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Constipation during pregnancy

Updated: Apr 24, 2019

Wondering what it feels like to be constipated while pregnant? You might have that “stopped up” feeling, abdominal discomfort or have feces that are dry or hardened. Going to the bathroom could be difficult or painful. And unfortunately, constipation is super-common in pregnancy.

Constipation is a common problem during pregnancy: Up to half of pregnant women get constipated at some point. One reason for constipation during pregnancy is an increase in the hormone progesterone, which relaxes smooth muscles throughout the body, including the digestive tract. This means that food passes through the intestines more slowly.

And the problem may be compounded later in pregnancy by the pressure of your growing uterus on your rectum. Iron supplements, especially in high doses, can make constipation worse.

It is very common to become constipated while you are pregnant as food cannot move through your intestines as quickly as before. This is aggravated by your womb putting pressure on your bowels. Constipation can happen at any time during pregnancy. To reduce this:
• Have lots of fiber, fruits and vegetables in your diet.
• Have adequate hydration.
• Exercise regularly.
• Consult your doctor if it becomes a serious problem.

What can I do to relieve constipation during pregnancy?

  • Drink plenty of water: Simply drinking water can help make your bowel movements more frequent and less hard to pass. Try to have 10 8-ounce cups of water or other beverages daily. Drinking a glass of fruit juice every day can also be helpful. Some people find that drinking a warm liquid right after waking up helps get things moving.

  • Eat food high in fiber: These natural sources will help your bowel movements be loose and regular - including whole grain cereals and breads, brown rice, beans, and fresh fruits and vegetables every day. It can help to add a couple of tablespoons of unprocessed wheat bran to your cereal in the morning, though it may take a few days before you notice a difference. Some recommend using prune juice as a natural laxative, should you already be experiencing problems with constipation. Eating a few prunes a day can also help avoid this problem for many.

  • Exercise regularly: Walking, swimming, riding a stationary bike, and yoga can all ease constipation and leave you feeling more fit and healthy.

  • Watch the calcium intake: Too much calcium can cause constipation, this is found in many dairy products. Overdoing the milk or cheese and you could experience your bowels being backed up.

  • Medication use: Some medications can increase the likelihood that you will have constipation. If your prenatal multivitamin contains a large dose of iron (and you're not anemic), ask your healthcare provider about switching to a supplement with less iron.

If the measures above don't help (or it's hard for you to follow them), talk to your provider about taking an over-the-counter fiber supplement or a laxative or stool softener.

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