Constipation during pregnancy
Why am I so constipated?
Constipation is a common problem during pregnancy. As many as half of pregnant women get constipated at some point.//
One culprit 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, particularly in high doses, can make constipation worse.
What can I do about constipation?
Here are some tips for preventing and easing constipation:
- Eat high-fiber foods such as whole-grain cereals and breads, brown rice, beans, and fresh fruits and vegetables every day. Adding a couple of tablespoons of unprocessed wheat bran (available at health food stores) to your cereal in the morning and following it with a glass of water can help, though it may take a few days before you notice a difference.
- Drink plenty of water – 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.
- Exercise regularly. Walking, Swimming, riding a stationary bike, and yoga can all help ease constipation and leave you feeling more fit and healthy.
- Your bowels are most likely to be active after meals, so make time to use the bathroom after you eat. Listen to your body. Never put off going to the bathroom when you feel the urge.
- 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, talk to your caregiver about taking an over-the-counter fiber supplement or stool softener.
Is constipation ever serious?
Not usually, but occasionally it can be a symptom of another problem. If you have severe constipation that is accompanied by abdominal pain, alternates with diarrhea, or you pass mucus or blood, call your doctor or midwife immediately.
Also, straining during a bowel movement or passing a hard stool can lead to or worsen hemorrhoids, which are swollen veins in the rectal area. Hemorrhoids can be extremely uncomfortable, though they rarely cause serious problems. In most cases, they go away fairly soon after your baby is born. However, if the pain is severe or you have rectal bleeding, call your caregiver so you can be evaluated.
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