With hormone changes and dietary changes during pregnancy, constipation can sometimes strike out of nowhere. Pregnancy constipation can be especially uncomfortable, but there are some over the counter stool softeners considered safe for use during pregnancy. As is the case with all medications, it is important to speak with your obstetrician before taking stool softeners. Not all products are safe and pregnant women should only take medications approved for use during pregnancy.
Stool softener or stimulant laxative?
Read the fine print on that stool softening over the counter medication and you may find out you’re actually looking at a stimulant laxative. Stimulant laxatives are very different than stool softeners. Stimulants force the muscles of the bowel to contract, pushing waste out of the body. These over the counter constipation treatments can cause cramping, diarrhea and water loss and are not typically considered the best option for treating pregnancy constipation.
Stool softeners work by lubricating the bowel to help the body naturally move waste. There is no stimulation and the muscles of the bowel are allowed to work naturally. Stool softeners are a mild treatment for pregnancy constipation. The most commonly suggested stool softener for use during pregnancy is Colace, though there are over the counter alternatives to the name brand medication.
Natural Means of Treating Pregnancy Constipation
Stool softeners are generally considered safe for temporarily relief of constipation, but pregnant women need to take steps to prevent a recurrence of constipation in the future. Changing diet and exercise is a simple way to ease bowel problems. Try:
- Eating foods with dietary fiber
- Drinking more water
- Exercising daily (with obstetrician approval)
If you are currently taking a prenatal vitamin with iron, talk to your obstetrician about pregnancy constipation and iron consumption. Iron can cause constipation and if you’re eating lots of iron-rich foods you may be getting too much. Changing your prenatal vitamin may solve recurring problems with pregnancy constipation. Never change your prenatal vitamin without first talking to your obstetrician.
Talking about bowel movements with your doctor may be a bit embarrassing, but rest assured your obstetrician understands even the most embarrassing side effects of pregnancy. Long-term constipation – lasting three or more days – should be reported to your obstetrician immediately. Stool softeners may not be strong enough to relieve the problem so there may be a different medication or suggestion from your doctor to solve the constipation problem.