Pregnancy and you blog

Pregnancy constipation: Seeking relief

By Mary M. Murry, R.N., C.N.M. August 19, 2011

Pregnancy triggers many physical changes in your body — some quite aggravating. During my first pregnancy years ago, the worst of these changes was constipation. In fact, after all this time, I've convinced myself that pushing out a baby was easier than having a bowel movement.

If you've never been constipated or you think all the ads about regular bowel movements are silly, don't assume you're immune to the condition. Constipation in pregnancy and after delivery can happen to anyone. It isn't inevitable, though. To prevent constipation in the first place, consider these tips:

  • Drink more fluids. During pregnancy, waste moves through your body more slowly than usual. This allows water to be removed from the waste, which contributes to constipation. Keeping well hydrated can help keep bowel movements soft. Fluids count after the baby is born, too, especially if you're breast-feeding. Your body will take all the fluids it can get to make breast milk. If you're not drinking enough fluids, the result might be uncomfortable constipation.
  • Include more fiber in your diet. Think whole grains in foods such as breads and muffins, as well as fruits, vegetables and beans. With your health care provider's OK, you might also consider fiber additives that are mixed with water.
  • Include physical activity in your daily routine. Regular physical activity can help keep your bowel movements regular.
  • Consider stool softeners, if your health care provider approves. Stool softeners help moisten bowel movements.

I don't recommend laxatives for constipation during pregnancy unless you've cleared it with your health care provider. Some types of laxatives can be used safely in pregnancy while others aren't recommended.

Don't be like me with my first pregnancy. Take care so constipation doesn't become a problem — and no more laughing at fiber and laxative commercials! You could be next.

Aug. 19, 2011