Constipation May Occur in Early or Late Pregnancy
Constipation means difficulty defecation or having a bowel movement less than three times a week. Constipation may occur at any time during pregnancy; main causes include:
- Hormone progesterone slows down bowel contractions and hence the passage of the stool.
- The pressure of the growing uterus may partially obstruct the bowel.
- Stress and worries may contribute to constipation.
- Weakened pelvic floor muscles.
- Oral iron supplements may irritate the bowel and aggravate constipation.
- Causes of constipation after delivery include: anesthetics, tiredness, inactivity, perianal tears.
- Other causes of constipation include skipping meals, insufficient drinking, anal fissure, certain diseases and medications.
How to Relieve Pregnancy Constipation?
Eat regularly and try to have more small meals rather than few big ones, which may be constipating. Take sufficient amount of dietary fiber to maintain soft stools by eating brown rice, wholegrain bread, morning cereals, vegetables, citrus fruits. Do not increase amount of dietary fiber suddenly, since it can cause bloating. Foods that may cause bloating include: oats, legumes, apples, pears, fruits with pits, sugary foods. Prune or apricot juice (try it worm) in the morning may help to trigger a bowel movement.
Drink enough water. A general recommendation is 8 cups (237 mL) of water a day, but you might need more or less depending on climate, how much you exercise and amount of fluid you get with food. Avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks, which may cause dehydration and thus aggravate constipation. Be aware that fruit juices contain quite some calories.
Try to use bathroom at the same hour every day, do not postpone bowel movements and do not strain during defecation to prevent hemorrhoids.
Be active: work, walk, swim, be mentally and socially active, but avoid unnecessary strain and stress.
Supplements, Painkillers, Probiotics, Remedies
If iron pills irritate your bowel or constipate you, discuss with your doctor to adjust the dose or have iron injections instead.
Painkillers of any kind and acid-reducing pills may cause constipation.
DO NOT buy and use herbal laxatives or stimulant laxatives. There are plenty natural foods with laxative properties.
Buying probiotics and prebiotics to relieve constipation is waste of money, more or less. These supplements may be useful in diarrhea caused by food poisoning, but not likely in constipation.
Kegel exercises strenghten pelvic floor muscles, which contribute in defecation. To find out how to contract pelvic floor muscles, try to stop a flow of urine during urination. When you learn this, you can start with Kegel exercises, but always with an empty bladder. Sit or lie down, contract the pelvic floor muscles and hold the contraction for three seconds, then relax muscles for three seconds and repeat this 10 times. Do these exercises three times a day. With time you can slowly increase the duration of muscle contraction to up to 10 seconds following by 10 seconds of relaxation. Do not contract leg or abdominal muscles and do not hold your breath during exercises.
Article reviewed by Dr. Greg. Last updated on May 29, 2010