moving will get your blood flowing and your bowels moving.
It’s difficult when everyone is telling you to rest and ‘put your feet up. And while it’s true, you should take it easy. You also need to keep moving.
Go for gentle exercises like swimming, prenatal yoga, and walking. They’re all great options, especially for the end of your pregnancy. Plus they’ll help get your body ready for labor.
Is this pregnancy stressing you out? Your hormones are raging, and your anxieties are sky high, right?
Well, all that stress increases your cortisol hormone levels. Cortisol then causes your body to slow down your digestive system. And so more stress means more constipated.
Make time for a little bit of self-care every day. Take a bubble bath, read a book, put on a face mask or try meditation.
5. Watch your cues
Your body is pretty freaking amazing. It has little systems in place that keep it running well. And if you watch it close enough, you’ll be able to read it so much better.
Try to observe the signs your body gives you before you poo. Do you get chatty, feel sweaty or get a certain taste in your mouth? If you can’t think of anything, observe closer.
Ignoring these signals can confuse your body. If you like data, try using a bullet journal. Make a page for observations that can help you build up a bigger picture.
Have you noticed you poo at the same time every day? Try going to the toilet at times when you usually would, even without the urge. The familiarity may stimulate your body to relax and release.
I’m just going to through this out there – modern toilets are terrible for helping you to poo. Who knew? That position you’re in causes your rectum to narrow. That makes it a whole lot harder for you to pass stools.
The best way to poo is a squatting position. How on earth can you achieve that? Use a toilet stool like a squatty potty. It helps raise your knees and give more room for the poop to come out.
Honestly, this simple device will change the way to poo. It makes your toilet trips so much easier and natural. I bet your partner will love it too.
7. Change medications
I mentioned above how certain medications are likely to make you constipated. Again, do not come off any prescribed medication without first speaking your doctor. You are using them because your health needs it.
The best thing to do is let your doctor know you think its cause constipating side effects. Often they can change you to a different type or brand of medication.
If you aren’t on any medication, have a look at what’s in your pregnancy vitamin supplement. The iron in it can be causing your constipation. If you suspect this is the cause try switching the brand, this one is great, as it has non-constipating ingredients.
8. Probiotic supplements
Want better digestion? Try a probiotic, like these ones. Probiotics stimulate the good bacteria in your gut and making it work better.
Are you still suffering from nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, thrush, or heartburn? Well, a probiotic can help to ease those symptoms.
If you can’t stomach another supplement, then try eating probiotic-rich foods. Plain yogurt, kefir, and pickles are all great options. Now you have a good excuse for that pickle craving.
9. Alternative therapy
If you’ve already tried the suggestion above, what about a bit of alternative therapy. You know something like acupressure, acupuncture or reflexology. These therapies are known to work well on constipation.
Maybe it’s because they help you relax a little. But who cares right? If it works, it works.
It’s a road you may want should consider if you’re at your wits end with constipation.
Try some tummy massage. It’s is a great way to stimulate your bowels, especially in the first trimester. You can do this yourself or ask your partner if they can lend a hand.
As your bump grows, massage won’t be effective. Because well your bambino is in the way. At this stage, a leg and arm massage can stimulate a few acupressure points that help with constipation.
If you go to a professional massage therapist always tell them you’re pregnant. They may refuse to work on you. For insurance purposes, it’s best to use someone who is qualified for pregnancy massage.
11. Over the Counter Medicine
When all else has failed, and you need relief, like right now, opt for medication. There are lots of over the counter options to choose from.
It’s important to know which ones are suitable for use in pregnancy.
It’s a fairly big topic so keep reading, and I’ll discuss what you can and can’t take.
Constipation Medications in Pregnancy
If you’ve tried all the natural methods of constipation relief and they aren’t cutting it, you need something stronger. Let’s discuss what constipation medications you can buy. I’ll even go over whether you should take them during pregnancy or not.
Always remember to discuss taking OTC medications with your doctor, especially if you’re taking prescription medications.
I’m just gonna put this out there and say it – don’t use regular laxatives during pregnancy. They’re so hard on your body. Plus you don’t want to bring on severe diarrhea, stomach cramps, and dehydration.
A good alternative is a milk laxative called mild milk of magnesia. It usually takes a few hours to work. So don’t use it on a day when you’ve got a lot on. Or you may get caught short.
Only use a mild laxative as a short-term remedy for your constipation problem. I strongly recommend you don’t regularly use laxatives to deal with ongoing constipation.
Saline enemas, like these ones, are a great way to get some instant constipation relief.
It works by squirting a small bottle of salty water up your butt. The fluid stimulates your bowels, and you’ll pass a stool within a few minutes.
Saline is safe to use during pregnancy and won’t harm your baby.
Glycerine suppositories, like the fleet brand, are an easy way to stimulate a bowel movement. They usually come in a douche or a suppository pill.
Again you have to place the suppository in your butt. The smooth glycerine lubes up your insides and makes it easier for you to pass a stool.
Suppositories usually work quickly and help you to open your bowels within minutes.
A fiber supplement powder, such as Benefiber, is a great way to get extra bulk in your diet. It’s perfect if you’re having trouble eating a balanced diet, or keeping food down at all.
This type of supplement is easy to use. You can add it to anything you drink or eat. It’s kinda like powdered sweetener but with no taste. You don’t even notice any difference. It’s ideal if you don’t need instant relief, but want to be more regular.
The active ingredient in stool softeners is docusate sodium. This helps your body pull more water into the stools, making them softer and easier for you to pass.
Stool softeners work can overnight, but you might not see any results for a few days. It’s important you drink plenty of fluids when taken these regularly.
Medicines to avoid
You may have heard of taking cod liver oil or castor oil for your constipation. They are old housewife remedies. Do not use them. Neither of these is safe for you to take in pregnancy.
- Cod liver oil contains a high level of retinol Vitamin A, and this is a well-known cause of birth defects.
- Castor oil is known to stimulate contractions and is dangerous when you’re under 37 weeks. It is effective, but trust me it’ll leave you feeling awful.
It’s not worth the risks when other, safer options, will give you relief.
Complications of chronic constipation
Want to know what happens if you don’t treat your constipation?
The worst case scenario is that untreated constipation can lead to an impacted bowel. This is a hard build-up of stools in your rectum. You can treat this with the constipation medicines I’ve already discussed.
Try not to let your constipation get so bad it leads to an impacted bowel as they can cause you to have other health problems.
I bet when you’ve been straining a lot to try and pass a stool. This motion causes your blood vessels to swell up in your rectum causing piles (hemorrhoids). If your yet to experience the joy of piles, they are uncomfortable, itchy and can be painful. That pain can make you avoid going to the toilet when you have the urge to poo.
They may even bleed on wiping, which can cause you to panic. It’s important to have any bleeding during pregnancy checked as it may be vaginal bleeding.
You don’t want to be starting labor with severe piles. The pushing can cause them to get worse. That’s going to make for a very uncomfortable postpartum recovery.
I’m going to get a little graphic now. Passing hard stools can cause tears in your anus. Yeah, I saw you flinch when you were reading that. This type of tear is called a fissure and can be very painful and cause ongoing rectal bleeding.
The first line of treatment is with constipation medicines, but you may need to add pain relief into the mix. As with piles you want them to heal before labor as they can worsen with pushing.
If your fissure doesn’t heal with medicine, you may need surgery to have it repaired.
Although constipation doesn’t cause pre-term labor, it can make it very difficult to diagnose. The symptoms of severe constipation can be very similar to pre-term labor.
If you’re under 37 weeks and your constipation is causing symptoms such a regular cramping, backache, ongoing pain or nausea you need to get an urgent check-up. You have to rule out that you’re not going into labor. This can be a costly hospital trip that can be easily avoided.
An impacted bowel in labor will absolutely slow down your natural birth. That poo takes up essential room that your baby needs to deliver. An impacted bowel not only slows your delivery but can increase your chances of an assisted delivery.
If your baby becomes distressed by the delay in labor your doctor will want them to deliver quickly or may suggest they do an episiotomy.
When to see your doctor
Your constipation should be easy to treat at home. Although, I’d recommend you let your doctor or midwife know about it during your next routine pregnancy check-up.
If you’re concerned or have any of the following symptoms contact your doctor for a review.
- Blood in your stools or on wiping
- Constant stomach pain
- Mucus in your stools
- Regular treatment not working
- Severe bloating
- Unexplained weight loss
Constipation in pregnancy is something most women will experience. It’s a pain in the butt.
The goof think is there are a few medicines you can buy to get relief.
Prevent it coming back by following a good diet, drinking water and keeping active.
It’s important for your health and to have a smooth delivery and postpartum.
DISCLAIMER: I provide this information for educational purposes only. I make every effort to ensure the information provided is accurate and up-to-date. If you are concerned about your health, consult with your registered health care provider regarding the advisability of any opinions or recommendations concerning your individual situation. Stork Mama is not responsible or liable for any self-diagnosis made from the information within site. Keep in mind that online information is not a substitute for an in-person evaluation by a qualified doctor, nurse, midwife or allied health professional.