Is it safe to take stool softeners to treat pregnancy constipation?
Answer From Yvonne Butler Tobah, M.D.
Stool softeners are generally considered safe during pregnancy.
Pregnancy constipation, defined as having fewer than three bowel movements a week, can be uncomfortable. Stool softeners, such as Colace, moisten the stool and make it easier to pass. These products are unlikely to harm a developing baby because their active ingredient is only minimally absorbed by the body. Check with your health care provider, however, before taking any medication — including stool softeners and other types of laxatives — to treat pregnancy constipation.
Keep in mind that pregnancy constipation can often be prevented with lifestyle changes. For example:
- Drink plenty of fluids. Water is a good choice. Prune juice also can help.
- Include physical activity in your daily routine. Being active can help prevent pregnancy constipation.
- Include more fiber in your diet. Choose high-fiber foods, such as fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains. With your health care provider's OK, consider a fiber supplement, such as Metamucil.
If you take iron supplements, mention the constipation to your health care provider. Although iron is an important nutrient during pregnancy, too much iron can contribute to pregnancy constipation. You might have to take a stool softener if you are taking an iron supplement.
April 11, 2020
Yvonne Butler Tobah, M.D.
See more Expert Answers
- Constipation. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/constipation/all-content. Accessed April 5, 2017.
- Frequently asked questions. Women's health FAQ120. Problems of the digestive system. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq120.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20131213T1128542208. Accessed April 5, 2017.
- Briggs GG, et al. Docusate sodium. In: Drugs in Pregnancy & Lactation. 10th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. 2015. http://www.ovid.com/site/index.jsp. Accessed April 21, 2017.
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- Butler Tobah YS (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. April 7, 2017.