Constipation in Pregnancy: 7 Fixes
Are you having trouble getting things moving during pregnancy?
If so, you’re not the only one. According to the American Pregnancy Association, about half of women experience constipation at some point during pregnancy.
Luckily, laxatives aren’t your only option. There are a few home remedies and lifestyle changes that can improve your digestion and overall health. Every woman’s body is different, so make sure to try a few of the suggestions below to see which ones work for you.
What Causes Constipation During Pregnancy
There are a few reasons women often get constipated during pregnancy. Firstly, food passes through your intestines slower than usual. This is because the increase in progesterone relaxes muscles in your digestive tract.
Another cause of constipation can be food that is hard to digest such as dairy, cheese and red meat. They have minimum or even zero fiber.
As you get further along in your pregnancy journey, you may also feel pressure on your rectum from your expanding uterus.
Although iron is an important supplement during pregnancy, it can cause constipation in high or even normal doses. If you haven’t taken iron before expecting, this could be the cause of your irregularity.
If you’ve been avoiding exercise and have switched to a lower fiber diet, that could also lead to digestive issues.
Another possibility is that it’s caused by your anxiety or stress. Pregnancy can be a worrisome time: You’re concerned about your health, your baby’s health, being prepared and being a good mother. Stress is known to make digestive issues worse.
If you suffered from digestive issues before pregnancy, you may also notice that your symptoms are now exacerbated.
Fixes for Constipation in Pregnancy
Instead of running for a laxative, consider trying some home remedies for constipation. If you’re not having digestive issues, you can also use these tips to prevent constipation during pregnancy.
Get Your Fiber
One of the first tips you’ll hear for treating constipation is to add more fiber to your diet. You should be consuming about 25 to 30 grams per day. Fiber can be found in fruits, vegetables, legumes, cereal and whole grain products.
Some of the highest sources of fiber include:
- Avocados (10.5g/cup)
- Raspberries (8g/cup)
- Dried figs (14.6/cup)
- Peas (6g/cup)
- Brussel sprouts (7.6g/cup)
- Black beans (12.2g/cup)
- All-Bran cereal (20g/1 cup)
- 2 slices multi-grain bread (about 6g, depending on brand)
- Whole wheat pasta (6.3g/cup)
To be sure you get your daily amount, you can also try alternative methods. Adding wheat bran to any cereal or another food is a good way to quickly boost your fiber intake. Depending on the brand, it usually contains about 6 grams for every quarter cup. Another option is to add Metamucil to a glass of orange juice or another beverage.
Going from very low fiber intake to high fiber intake can also cause constipation or gas. Increase your intake slowly to allow your body to get used to it. Drinking more water can also prevent these high-fiber side effects, which leads us to our next tip.
According to WebMD, one of the most common causes for chronic constipation is dehydration. Drinking water allows food to move smoothly through your system.
Just because you’re not thirsty doesn’t mean you’re getting enough water. Drinking a glass of water a day isn’t enough. Aim for about 10 8-ounce glasses per day. Although other beverages count, water is the healthiest and most effective option.
An easy way to tell if you’ve had enough water is to look at your urine. If it’s clear, you’re likely well hydrated. If it’s dark yellow, start drinking.
While you’re trying to hydrate, stay away from caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea and sodas. These beverages will rid your body of water. Instead, opt for water or herbal teas.
If you don’t typically enjoy drinking water, here are a few tips to increase your intake:
- Carry around a big water bottle wherever you go
- Make lines on your water bottle for the amount you need to drink by a certain time
- Drink a glass of water every time you use the washroom
- Flavor your water with fruits. Berries and citrus fruits are great options
- If you can’t stand the plain taste of water, add just a splash of a fruit juice. You can also make diluted fruit juice by mixing half water, half fruit juice. As you get more used to the taste, you can add less juice and more water
- If you have trouble remembering how much water you’ve had, download a water tracker app such as Daily Water Free
- If you’re really serious about upping your water intake, consider purchasing this high-tech water bottle. It costs $70—but it tracks each ounce you sip and copies the data to a phone app
People who don’t stay active have a greater chance of having constipation. Exercise decreases the time it takes for food to move through the large intestine. Raising your heartrate also helps stimulate intestinal muscle contractions, helping you go to the washroom quicker.
We know you’re pregnant and you’re probably not in the mood for an intense workout—but that’s okay. Even if you didn’t exercise before pregnancy, start off with brisk walks or some light aerobic exercise videos. After a meal, give yourself about an hour to digest the food before moving your body. Aim for 30 minutes about 3 times a week and see if it makes a difference in your digestion.
Consider Alternative Ways to Get Iron
Your body needs extra iron during pregnancy—about 27mg—to make more blood for you and your growing baby. While taking a supplement is an easy way to meet this requirement, it can also cause constipation.
If you believe your iron supplement is causing your constipation, there are a few things you can do:
- Try buying a higher quality, more expensive iron supplement and see if it’s easier on your digestion
- Instead of taking your daily iron all at once, try taking smaller doses throughout the day
- Some people find that liquid iron does not cause constipation. You can find this at most natural health food stores
- Try an iron-fortified bran cereal
You can also get iron from food sources instead of supplements. The foods highest in iron include:
- Spinach (3mg/1/2cup)
- Cooked lima beans (2.2mg/1/2 cup)
- Snow peas (1.7mg/1/2 cup)
- Prune juice (1.6mg/1/2 cup)
- Kale (1.3mg/1/2 cup)
- Instant oatmeal (6mg/3/4 cup)
- Liver (6.2mg/serving)
- Cooked octopus (7.2mg/serving)
- Beef (1.5mg/serving)
If these options don’t work for you, talk to your doctor about how you can get your iron without getting digestive issues.
Eat Smaller Meals
Instead of eating three big meals a day, try eating five or six smaller meals. This makes it easier for your body to digest food. If your digestive system is trying to break down a lot of food at once, it can be too much work and could lead to constipation.
Next time you give into a pregnancy craving or sit down to eat a meal, try eating a smaller portion. If you’re still hungry afterward, you can always eat more.
Get a Poop Stool
Have you ever heard of the Squatty Potty? If you haven’t, it’s a stool you rest your feet on while on the toilet. The company claims that it creates the optimal angle for pooping and reduces strain. While there aren’t many studies to back up some of their claims, many people have found the elevation helpful.
The stool creates a sitting angle that helps the rectal canal open and makes passing stools easier for some. If you’re constipated, it may be worth a try. You can purchase a Squatty Potty on Amazon for $25 or you can try using a regular stool of a similar height.
Stress may cause or make constipation worse.
In fact, one doctor estimates that about 60% of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) patients have generalized anxiety disorder. Another 20% have depression. Constipation and irregularity are a symptom of IBS.
If you have a feeling that your digestive issues are related to stress or anxiety, figure out ways to manage your stress. For ideas on how to relax and increase positive emotions, check out our guides 9 Ways to De-Stress and Powerful Remedies for Mood Swings.
Medications for Constipation During Pregnancy
You should avoid taking laxatives during pregnancy because they cause dehydration and may also stimulate uterine contractions.
Over-the-counter treatments that are safe during pregnancy include Metamucil, Milk of Magnesia, magnesium citrate and Colace. Still, it’s important not to overuse these products because they could also cause dehydration, making the problem worse.
If natural remedies don’t work, you should consult your doctor before using a laxative. He or she may also provide other treatment options.
Are you suffering from digestive issues during pregnancy? If you are, comment below what has helped you. If you have pregnant friends, share this article to help them, too!
P.S. Stress can make constipation worse. If you’re constantly stressed about your baby’s health, check out our fetal dopplers. These amazing handheld devices allow you to listen to the heartbeat while inside the womb—ensuring you that he or she is okay.