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Pregnancy and Constipation

Being pregnant is not an easy job, your body is adapting to the monumental task of creating a new life. Suddenly problems that you never experienced before, and thought you never would are happening to your body. One of these unexpected problems can be constipation, and it is a common problem in pregnancy. Hormonal changes and the growing baby inside you are requiring your body to make adjustments, and the price you often pay is called constipation. Some women breeze through pregnancy without this problem, but they are the lucky ones. It is estimated that about 25 percent of pregnant women suffer from constipation. Learn how to overcome your symptoms and take care of yourself, so that your baby will be given a great start in life.

You’re considered constipated if you have two or more of these symptoms:

  • Have fewer than three bowel movements a week
  • Have stools that are hard and dry
  • Strain excessively at a bowel movement
  • Experience pain
  • Feel that you have not completed all the bowel movement

Bowel movements should occur easily without straining if your digestive system is working smoothly. Never stifle the urge to have a movement because it contributes to greater constipation.

What is causing your constipation? One of the culprits is a higher level of the hormone progesterone that your body is producing to guard against miscarriage, and as an aid to the placenta in nourishing the baby. At the same time, progesterone is slowing down the movement of food through your digestive tract. Since you are in a manner of speaking eating for two, your digestive system is slowing down to extract all the nutritional value out of the food that it possibly can. As it stays in the intestines longer, more and more liquid is squeezed out, making the stool smaller and more difficult to pass. Hemorrhoids can form, caused by the straining involved in a bowel movement. Another culprit to having constipation is iron supplements. Check the dosage of your prenatal vitamins; if it isn’t higher than 30 milligrams for the iron, you are probably okay. If you are anemic, consult your health care providers for their recommendations because there are slow-release iron supplements available. Then, there is the added pressure of the baby as it grows and realigns your digestive system.

Here are some steps to overcome your constipation:

  • Increase your fiber intake. Eat cereals, whole-grain breads, beans, fruits with skins on, and vegetables. Be aware that fiber creates gas and bloating, and you may need to add more fiber to your diet gradually, so that your system can adjust better.
  • Drink six to eight glasses of water a day.
  • Drink a glass of fruit juice everyday, such as prune juice.
  • Exercise daily. Walks and other moderate exercises can get things moving.
  • Try eating six smaller meals a day instead of three larger ones, so that your system isn’t overtaxed.
  • Try to create regular times to use the bathroom, and never stifle the urge to have a bowel movement.
  • Stool softeners can be used which moisten the stool and make it easier to pass. Usually, they are considered to be safe for use during pregnancy. But first consult your health care providers for their advice and recommendations.
  • Fiber supplements which are considered natural fiber laxatives should be used only under the supervision of your health care providers. Laxatives can be harmful to your baby.

The best news is that after you deliver your bundle of joy your constipation should clear up following the postpartum period. Consult your health care providers about your constipation and follow their recommendations for your situation. Remember everyone is unique just like that new life that is beginning inside of you.

written by Joy Seeman

© 2009  H.I.C.

 

Sources:

Constipation during pregnancy. (2006, June). Retrieved July 31, 2009, from babycenter.com.

Roger W. Harms, M.D.  (2009, July 2). Pregnancy Constipation: Are Stool Softeners Safe? Retrieved July 31, 2009, from mayoclinic.com.

Marjorie Greenfield, M.D. (2004, August 12). Constipation in Pregnancy. Retrieved July 31, 2009, from drspock.com.


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