Constipation During Pregnancy - Prevention and Treatment

Constipation During Pregnancy - Causes, Signs, Symptoms, Complications, Treatment And Prevention

Constipation is a common complication during pregnancy that affects almost half of the pregnant women at some stage of their pregnancy. When the level of progesterone hormone increases it causes the relaxation of body muscles including intestines that causes slower digestion and this can lead to constipation during pregnancy. Constipation usually starts when the level of progesterone level rises around the second or third month of pregnancy.

Causes, Symptoms And Home remedies to treat Constipation during pregnancy

What is Constipation?

Constipation occurs when stools move very slowly through the colon it absorbs too much water from it and makes stools hard, dry, difficult, and painful to pass out from the body.

Causes of Constipation During Pregnancy

The common causes of constipation during pregnancy are:

1. Prenatal Vitamins or Iron Supplement

The iron content in your prenatal vitamins or iron supplement can sometimes cause constipation. 

2. High levels of Progesterone hormone

The high levels of progesterone hormone cause the relaxation of muscles in the wall of the bowel that leads to constipation. 

3. Pressure from growing uterus

In later pregnancy, the pressure from the growing uterus can put pressure on the bowels and make it harder to move stool through the intestines and causes constipation.

4. Dehydration

If you don't drink enough water during pregnancy it can cause dehydration that leads to constipation. To prevent constipation you need to drink plenty of fluids throughout your pregnancy. Drink at least 8 to 12 glasses of water every day to prevent dehydration or constipation during your pregnancy period. 

Signs and Symptoms of Constipation During Pregnancy

The signs and symptoms of constipation during pregnancy are:

  • Abdominal Discomfort
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Hard and dry stools that are painful to pass.
  • Bloating

Prevention and Treatment of Constipation During Pregnancy

Follow these steps to prevent or treat constipation during pregnancy:

1. Stay well hydrated

Drink plenty of fluids throughout your pregnancy. Drink at least 8 to 12 glasses of water every day to prevent constipation. You can also take other healthy fluids to meet your fluid intake requirements. Stay well hydrated during pregnancy as it keeps your bowel soft and helps it to move smoothly through your digestive tract. 

2. Eat Fiber-Rich Diet

Include high fiber diet foods such as wheat bran, prunes, beans, peas, lentils, watermelon, cucumber, cereals, whole grains, strawberries, raspberries, banana, apples, figs, etc. in your pregnancy diet. A high fiber diet provides essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and also helps to prevent constipation. Pregnant women need to consume 25 to 30 gms of dietary fiber every day to stay healthy.

3. Eat smaller meals

Try to eat smaller meals more frequently. Larger meals overload your stomach and make it harder for your digestive system to digest your food. Try to eat five or six smaller meals rather than three larger meals so that your digestive system digest food easily and transfer food to the intestines and colon smoothly. 

4. Probiotic

Probiotics stimulate the intestinal bacteria to break down the food and helps to improve bowel function. Foods that are high in probiotics are yogurt and kimchi. 

5. Stay Physically Active

Staying active is very essential throughout your pregnancy. Do exercises on a  regular basis. Exercise helps you to keep fit and active during your pregnancy period as well as stimulate your bowels hence helps to prevent constipation. Exercises like swimming, walking,  climbing stairs, and practicing prenatal yoga are easy and simple which helps you to stay fit and active during your pregnancy. But before indulging in any physical activity consult your doctor that which exercises are safe for you and your little one.

6. Kegel Exercises

Do kegel exercises regularly during your pregnancy period as pelvic floor exercises improve bladder and bowel movements and hence prevent the complication of constipation during pregnancy.

7. Watch calcium intake

Calcium is present in almost all dairy products. Taking too much calcium can also cause constipation. Overconsumption of dairy products such as milk, cheese, yogurt can also cause constipation during pregnancy. 

8. Watch the iron supplement intake

Some prenatal vitamins are high in iron and can cause constipation. Iron supplements that you take to prevent anemia during pregnancy can also cause constipation. If you're taking vitamins that are high in iron content and experiencing constipation then ask your doctor to recommend a vitamin that contains less iron. 

9. Over the counter medications

Over-the-counter medications such as Metamucil help to soften bowel movements and reduces constipation. Always consult your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medications to treat or prevent constipation. 

10. Laxatives 

If these natural remedies don't work your doctor may prescribe you laxatives. Laxatives such as lubricant laxatives, osmotic laxatives, bulk-forming agents, stool softeners are safe to use during pregnancy. Your doctor may prescribe stool softeners such as Colace (docusate) on a short-term basis as on a long-term basis it can lead to dehydration or electrolyte imbalance. Stool softeners help to moisten the bowels so that they get passed easily. Always consult your doctor before taking any laxatives whether they are safe for you or not. Don't take any laxatives on your own. 

Complications due to constipation during pregnancy

Severe constipation can cause the following complications during pregnancy:

  • Fecal Impaction
  • Rectal Bleeding
  • Severe Abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Rectum prolapse

When to call your doctor?

If you notice any of the following signs then call your doctor immediately:

  • Bleeding from the rectum.
  • Blood in stool
  • Severe or Sharp Abdominal Pain 
  • Constipation that lasts long for 1-2 weeks.
  • Pain in rectum

Don't take any stimulant laxatives or stool softeners on your own as all of them are not safe to consume during pregnancy. These medications can cause fluid or electrolyte imbalance in some people. Stimulant laxatives can induce uterine contractions too. So, it's essential to consult your doctor before taking any medication or remedy to treat constipation. Wish you a very happy and healthy pregnancy.

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Disclaimer: This content is intended for general information only and it should not be used as the basis of patient treatment. The given content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, treatment or any diagnosis. Always consult a doctor for more information. Our website doesn't claim responsibility for this information.

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