Constipation is a common problem during pregnancy. One of the reasons is the hormone progesterone, which slows the movement of food through your digestive tract. And the problem may be compounded later in pregnancy by the pressure of your growing uterus on your rectum. Iron supplements can make constipation worse.
Constipation during pregnancy is usually not serious though occasionally it can be a symptom of another problem. If you have severe constipation that's accompanied by abdominal pain, alternates with diarrhea, or you pass mucus or blood, call your doctor for advice.
Straining during a bowel movement or passing a hard stool can lead to or worsen hemorrhoids, swollen veins in the rectal area. Hemorrhoids can be extremely uncomfortable, though they rarely cause serious problems and in most cases they go away fairly soon after your baby is born.
- Exercise regularly. Walking, swimming, riding on a stationary bike, and yoga can all help ease constipation and leave you feeling more fit and healthy.
- Drink plenty of liquids. Drink at least six to eight glasses a day.
- A glass of fruit juice every day, especially prune juice, can also be helpful.
- Some people find that drinking a warm liquid right after waking up helps get things moving.
- If your prenatal multivitamin contains a large dose of iron (and you're not anemic), ask your doctor about switching to a supplement with less iron
- Eat high-fiber foods such as cereals, whole-grain breads, and fresh fruits and vegetables every day.
- Add a couple of tablespoons of unprocessed wheat bran (available at health food stores) to your cereal in the morning and follow it with a glass of water.
- Use fiber supplements like Metamucil® or Citrucel®. Even with a healthy, balanced diet, the fiber content may not be adequate. Although you may think of Metamucil and Citrucel as laxatives, they are simply a concentrated source of fiber, and therefore safely serve a useful purpose. The powder forms work better than tablets for most people.
- Fiber supplements are safe even if taken on a daily basis.
- Pick a time of day to routinely try to move your bowels. Many people find that trying to have a BM after breakfast or after a cup of coffee is better than waiting until they feel the urge. Rushing around all day ignoring the mild signals you get from your body is not conducive to normal bowel function!
Stool softeners (like Colace®) and mild laxatives like Milk of Magnesia (we call it M.O.M. in the hospital!) are safe to use during pregnancy. M.O.M. can also be used for heartburn. It is always best to avoid stimulant laxatives (like Dulcolax®, Ex-lax® and Correctol®) unless directed by your doctor. If you are not sure about a laxative's safety, be sure to ask your doctor.