Constipation During Pregnancy: The Facts and Remedies
Whether you’re at pregnancy week 10 or much further along, you might find yourself suffering from pregnancy-related constipation. What causes it? What can you do to stop it? Read on for key facts about constipation during pregnancy, plus some surprisingly simple ways to get things moving at a more comfortable pace.
Understand What Causes Constipation
You’re probably familiar with constipation: Its key symptom is bowel movements that feel difficult or barely happen at all. The longer your body takes to expel waste, the harder fecal matter gets and the more difficult it is to eliminate. As a result, you might find yourself suffering from abdominal discomfort and other symptoms of constipation. What’s behind the backup? Here are some of the main factors:
- Insufficient fiber intake.
- Eating too much dairy
- Being overly reliant on laxatives
- Not drinking enough water
- Stress and anxiety
- Discomfort caused by hemorrhoids
- The presence of pregnancy hormones that relax intestinal muscles
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Know What Makes Constipation Worse
Certain substances can contribute to constipation, making it even harder for your body to let go of waste. Iron supplements are sometimes at fault, and so are antacids. Both can be essential during pregnancy, so talk to your doctor about alternatives. You may be able to get some relief by ditching the iron tablets and increasing your intake of iron-rich foods, many of which are also high in fiber. Legumes, pumpkin seeds, and spinach are a few examples.
Take Steps to Stop Constipation
There are several easy ways to end constipation. Many are lifestyle-related, and will provide you with additional benefits.
- Get some exercise. Get moving, and your bowels are likely to move as well. This happens because exercise stimulates bowel activity, which in turn helps the intestines do their work and push waste out of the body. Be sure to check with your doctor before beginning a pregnancy exercise routine.
- Increase your daily fiber intake. There are a few ways to do this, and you can mix and match to meet your lifestyle needs. Eat more vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains, and be sure that you’re not eating more dairy than you need. Besides eating well, you can take an over-the-counter fiber supplement.
- Drink more water. Many women make the mistake of cutting back on water in hopes of reducing the number of restroom visits they make. Be sure that you are getting enough – even if it seems inconvenient! Most women need 10 to 12 cups of water per day. If you exercise or are frequently exposed to heat and/or humidity, then you should drink even more.
- Relax in an Epsom salt bath. Epsom salt is an excellent source of magnesium, and it can help ease constipation. Spend about 15 minutes soaking in a warm bath with 2 cups of Epsom salt mixed in, and you’ll also enjoy some stress relief. This remedy helps soothe sore muscles and can ease insomnia, making it ideal for dealing with several pregnancy symptoms at once.
- Seek help from your doctor. If exercising and adding fiber fail to resolve your constipation problem, consider asking your doctor for some help. He or she may be able to prescribe a stool softener.
- Know what to avoid. Don’t take over-the-counter laxatives, even if you’re desperate. Although OTC laxatives are usually safe for women who are not pregnant, they can cause contractions and dehydration. Both side effects are dangerous. You might also be tempted to supplement with mineral oil. This is another item on the “avoid” list, as it prevents proper nutrition from making its way into your system.