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Pregnancy and Constipation

Most people in the world know the meaning of constipation.  It’s irregular bowel movements due to sluggish intestines.  Bowel movements happen less frequently and become more difficult.  Nobody likes to talk about it but everyone has to deal with it sometime during his or her life.

How Do I Know If I’m Constipated-Pregnancy and Constipation

  • Incomplete evacuation of feces more that 25% of the time
  • Straining during a bowel movement more than 25% of the time
  • Hard stools more than 25% of the time
  • Two or fewer bowel movements a week

What Causes Constipation- Constipation is very common during pregnancy.  This is because there is an increase in the hormone progesterone.  This causes food to move slowly through the intestines.  The hormones also cause the muscles in the bowel to relax and cause the food to stay in the intestines so more nutrients go to the baby.   Problems will also continue later during the pregnancy from the growing uterus putting pressure on the rectum.  Doctors also give supplements to pregnant women, some of which are iron.  Iron supplements can make constipation worse, so it is suggested that women avoid high iron vitamins unless they are anemic.

What Can I Do About Constipation-

 

  • Eat a high fiber diet- whole grain cereals, breads, beans, fruits, vegetables, and brown rice.  Adding a few tablespoons of wheat bran to cereal can also be beneficial.
  • Liquids- drink 6-8 glasses of water per day, 1 glass of juice (especially prune), I glass of warm water in the morning to get your system running.
  • Regular exercise- walking, swimming, stationary bike, or yoga.
  • Respond to the urge- making time for your bowel movements are very important. If you feel the urge to go, don’t put it off.
  • Stay away from high iron- doctors will prescribe vitamin supplements to pregnant women, often including iron.  This can cause constipation, so unless you are anemic, try to stick with a low iron intake.

Preventing Constipation- There are certain things you can do to prevent constipation from coming on.  If you are choosing to try a high fiber diet, don’t plunge right in.  If your body is not used to high fiber, it can cause bloating.  You want to make sure you ease fiber into your diet slowly in order for your digestive system to get used to it.

Although some women use the excuse for overeating, “I’m eating for two”, you don’t want to do that.  Don’t max out during mealtime.  Eating large meals overtax the digestive tract.  It is better to eat six mini meals to let your food properly digest.

Getting bacteria (good bacteria) into your system is a great combat to constipation.  Probiotic acidophilus, which is found in yogurts, helps to stimulate the bacteria found in the intestines.  This, in turn, assists with the process of breaking down food.

Are Stool Softeners Safe- Generally speaking, stool softeners should not cause any problems during pregnancy.  The work of a stool softener is to moisten the stool and make it easier to pass.  It is thought that the active ingredients in stool softeners are not absorbed into the body, thus not having an affect on the growing baby.  It is very important to always speak with your doctor before taking any medications, as every pregnancy is different.

Constipation during the time of pregnancy can be very uncomfortable and hard to deal with.  It is very likely that it will occur at some point during the pregnancy, so it is best to be informed and know what to do if it occurs.

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