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Pregnancy “Pains” Series: Constipation

While pregnancy has its share of amazing highs, it also comes with its fair share of not-so-fun side effects — from constipation, to nausea, to heartburn, swelling, varicose veins, stretch marks, and hemorrhoids. While that beautiful bundle of joy at the end makes it all worth it, that doesn’t mean you should feel like you’re suffering for 9 months leading up to it.  In our “Pregnancy Pains” series, we’ll address a different discomfort each month — helping you understand what causes it, how to help prevent it, and ways to reduce or manage its symptoms.  We begin our series with the most glamorous pain of all — CONSTIPATION.

What Causes Constipation

  • Pregnancy Hormones: During pregnancy, there is an increase in the hormone, Progesterone.  Progesterone helps prepare and maintain a supportive environment in the uterus for the fertilized egg.  Unfortunately though, it also “loosens” the muscles in your intestinal tract, which makes digestion slower and more difficult, and therefore often leads to constipation.

  • Expanding Uterus: As your pregnancy progresses, your uterus expands and can compress your intestines, thus causing constipation and discomfort.

  • Potentially Your Prenatal Vitamin:  Prenatal vitamins contain extra iron — critical during pregnancy.  Occasionally the increased iron could contribute to constipation, but the benefits of prenatal vitamins still outweigh this small side effect.

How to Help Prevent or Reduce Constipation

  • Exercise!  It helps promote regular bowel movements

  • Eat smaller meals: Smaller meals at regularly spaced intervals make digestion easier.

  • Eat foods with fiber and probiotics: High fiber foods like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, along with probiotics like yogurt encourage regular bowel movements.

  • Drink lots of water: This is so important during pregnancy for many reasons — one of them is that it helps to move food move through your digestive tract, and also helps your stool to remain softer and easier to pass. Hot water with lemon can also help.

  • Consider prune juice: If constipation is bad, a little prune juice can definitely help. If you have trouble drinking it straight, try mixing it with other juices, or into a smoothie.

  • Squat on the Pot: Our bodies were actually designed to excrete waste in a squat position. Squatting opens up the colon, and allows for easier and more effective waste excretion. Try placing your feet on an 8-12″ stool when making a bowel movement.  Or, better yet, try something like the Squatty Potty, a stool that adjusts in height and can be pushed underneath the toilet when not in use. 

  • Consult your doctor: Most stimulant laxatives and stool softeners are not safe during pregnancy, but your doctor may recommend a safe alternative, such as a high-powered supplement like wheat germ or psyllium​.

Fun tip: Did you know there’s a prenatal yoga pose that can help relieve constipation? Learn more about the ‘Modified Head to Knee Pose’ to help stimulate your system and relieve discomfort.