Several factors during pregnancy can combine to make constipation a problem for some women. While growing, the baby leaves less room for the bowels to work and your doctor may prescribe vitamin and mineral supplements that can bind you. Plus, the hormone progesterone makes the muscles of the large bowel less active. You can ease pregnancy constipation by getting enough fluids and fiber and by exercising and going to the bathroom as soon as you feel the urge.
Eat foods rich in fiber or roughage.
- Fresh or dried fruits, fresh vegetables, whole-grain breads and cereals, beans and peas contain fiber that will help you move your bowels. Kiwi fruit also has a laxative effect.
- If you are not used to eating a lot of fiber, add fiber to your diet gradually. Increase fiber intake a little bit every day, until you get 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day.
Drink 8 full glasses of fluids per day.
- You can drink water, vegetable juice, fruit juice, broth or other healthy liquids. Drinking fluids will keep your stool soft and will keep solids moving through your digestive tract.
- Try prune juice, a mild laxative, if you’re so constipated and you can’t move your bowels. If you can’t handle prune juice straight, trying diluting it with another type of fruit juice or making a smoothie.
- Do not drink fluids containing caffeine, because caffeine crosses the placenta and gets into the baby’s bloodstream.
- Another trick to triggering a bowel movement is to drink warm liquids with lemon. Hot water and lemon may trigger peristalsis–contractions of the bowels that help you pass waste.
Talk to your doctor before taking laxatives and stool softeners.
- Laxatives and stool softeners may not be safe for the baby, especially homemade or herbal preparations. Laxatives could cause dehydration and uterine contractions.
Know that the mineral and vitamin supplements you take to keep your baby healthy also may contribute to pregnancy constipation.
- Calcium and iron supplements and vitamins may make it hard to go to the bathroom. Antacids contain a lot of calcium, so ask your doctor about what to take besides antacids for an upset stomach.
- Talk to your doctor about iron. If your doctor recommends you take iron supplements, get a time-release iron pill or take smaller amounts of iron throughout the day.
Exercise to stimulate your bowels.
- Moving around may help you move your bowels. Walking and swimming are low-impact exercises that you can do almost to the end of your pregnancy.
Go to the bathroom as soon as you feel the urge.
- Holding in a bowel movement can weaken the bowel muscles, which may make it harder to push wastes out of your body.
- Do not allow your heart rate to exceed 140 beats per minute when exercising.
- Avoid using mineral oils as a laxative, because mineral oils may reduce the absorption of nutrients into the body of the mother.
- An exercise program may do more than keep your bowel movements regular. Exercise can help you prepare for childbirth and ease the physical strains of labor.