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Constipation and Pregnancy: Your questions answered

Clare 5 years ago

Why is constipation common in pregnancy

Constipation is indeed very common in pregnancy. There are a few reasons for this, but first and foremost the changes in your hormones and mainly the rise in the hormone progesterone, relaxes and slows down the movement of food through your intestines. Pregnancy constipation therefore often starts in your first trimester.

Further down the line in your pregnancy, as your baby grows, the increased downward pressure on your pelvic area can also increase the likelihood of constipation.

Additionally, anaemia is a common problem for women when pregnant, and this is treated with iron tablets which are unfortunately renowned for blocking you up and making you constipated.

You are also more likely to suffer from constipation if you are generally prone to it, have morning sickness and are therefore struggling to eat and drink normally, or suffer from IBS.

However, do not despair. There are many natural ways to improve constipation during pregnancy, many of which are the same as when you are not pregnant.

Other than wondering how to alleviate constipation when you are pregnant, the following questions are commonly asked.

Should I worry if I am constipated when pregnant?

It is very normal to become constipated when pregnant and doesn’t harm the baby. However, it is not a nice side effect and can leave a woman feeling uncomfortable and anxious. Luckily there are lots of things you can do to ease this problem. There is generally no need to worry about being constipated when pregnant. However, if you feel that it is of concern then do check with your doctor to get their advice.

Could cramps when pregnant be because I am constipated?

Being constipated for a length of time can certainly cause a feeling of pain or even cramps in a similar way to when not pregnant. In fact some women complain of it being really quite painful. This is even more likely to occur later on in the pregnancy when the baby grows and starts pressing against the bowel which can cause pain when constipated.

However, cramps during pregnancy may not be caused by constipation. They can also be caused by normal expansion of the uterus which causes the ligaments and muscles that support it are streched. Some women also experience what are called Braxton Hicks which feel like a tightening of the uterus. These are usually irregular, don’t last long, often change if you get up or change position. These are felt many women. However, if you are in any doubt at all about the above then check with your doctor immediately.

When does constipation start in pregnancy?

Constipation can occur at any time during pregnancy and may even not occur at all. As mentioned before this can be more hormonal related, occurring at the beginning of the pregnancy as your progesterone levels rocket. However, for others this may be more physical, occurring as the baby grows and impacts on the bowel, or with a change in diet due to the mum finding it hard to eat enough fibre or drink enough due to the constant need to go to the toilet. If you are constipated this may not carry on throughout the pregnancy either. It can really vary from one woman to another and depends on many variables such as food, lifestyle, previous bowel health etc.

Is it ok to exercise when pregnant?

It is entirely ok to exercise when pregnant, especially if you regularly exercised before conceiving. In fact it is beneficial for you for many reasons. The more fit and active you are, the easier it will be to keep moving in your last trimester, and it may help when you give birth and for your birth recovery too. Getting out, fresh air and keeping moving will benefit the baby as well as yourself with a healthy circulation and positive attitude. With regards to avoiding constipation keeping moving is vital as physical movement is directly linked to bowel movement and is always recommended with constipation even if not pregnant.

Some sports are not recommended when pregnant but in general a lot of women continue as they were before with a few adjustments. Some pregnancies may require giving up certain exercise but in general walking, swimming, yoga some gentle running, tennis etc are in general all beneficial unless the doctor suggests otherwise. Extreme sports are obviously not advisable. Check with your doctor for your individual requirements first.

Are there any constipation treatments for when pregnant?

In very severe cases the doctor may need to advise you to take a laxative but in general try to avoid this, as laxatives taken regularly can exacerbate the problem.

General awareness of the foods you eat will help. Making sure you eat enough fibre-rich food (wholegrain, legumes etc) and also water which is very important. Avoid too much tea and coffee which is dehydrating but mainly because it makes you need to dash to the girls all the time. Green foods are important as these are a form of insoluble fibre. So eat salads or vegetable soups. Even a kiwi can have a potent laxative effect. Prune juice is another helpful natural solution. You gain further information about easing constipation when pregnant here.

If you are at your wits end and reaching for the laxatives, consider trying probiotics. Probiotics can help balance your gut flora which can have a knock on effect on many aspects of your digestion. Some probiotics are researched to particularly help with constipation. OptiBac Probiotics 'Bifidobacteria & fibre' is a supplement which contains the strain Bifidobacterium lactis BB-12® which is researched and shown to do just that. It also contains 4g of fibre. This product is designed to help with constipation and to be a natural alternative to laxatives.

Being pregnant is an exciting and wonderful time for many women. However, it can also be a challenging physically and indeed emotionally. Constipation is just one of the possible changes that may occur. These symptoms of pregnancy recede after your baby is born, but for now take that time to nurture and nourish yourself. Try to be aware of any triggers for your constipation such as certain foods, a non exercise day, or simply what you drink. Carve out some time for a mindful walk or some yoga and know that the constipation is not there to stay.

Happy Health.

If you have found some natural solutions to constipation when pregnant, we would would love to hear about them. 

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