Why am I so constipated while I'm pregnant?
Constipation is a common problem during pregnancy: Up to half of pregnant women get constipated at some point.
One reason for constipation during pregnancy is an increase in the hormone progesterone, which relaxes smooth muscles throughout the body, including the digestive tract. This means that food passes through the intestines more slowly.
And the problem may be compounded later in pregnancy by the pressure of your growing uterus on your rectum. Iron supplements, especially in high doses, can make constipation worse.
What can I do to relieve constipation during pregnancy?
Here are some tips for preventing and easing constipation when you're pregnant:
- Eat high-fiber foods, including whole grain cereals and breads, brown rice, beans, and fresh fruits and vegetables every day. It can help to add a couple of tablespoons of unprocessed wheat bran (available at health food stores) to your cereal in the morning, though it may take a few days before you notice a difference.
- Drink plenty of water. Try to have 10 8-ounce cups of water or other beverages daily. (Or sip throughout the day until your urine is clear or pale yellow in color – a sign of adequate hydration.) Drinking a glass of fruit juice every day, especially prune juice, can also be helpful. Some people find that drinking a warm liquid right after waking up helps get things moving.
- Exercise regularly. Walking, swimming, riding a stationary bike, and yoga can all ease constipation and leave you feeling more fit and healthy.
- Listen to your body. Your bowels are most likely to be active after meals, so make time to use the bathroom after you eat if you need to. Don't put off going to the bathroom when you feel the urge.
- Try another prenatal vitamin. If your prenatal multivitamin contains a large dose of iron (and you're not anemic), ask your healthcare provider about switching to a supplement with less iron.
If the measures above don't help (or it's hard for you to follow them), talk to your provider about taking an over-the-counter fiber supplement or a laxative or stool softener.
Is constipation during pregnancy ever serious?
Not usually, but occasionally constipation during pregnancy can be a symptom of another problem. If you have severe constipation that's accompanied by abdominal pain, alternates with diarrhea, or you pass mucus or blood, call your doctor or midwife immediately.
Also, straining during a bowel movement or passing a hard stool can lead to or worsen hemorrhoids, which are swollen veins in the rectal area. Hemorrhoids can be extremely uncomfortable, though they rarely cause serious problems. In most cases, they go away fairly soon after your baby is born. However, if the pain is severe, or if you have rectal bleeding, call your provider.
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- Your pregnancy diet: The basics of eating well