Constipation is a common complaint during pregnancy. Approximately 11-38% of pregnant women experience constipation. It's likely to be constipation if you have had less than three bowel movements in a week.
You may be familiar with the signs of constipation:
- Infrequent bowel movements
- Passage of hard stools
- Swelling or bloating of the abdomen
What causes constipation during pregnancy?
Women are more prone to constipation during pregnancy due to the following reasons:
- Hormonal changes may slow down the food being processed by the body, which can lead to constipation.
- Increased water absorption from the intestines causes stool to dry out.
- Iron and calcium supplements can contribute to constipation.
- The weight of your growing uterus can affect digestion.
How can constipation be treated?
If constipation continues, your doctor may suggest a laxative. There are different types of laxatives available:
- Bulk-forming laxatives increase moisture in the stool and make it easier to pass.
- Stool softeners add liquid content to the stool to soften it.
- Stimulants increase bowel activity, which moves the stool through the intestines.
Consult your doctor before taking any laxatives.
How can constipation be prevented?
Constipation can often be prevented with lifestyle changes. Here's what you can do to avoid constipation during pregnancy:
- Choose high-fibre foods- Upping your fibre intake can alleviate constipation. Examples of fibre rich food include wholegrain cereals, fruit and vegetables, and pulses such as beans and lentils. Eat at least 25 grams of fibre a day.
- Eat smaller meals. Smaller amounts of food may be easier to digest.
- Drink lots of water. Fruit juice (especially prune juice) can help too.
- Stay active- Include physical activity in your daily routine. Ask your doctor about activities that are safe during pregnancy.
- Don't hold your stool— you should not ignore the urge to go to the toilet.
- Ask your doctor if you can change your iron supplement to a different type. Don't take any supplements or herbal products during pregnancy without talking to your doctor.
- Trottier M, Erebara A, Bozzo P. Treating constipation during pregnancy. Canadian Family Physician. 2012 Aug 1;58(8):836-8.
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Problems of the digestive system [Internet]. Available at: https://www.acog.org/patient-resources/faqs/womens-health/problems-of-the-digestive-system. Accessed on Aug 25, 2020.
- March of Dimes. Common discomforts of pregnancy [Internet]. Available at: https://www.marchofdimes.org/pregnancy/common-discomforts-of-pregnancy.aspx. Accessed on Aug 25, 2020.
- NHS. Common health problems in pregnancy [Internet]. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/common-pregnancy-problems/. Accessed on Aug 25, 2020.