Are you having trouble with constipation in pregnancy?
You’re not alone. Around half of pregnant women experience the bunged up feeling at some point.
Constipation makes you feel uncomfortable and downright miserable. The good news is that a few simple changes can help give you some relief.
You need to read this guide to relieving pregnancy constipation. It has everything you need to know, maybe even TMI! Pin this guide for later; you may read it when you are stuck in the loo.
Pin for Later
Am I constipated?
Constipation is the term used to describe difficulty passing a stool, even when you have the urge to. Common signs of constipation include:
- Being unable to poo for 2 or more days
- Straining as you poo
- Poo that is hard, dry or lumpy
You may also experience other symptoms caused by constipation such as stomach ache, cramps, bloating or nausea. These symptoms are often passed off as common pregnancy ailments, especially in the first trimester.
What Causes Constipation in Pregnancy?
Constipation is common in pregnancy because of the changes in your body. Thanks for that one Mother Nature.
These are the three main culprits:
Progesterone is the primary pregnancy hormone. It acts as a muscle relaxant to signal to your body that you are pregnant. This hormone stops you contracting, and lactating until the time is right. Unfortunately, this also causes your food to digest slower and affects regular bowel movement. This change is the most common cause of constipation during pregnancy.
As your bump grows, it puts a lot of pressure on your internal organs. In the third trimester, the weight mainly affects your lower organs, including your rectum. This is the last area poo will pass before a bowel movement. The increased pressure of the weight slows down the movement in this area.
Pregnancy ailments can leave you reaching for medications to help you get through the day. It’s important to remember that certain drugs can cause you to become constipated.
Pregnancy medications which cause constipation are:
- Iron supplements
- Narcotic pain relief
- Blood pressure medication
Never stop taking any prescription medications during pregnancy without consulting your doctor.
11 Ways to Relieve Constipation in Pregnancy
If you want some relief form your pregnancy constipation, there are a few things you can do. These remedies are simple, and you can do most without needing to see your doctor.
1. Healthy Diet
The standard answer to most ailments is to eat a healthy diet. This remedy couldn’t be more accurate with constipation. The type of foods you eat will affect how quickly they digest.
You need to eat a diet high in fiber to get things moving. Opt for fruit, vegetables, and whole-grains over stodgy meats and dairy. Pears are particularly good 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, water is essential to keeping your poo lubricated enough to move along. I recommend plain water, but fruit juice and coffee are great for helping stimulate your bowels. Herbal teas can help, however, be careful they are suitable to drink in pregnancy.
You may be avoiding exercise in pregnancy for fear it will hurt your baby. You don’t need to be a hardcore gym bunny, but moving will get your blood flowing and your bowels moving.
In the third trimester you’re told to ‘put your feet up,’ but it’s important to keep moving. Gentle exercises such as swimming, prenatal yoga, and walking are all great. These will also help prepare your body for labor.
Pregnancy can be a stressful time. Your hormones are raging, and your anxieties are sky high. Stress increases your cortisol hormone levels, which slow down your digestive system. Make time for simple self-care treats like a bubble bath, face mask or a little meditation.
5. Watch your cues
Your body usually has a rhythm that keeps it running well. Try to observe the signs your body gives you before you poo. Ignoring these signals can confuse your body. If you use a bullet journal, you can make a page for observations that can help you build up a bigger picture.
Do 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.
Did you know that modern toilets are a terrible position for pooping? They cause the rectum to constrict, making it harder to pass stools.
The best way to poo is a squatting position. You can use a squatty potty, to help you into this position on the toilet. 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 consulting your doctor. You are on it because your health needs it.
Let your doctor know you think its cause constipating side effects. Often they can change you to a different type or brand of medication. The change in absorption or reactions can help ease your constipation.
You may also be taking a pregnancy vitamin that contains iron. Try switching the brand if you think this may be the cause.
8. Probiotic supplements
A probiotic, like these ones, stimulate the good bacteria in your gut for good digestion. They are ideal for pregnant women as they tackle not only constipation but also nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, thrust, and heartburn.
If you can’t stomach supplements, then try eating probiotic foods such as plain yogurt, kefir or pickles. Now it makes sense why pickles are such a cliché pregnancy craving.
9. Alternative therapy
Trying alternative therapy can help you get over chronic constipation. Studies on acupressure, acupuncture, and reflexology have all given excellent results for constipation therapy. It’s a road you may want to consider if you’re at your wits end with constipation.
Tummy massage is a great way to stimulate your bowels, especially in the first trimester of pregnancy. As your bump grows, massage can be more difficult. You can do this yourself or ask your partner if they can lend a hand.
If you go to a professional massage therapist always inform them you are pregnant. They may refuse to work on you or require a specialist for insurance purposes.
11. Over the Counter Medicine
There are many over the counter medicines you can take for constipation relief. 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 the type of constipation medications and the suitability for pregnancy use.
Always remember to discuss taking OTC medications with your doctor, especially if you are taking prescription medications.
It’s best to try and avoid regular laxatives in pregnancy. They are a harsh medication and can cause sever diarrhea, stomach cramps and dehydration.
A mild version which doctors approve of is milk of magnesia. This medicine usually takes a few hours to work. It should only be a short-term solution for sudden onset constipation. Never use laxatives deal with chronic constipation.
Saline enema, like these ones, are a great way to get some instant constipation relief. Saline is safe to use in pregnancy and won’t harm your baby. It works by squirting a small bottle of saline fluid up your butt. The fluid stimulates your bowels and you’ll pass a stool within a few minutes.
Glycerine suppositories, like the fleet brand, are an easy way to stimulate a bowel movement. They usually come in a liquid douche or a suppository pill.
You administer them through your butt. The smooth glycerine provides lubrication for you to pass a stool easier. 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. Its ideal especially if you are having trouble eating a balanced diet, or keeping food down at all.
This type of supplement is easy to use and add to drinks or food. They are tasteless, so 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 pull more water into the stools to make it softer and easier to pass.
Stool softeners work overnight for some women, but others might not see any results for a few days. It’s important to remember to drink plenty of fluids when taken these regularly.
Medicines to avoid
Cod liver oil and castor oil and both traditional constipation remedies. Neither of these is safe to take in pregnancy.
Cod liver oil contains a high level of retinol Vitamin A which is harmful to unborn babies.
Castor oil is known to stimulate contractions and is dangerous under 37 weeks. It is effective but will probably leave you feeling awful.
It’s not worth the risks when there are other safer options to provide relief.
Complications of chronic constipation
Untreated constipation can lead to an impacted bowel. This is a hard build-up of stools in the rectum. Treatment is with the constipation medicine listed above.
It’s important to try and avoid impacted bowels as they can lead to other health problems.
If you are unable to pass a stool you will probably strain on the toilet. This motion leads to swollen blood vessels in the rectum causing piles (haemorrhoids). Piles are uncomfortable, itchy and can be painful.
They may even bleed on wiping, which can cause you to panic. It’s important to have any bleeding in pregnancy checked as it may actually be vaginal bleeding.
Severe piles can worsen when pushing at delivery. This can result in ongoing postpartum pain.
Hard stools can cause tears in your anus. This is known as a fissure and can be very painful and cause rectal bleeding.
Treatment is as the constipation remedies above. Ideally they are healed before labor as they can worsen with pushing.
Fissures that won’t’ heal with treatment you may need surgery to repair them.
Although constipation doesn’t cause pre-term labor, it can make it very difficult to diagnose. Symptoms of severe constipation can be very similar to pre-term labor. If constipation is causing similar symptoms to pre-term labor you will need to be investigated to rule it out. This can be a costly hospital trip that can be easily avoided.
Having an impacted bowel in labor can slow your baby’s delivery. It may even mean you have an assisted deliver if your baby is distressed, or your doctor may want to do an episiotomy. Your baby needs as much room as possible to get out and a hard stool will take up vital space.
When to see your doctor
Common constipation symptoms are easy to treat at home without medical advice. You may want to let your doctor know about it during a routine pregnancy check-up. If you are concerned or experience 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
DISCLAIMER: Information is provided 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 own registered health care provider regarding the advisability of any opinions or recommendations with respect to 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.