Constipation is one of the most common symptoms of pregnancy, and can occur at any time, for a number of different reasons. Early in pregnancy, elevated levels of progesterone can slow down your digestive system, while later on the problem can be exacerbated by your growing uterus, and the pressure it exerts.
Although constipation is an aggravating problem, there are a number of steps you can take to get your system running smoothly once more.
Found in two forms, soluble and insoluble, fiber is the most important nutrient for keeping your digestive system regular, and preventing and managing constipation. Soluble fiber attracts water in your system and turns into a gel that makes you feel more full, while insoluble fiber is a laxative that does not dissolve, and instead travels down the digestive tract, speeding up the passage of food and waste through your system.
Soluble fiber is found in a variety of foods, like oatmeal, apples, and carrots, while insoluble fiber is mostly found in whole grains and vegetables, especially raw vegetables, though it’s still important to avoid raw sprouts.
Psyllium is a herbal supplement high in fiber that many recommend to take during pregnancy in order to improve digestion and relieve constipation. While psyllium is widely recognized to be safe, it is still a herbal supplement, so you should speak to your healthcare provider if you have any concerns about using psyllium during pregnancy.
Water makes up the majority of your body, so it should come as no surprise that you need plenty of it to make sure everything is functioning properly. Water lubricates the intestines, allowing waste products easier movement through your digestive tract, helping you to stay regular and manage any constipation you might notice. Carrying around a BPA-free reusable water bottle will help keep you hydrated all day long, and help your digestive system stay as regular as it needs to be.
Time for a physics lesson! Newton’s First Law of Motion states that an object in motion stays in motion, and this holds true when it comes to constipation – a pregnant mom in motion will help keep her digestive in motion as well. Exercise cuts down on the time that it takes for food to travel down the large intestine, which allows waste products to retain more water, making them easier to pass. Exercise also helps your intestinal muscles contract as efficiently as possible – even a light walk around the neighborhood can greatly help the discomfort and annoyance of constipation.
Time to take a page out of grandma’s book – prune juice, like all liquids, will help to get your digestive system moving, but it’s also a mild laxative, so it can help get your system going even more. Prune juice may be difficult to drink if you’ve never had it, so you may want to consider mixing it with other juices, or in a smoothie.
Apricot juice may have a similar laxative effect, so you can try this out as well.
Although caffeine may help get your digestive system going initially, as a diuretic, caffeine contributes to draining the water from your body, which can greatly compound the constipation. Cutting down on caffeine can have benefits besides relieving constipation as well, so it may be a good idea overall to cut out, or down on, caffeine and other diuretics.
Consider the iron
Excess intake of the mineral iron is also known to cause or contribute to constipation, so if you’re getting a great deal of iron in your diet already (27 mg per day is recommended), it may be a good idea not to take additional iron supplements beyond your prenatal vitamin. If your prenatal vitamin contains a lot of iron, you might want to try cutting back on the iron in your diet.
That being said, iron is still incredibly beneficial for you during pregnancy, so it’s important to make sure that you’re getting enough in order to help both yourself and your baby build healthy red blood cells.
Be smart about your medications
Some medications may contribute to constipation, so it’s always a good idea to check with your healthcare provider before taking any medications. Some antidepressants, and antacids that contain aluminum, among other medications, are known to contribute to constipation. While it may be unwise to suddenly go off your antidepressants (especially without speaking to your healthcare provider first), cutting out antacids might help your digestive system.
You should always talk to your healthcare provider before starting a new medication, as some are not safe to take during pregnancy. Some laxatives can lead to contractions, so it’s important to know exactly what you’re taking, and the side effects you might experience, especially when you’re pregnant.
- “How do you treat pregnancy hemorrhoids and constipation?” KidsHealth.org. The Nemours Foundation, Jan 2013. Web. Accessed 12/6/17. Available at http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/piles.html.
- “Constipation During Pregnancy: Five Ways to Get Things Moving Again.” Share.upmc.com. UPMC Health Beat, Nov 2014. Web. Accessed 12/6/17. Available at http://share.upmc.com/2014/11/constipation-during-pregnancy/.