Being constipated is no fun. Being constipated and being pregnant is a sick and twisted joke. The truth is, constipation is VERY common in pregnancy. In fact, there’s almost a 100% chance you will face SOME constipation at some point during your pregnancy.
*Disclaimer* Severe abdominal pain during pregnancy should ALWAYS be addressed with a provider. Be sure to check out these other 5 symptoms your should always report to your OBGYN.
The increase in progesterone your body faces when you get pregnant is the main cause for why you may have to deal with some constipation. The spike in this hormone is most dramatic during the first trimester, and most women report the majority of issues with constipation during this time. Progesterone relaxes the smooth muscles of your intestines, causing a slowdown in your GI system.
Your prenatal vitamin may be to blame as well. *Most* prenatal vitamins contain iron, which can be extremely constipating to your body, pregnant or not. If you are diagnosed with anemia during your pregnancy (which is all too common), your doctor or midwife will want you to take even more iron!
PSST…before you read my super awesome article, CHECK THIS OUT! Hillary from Pulling Curls is a fellow labor and delivery nurse, and she created a fantastic ONLINE PRENATAL COURSE. That’s right, she goes over EVERYTHING, and you don’t have to even have to leave your couch! You get all the benefits of a traditional in-class style course, but you get to enjoy it from the comfort of your own home. There’s even a Beginning Prenatal Class you can try FREE first if you’re not prepared to buy anything right now. Pretty brilliant if you ask me! 🙂
Fortunately, there are some ways to help relieve that constipation you are experiencing.
1) DRINK MORE WATER
I know, you probably have been told “to drink more water” a dozen or so times by your doctor. It’s SO important to stay hydrated during pregnancy, and this is one reason why. Dehydration is very common during pregnancy, and can certainly take a toll on your GI system. Think of your gastrointestinal tract as a car engine. Engines need oil and lubrication (AKA WATER) to run smoothly and to perform more effectively. Same thought process.
I’m not saying you have to start doing cross-fit. A regular exercise routine during your pregnancy can help reduce constipation, and even decrease the risk of some co-morbidities such as gestational diabetes or gestational hypertension. Regular exercise helps encourage blood flow to your organs, which in turn helps to mobilize your GI system.
In fact, even if you were not exercising before you got pregnant, now is a great time to start! Walking, swimming, biking or yoga are great examples.
Fiber is your friend if you are constipated, pregnant or not. Fiber rich foods are typically nutrient dense, so they will help you to stay fuller for longer. The American Pregnancy Association recommends 25-30 grams a day. Some high fiber foods include: peas, acorn squash, sweet potatoes, figs, avocados, quinoa, barley, kidney beans, lentils, or black beans, yum!
Prunes get their own sub-category, because they are that awesome. Prunes make you poop. They contain lots of fiber and are also a natural source of sorbitol, which has a laxative effect on your body. Don’t over-do it though, too many can cause diarrhea. You can safely consume 10-12 per day, which equates to approximately ½ cup of fruit. If you are prone to diarrhea, start off with 4-5 per day.
If you’ve read my post on natural induction methods, you know that I am a BIG fan of reflexology. Well, the truth is this awesome foot massage can not only help to induce labor, but also get your GI system moving!
6) WARM LIQUIDS
There’s a reason coffee gets your bowels moving in the morning. Most think it’s the amount of caffeine, but contrary to popular belief, it’s likely due to the fact that coffee is hot. Warm liquids help to dilate and stimulate your bowels. Try a warm glass of water with lemon, decaffeinated tea or coffee.
7) LIMIT CAFFEINE
Speaking of coffee, you should already be limiting the amount of caffeine you consume while pregnant. In fact, the March of Dimes states that pregnant women should limit their caffeine intake to less than 200mg per day, which is equal to approximately one 12oz cup of coffee. Caffeinated beverages, such as coffee, soda or tea have a diuretic effect on the body (aka-makes you pee!). This in turn can make you dehydrated, which can slow down your bowels. So replace that cup of joe with some water!
8) TRY A PROBIOTIC
Check with your doctor first, but adding a probiotic can be extremely helpful to lessen the amount of constipation you are facing. I added one when I was around 30 weeks pregnant, and it made a HUGE difference. There are many different types of probiotics out there, and you may have to try a few different brands before you find one that works for you. I added this multi-strain one from walgreens, after an extensive search, and I love it!
9) CHANGE YOUR PRENATAL
I mentioned above that *MOST* prenatal vitamins contain iron, which causes constipation for many people. Check with you doctor first, but generally if your iron levels are OK, you may be able to experiment with a prenatal vitamin with less iron, or one with none at all. Again, please check with your doctor before doing this. Even though iron is very constipating during pregnancy, the abundance of it is important to a growing baby! It’s just about finding the right balance.
10) LIMIT DAIRY
Some people are more sensitive to dairy products than others. I know I get very constipated when I eat a ton of cheese (IT’S SO GOOD), which is common. So, if you notice your bowels are a bit out of whack after drinking milk or eating cheese, it may be that you have a bit of a dairy intolerance.
It’s still important to note that vitamin D and calcium are imperative to a healthy pregnancy. So, if you decide to cut out that slice of cheese on your burger, make sure you are getting vitamin D and calcium from other food sources.
If you’ve tried everything in the books, and you are still having difficulties in the bathroom, it may be time for some meds. Check with you doctor, but generally stool softeners (such as Colace or Miralax) are safe for pregnant women. Other OTC medications that are safe include Metamucil, Citrucel, Benefiber, or Milk of Magnesia.
Don’t you just love talking about poop?? Don’t worry, usually this constipation most women experience during pregnancy is temporary. Pregnancy is like a scary roller coaster ride for your body to go through, but eventually you get to the end and things go back to normal (kind of). THERE IS HOWEVER a very scary poop you must face called the “first postpartum poop”, but that is a story for another day, and I won’t scare you with alllll that. Happy bathroom adventures! 🙂
Founder, Labor Teen