6 Easy Ways to Combat Constipation During Pregnancy
Believe it or not, but constipation is fairly common during pregnancy. This is due to increased levels of progesterone, which relaxes smooth muscles throughout your body and is important to prevent premature uterine contractions to maintain pregnancy. This hormone can also cause the muscles in your gastrointestinal tract (GIT) to relax, which slows down the movement of food through your digestive system. This means that food remains in your GIT for longer periods of time. On one hand, this allows your body time to extract and absorb more nutrients from the food that you eat, but because your body will have more time to extract water from your food, this can result in constipation. Increased levels of both progesterone and relaxin can also cause stretching of the pubic symphysis which, combined with increased abdominal pressure and the weight of a growing baby, placenta, and amniotic fluid, can result in changes to the pelvic floor that can also make it more difficult to pass stool.
Common constipation symptoms include:
Lumpy, small or hard stools
Straining to pass stool
Feeling like a blockage is preventing bowel movements
Feeling like you aren't able to completely empty your bowel
Stomach pain or bloating
Although constipation is common and generally not serious, it is important to call your healthcare provider if you experience any of the following red flag symptoms:
Blood in your stool
Unexplained weight loss
Severe pain with bowel movements
Constipation lasting more than 2 weeks
6 Easy Ways to Combat Constipation
Drink enough fluids. Carry around a bottle of water with you throughout the day. Fennel tea is also a great option to have when you first wake up to help stimulate your bowels and promote good overall digestive health.
Find a loo and GO when nature calls. We’re often guilty of holding it in because we’re too busy, but ignoring your body's signals does more harm than good.
Use a squatty potty or prop your feet up on a low stool when you poop. This can prevent straining when you go to the loo.
Eat enough fibre from a wide variety of sources. This can be difficult if you are feeling sick, but try figure out what fibre sources your body can handle. If you’re REALLY struggling to eat enough fibre, discuss adding a psyllium supplement to your daily routine with your healthcare provider. Some great sources of fibre include whole grains, fruits (dried prunes and figs are great for getting things moving again), vegetables, and legumes.
Smart supplementation! There is some evidence to suggest that taking a magnesium supplement may help relieve constipation symptoms, just make sure to talk to your healthcare provider about this trying this. Iron supplements are commonly prescribed during pregnancy to prevent anaemia, however they can also contribute to constipation. Chat to your healthcare provider about switching supplements if you suspect this may be the cause of your constipation.
Taking a probiotic may be beneficial, however there is limited evidence supporting the use of specific strain(s) of bacteria for constipation so chat to your healthcare provider about what they think might work best for you.