“Constipation During Pregnancy: Causes and Relief”

Constipation is a very common inconvenience faced by pregnant women world over. When it occurs a pregnant woman needs to obtain immediate relief from constipation to avoid abdominal pains and complications such as rectal bleeding or haemorrhoids.

Have your lavatory sessions become nightmares so much so that after conceiving you dread each step you take towards the toilet? Do you feel your digestive system has become slow and in fact, its functioning has gone awry? If any of these statements resonate with you then reading this post just might be your answer!

From nausea, acidity, backache, to insomnia – pregnancy comes with many side-effects that may be difficult to manage, may make you moody, depressed or may also be devastating for you at times.

What is Constipation?

When someone suffers from strenuous bowel movement, i.e., the person has to exert force during defecation, leading to abdominal pain and sometimes even rectal bleeding, it is termed as constipation.
The body waste accumulates inside, causing constant uneasiness to the constipated person and sometimes even triggering irritation in him/her.

Causes of Constipation During Pregnancy:

During pregnancy, an increase in the levels of progesterone hormones occurs that causes the muscles of your body, including the intestinal muscles to relax and slow down. With the slowing down of the muscles, the process of digestion in the pregnant woman’s body too slows down. This results in slow movement of the food through the digestive tract resulting in constipation.

In the later stages of pregnancy, as the embryo grows bigger it puts pressure on the walls of the uterus. As the pressure increases, day by day the passage along the rectum can become constricted preventing the bowels from ejecting body waste smoothly.

Listed below are some of the mains reasons that cause constipation during pregnancy:

  1. Morning sickness and reduced appetite: Morning sickness affects most would-be-mothers and makes it difficult for them to eat or even drink water properly. Morning sickness can lessen appetite and make the expectant mother feel nauseous.
  2. Changes in hormones: A surge in the growth of progesterone hormones results in the sluggish behaviour of the digestive process.
  3. Changes in diet: Pregnant women need to change their diet for the proper development of their growing fetus. A sudden change in diet can cause constipation. Added to that if the expectant mother takes a diet low in fiber, that too can cause constipation.
  4. Vitamin and iron supplements: Pregnant women also often take vitamins and iron supplements that are known to cause sluggishness in the digestive system and cause constipation.
  5. Minimal Physical Exercise: Lack of exercise can be another cause of constipation during pregnancy.
  6. Anxiety and Mood Swings: Bowel movement also tends to get affected by a person’s mood. During pregnancy, a woman’s moods may be unpredictable. She may be anxious and also tend to worry a lot which can affect her digestion process and thus, her bowel movements.

Symptoms of Constipation During Pregnancy:

During pregnancy, the most common symptoms of constipation are:

  • A decrease in appetite
  • Reduced bowel movements
  • Blood in the stool due to hard faeces
  • Abdominal bloating and pain

Side-effects of Constipation During Pregnancy:

Here are few of the side-effects that may occur when you are pregnant and constipated:

  • Repetitive extreme rectal bleeding
  • Haemorrhoids or piles
  • Severe pain in the abdomen
  • Pain during bowel movements
  • Pain or discomfort after bowel movements

Preventing Constipation During Pregnancy:

Though constipation during pregnancy can be a major cause of discomfort, it can be easily remedied by a simple diet and lifestyle changes and a few easy home-remedies. While some home remedies offer immediate constipation relief during pregnancy, others help you get better gradually.

  1. Lemon – In a glass of warm water squeeze, half a slice of lemon juice and also add half a spoon of honey.  Stir the mix well and drink. Lemon has antioxidants in it and is rich in vitamin C which helps to increase the bile production in the body that ultimately regulates the contractions of the digestive tracts enabling the stool to pass out smoothly.
  2. Oranges- Eating two oranges daily during pregnancy reduces constipation greatly. Along with being the source of vitamin C, oranges are rich in fibre that forces the body to expel waste smoothly.
  3. Flaxseeds –Take one and a half tablespoon of flaxseeds every day. Chew the seeds properly and gulp. Flaxseeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that help to retain the fluids in the body. They have mucilage in them which forms a layer of protection around the digestive tract. Flaxseeds increase the stool mass making it soft and enabling it to be ejected from the body without exerting force.
  4. Eating fruits – If not otherwise restricted by the doctor, any fruits that soften the stool like, banana, avocado, kiwi should be consumed daily during pregnancy to avoid constipation. In fact, fibrous fruits should be made a compulsory part of the diet during this period as that can ensure smooth bowel movements.

Healthy Practices to Avoid Constipation During Pregnancy:

Here are a few steps you can take to avoid constipation altogether during your pregnancy:

  1. To get the food digested and have a proper bowel movement taking a brisk walk every day often helps.
  2. You can do a few freehand exercises daily that are suggested by the doctor during your pregnancy to keep the muscles of your body in action which will help bring in the pressure to release the stool from your body without stress and effort.
  3. If, and only if the doctor suggests some medicines to alleviate constipation, then you can consider taking the medicines according to the dosage advised by your doctor. Else, ask your doctor for safe natural alternatives to relieve you of the discomfort.
  4. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for Constipation During Pregnancy

    • Can I take laxative tablets during pregnancy to avoid constipation?

    Mineral oils, castor oils, and laxative tablets should be avoided during pregnancy and should only be taken under medical supervision. They may lead to abortion or premature labour.

    • What should be the diet during pregnancy?

    A diet full of minerals and vitamins is required for the healthy growth of the baby within the uterus as well as the expecting mother. A diet rich in soluble as well as insoluble fibres should be taken not only to have good health but also to have a regular bowel movement that is essential to avoid constipation.

    • Does increasing the intake of fluid help?

    A pregnant woman should increase the intake of water and other fruit juices to keep herself well hydrated. This will also keep the fluids of the body in balance. Water helps to soften the stools and helps the expectant mother avoid constipation.

    • Can I exercise during pregnancy to have a better bowel movement?

    Yes, you can but after consulting with your doctor. Your doctor will be the best guide to suggest what exercises will suit you the most. Usually, the exercises suggested for pregnant women include brisk walking, swimming, low-impact aerobics, pre-natal yoga and stationary cycling.

    • Can a woman during pregnancy eat for constipation?

    In order to combat constipation, pregnant women can opt for a high fiber diet that can include whole grain cereals, bread, brown rice, fruits and vegetables.

    • Which medicines are safe for constipation during pregnancy?

    A pregnant woman can take in stool softening medicines to combat constipation but only if advised by the doctor. Laxative medications are a strict no-no as laxatives can lead to uterine contractions which might lead to a miscarriage.


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