Constipation during pregnancy is one of the most common pregnancy complaints. It is estimated to be experienced by up to 50 percent of all pregnant women at some point during their pregnancy. If you are constipated, you know it. Infrequent, dry and hard to pass bowel movements can be very uncomfortable. Fortunately, constipation during pregnancy can be both prevented and relieved with simple lifestyle and dietary changes. Pregnant women are at increased risk of constipation not only due to reduced physical activity but also due to changes in the body that occur after conception. Constipation during pregnancy is closely related to the growing uterus putting an increased pressure on your intestines and hormonal changes which slow down the movement of the food and waste through your digestive system in order to give your body more time to absorb the nutrients.
You can reduce the risk of constipation as well as treat it with the following lifestyle changes:
– Eat lots of fiber-rich foods. Fibers make the stools softer and bulkier which makes them easier to expel. Make sure to obtain 25 to 35 grams of fibers a day. The best dietary sources are fruits and vegetables, cereals, beans and whole grains. Also, reduce consumption of foods which are low in fiber content, in the first place processed foods.
– Drink plenty of liquids. Water and other fluids will make your stools softer. Drink at least 10 glasses of fluids per day and keep in mind that exercise and hot weather increase the need for fluids.
– Be physically active. You are pregnant not handicapped. Sitting around all day long makes constipation only worse. Even a mild physical activity such as walking will boost your intestinal activity and “speed“ up bowel movements. Be sure, however, to ask your doctor for advice before starting exercise, especially if having a high risk pregnancy.
– Go when you have to go. Do not ignore the urge to have a bowel movement because the longer you wait the more water is absorbed from your stool making it drier and harder to pass.
– Watch your prenatal supplements. Iron supplements are known to increase the risk of constipation. If your doctor has prescribed your iron supplements, take them as directed and follow the tips above. But if constipation does not improve, consult with your doctor about a different type of iron supplements.
– Stay away from laxatives. Firstly, some of them can be harmful for your developing baby and secondly, they provide only a temporary relief and do not solve anything.
If constipation does not improve with lifestyle changes, you should see your doctor. He or she may give your fiber supplements or stool softeners. Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions.
Pregnancy constipation is not a cause of concern but it sometimes signals an underlying medical condition. Visit your doctor if constipation is alternating with diarrhea or if it is accompanied with:
– persistent abdominal pain
– blood in the stools
– black, tarry stools
– thin, pencil-like stools
– weight loss