Pregnancy is a unique time in a woman’s life, where she will experience a number of changes to her body. Most women expect the growing belly, fatigue, and morning sickness. But other pregnancy “side effects,” like constipation, are often a surprise — and not enjoyable.
Why am I constipated?
Pregnancy constipation occurs for a number of reasons. The hormone progesterone, which soars to higher levels in the first trimester, is necessary to keep your uterine lining and growing baby safe. But this same hormone slows down the normal muscle contractions in your intestines, which means your bowels are slower to move. Generally, this leads to less frequent, harder stools that can be difficult to pass.
If you’ve been experiencing nausea or morning sickness, you may be inadvertently eating and drinking different foods and beverages to ease your discomfort. Lower fiber foods like crackers, combined with reduced water intake, could be making the problem worse. Unfortunately, this is hard to avoid for many women who struggle with morning sickness, particularly in the first trimester.
Constipation can also be a result of your growing baby pressing on your intestines or rectum, particularly later in pregnancy. As your insides become more crowded, your bowel may have trouble functioning efficiently.
Lastly, if you’ve been diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia, your physician may have prescribed iron supplements. These can cause constipation for some people.
What can I do about it?
Constipation can make you feel miserable, and you may be looking for ways to treat it. There are a few things you can do to alleviate your discomfort:
- Do your best to eat whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, and drink non-caffeinated fluids as much as possible. This can be a challenge when you don’t feel well. Try to find foods and drinks that are palatable to you, and that offer some fiber and hydration.
- Talk to your physician about your iron supplement, and see if there’s an alternative to ease some of your constipation. Don’t stop taking your iron supplement without your physician’s approval, as the iron is very important for your growing baby’s health.
- Get as much exercise as you can. A 30-minute walk per day is ideal. Not only can this help get your bowels moving, but it may lift your spirits and improve your overall health.
- Don’t take laxatives or other supplements without talking with your ob/gyn first. Many of these are not safe to take during pregnancy.
If you’re having trouble with constipation, be sure to tell your ob/gyn. Rest assured, it’s only a temporary side effect. You’ll be back to feeling like yourself again in a few short months.
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Content on our website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please call 911. Always consult your physician before making any changes to your medical treatment.