How to Relieve Pregnancy Constipation

Updated on December 27, 2017
ThePracticalMommy profile image

Marissa is the writer of ThePracticalMommy and the blog Mommy Knows What's Best. She is a stay-at-home mom to four and was a teacher.

Constipation During Pregnancy

Of the many positive things women look forward to during pregnancy, such as the pregnancy glow or the first kick, constipation is not on the list. The discomfort constipation brings about is not pleasant, nor are some of the other outcomes caused by constipation.

Below are the common causes of constipation in pregnancy and ways to relieve it.

Pregnancy Constipation

Here are a number of things that cause constipation during pregnancy:

1. Increased levels of hormones coursing through the pregnant body. This is sometimes one of the first signs of pregnancy, even though it isn’t the most common—or preferred—one. Certain hormones that our bodies produce during pregnancy, estrogen and progesterone, cause the digestive system to slow down and the muscles of the bowels (small bowel and colon included) to relax. Those two reactions then make the elimination move slowly, hence the inability to go to the bathroom easily or without strain.


2. Growth of uterus. Before you are pregnant, your uterus is about the size of a pear. By the time you reach the end of the pregnancy, your uterus will grow to fill your abdomen from the pelvic bone up to the rib cage. Can you imagine what that does to the organs in your abdomen? The organs—stomach, intestines, etc.—are pushed up, pushed down, and pushed aside. A lot of pressure is put on the digestive tract due to this, again causing things to slow down towards the end of pregnancy.


3. Iron and calcium supplements. When you visit your OB/Gyn for the first time, he/she is going to recommend that you take prenatal vitamins or supplements to make sure that you fill in any gaps in your nutrition. Iron plays a vital role in this: it is necessary for helping the developing blood supply of the baby and for aiding in your expanding blood supply. Without iron, you may suffer from anemia, which causes more problems such as dizziness, fainting, etc. Calcium is needed during pregnancy to help the baby’s muscle, heart, nerve and bone development. Without enough of it, your baby will draw your calcium store from your bones, causing you to potentially be at greater risk of osteoporosis (weakening and breaking in the bones) later in life.


Too much of these two supplements, however, can cause constipation. Watch your intake of both, in food and in vitamin supplements. You should get about 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily (although if you are 18 and under, your amount increases to 1,300 mg to account for your own need of calcium to grow) and an average of 27 mg of iron per day. Basically, you can meet these needs by taking a prenatal vitamin and eating four servings of calcium rich foods and a few servings of iron rich foods.


4. Increased use of antacids with calcium. Another fun part of pregnancy is heartburn and/or acid reflux. Remember how I mentioned that hormones relax muscles and the growing uterus pushes other organs? This has an effect on the valve between your esophagus and stomach as well, allowing stomach acid to creep up and cause irritation. A common solution for that is to take antacids with calcium, but taking additional calcium on top of the amount you receive from prenatal vitamins and food can cause constipation.

Hemorrhoids During Pregnancy

Did you know?

Common consequences of untreated constipation are hemorrhoids and fissures. Read more about these issues below and find out how to avoid them!


Side Effects of Pregnancy

What was your worst pregnancy ailment?

See results

Food High in Fiber

Make some healthy dietary changes to combat constipation!
Make some healthy dietary changes to combat constipation! | Source

Constipation Relief During Pregnancy

Here are some healthy choices you can make with your diet to help treat or prevent pregnancy constipation:

◊ Increase fiber intake. Fiber is necessary in our diets to help our bodies flush out stool. A pregnant woman should consume about 25-35 grams daily. It can be found in fruit, vegetables, whole grain foods, legumes or dried fruit.

If you are not used to this much fiber in your diet, slowly increase the amount you take in every day. Too much fiber all at once can cause another not-so-fun pregnancy symptom, flatulence.

◊ Drink more water. Water is also necessary in our diets to help flush out stool, along with having the other benefit of keeping us hydrated. A pregnant woman should drink about eight 8oz cups (64 oz or 2 quarts) a day of water or drinks that contain water like fruit/vegetable juices, milk, decaffeinated coffee/tea, or sparkling water. Your best bet, however, is to stick with the water so you won’t have to worry about excess calories or sugar.

Try to spread the recommended amount of water throughout the day instead of all at once. You need to keep your body consistently hydrated, plus you don’t want to suffer from another not-so-fun pregnancy complaint: frequent and urgent urination.

◊ Monitor vitamins and supplements. As already mentioned above, it is necessary for a pregnant woman to take prenatal vitamins or supplements to add to the vitamins and minerals in foods consumed daily. Be aware of what is in these vitamins and supplements. Too much calcium and too much iron can cause constipation.

If it is recommended that you take a separate iron supplement, ask about taking a stool softener to accompany it.

◊ Drink prune juice. Another common solution, although not my favorite, is to drink prune juice to help relieve pregnancy constipation. Prune juice contains a natural laxative to help with muscle contractions in the bowels plus certain sugars that help the intestines draw water from the body to eliminate stool.



List of High Fiber Foods

Food
Amount
Fiber
Pear, with skin
1 medium
5.5 grams
Apple, with skin
1 medium
4.4 grams
Raspberries
1 cup
8 grams
Whole wheat spaghetti
1 cup
6.2 grams
Oatmeal
1 cup
4 grams
Popcorn, air popped
3 cups
3.5 grams
Brown rice
1 cup
3.5 grams
Sunflower seed kernels
3/4 cup
3.9 grams
Almonds
1 oz
3.5 grams
Baked beans
1 cup
10.4 grams
Peas
1 cup
8.8 grams
Broccoli
1 cup
5.1 grams
Sweet corn, cooked
1 cup
4.2 grams
Baked potato, with skin
1 medium
2.9 grams
Tomato paste
1.4 cup
2.7 grams
Need to get fiber? Eat some of these fiber rich foods. Source: Mayo Clinic Website (For more fiber rich foods, visit the Mayo Clinic online!)

Home Remedies for Constipation : Remember These FEW Words!

If you can remember to increase your fiber, exercise and water, you'll be well on your way to preventing constipation!
If you can remember to increase your fiber, exercise and water, you'll be well on your way to preventing constipation! | Source

How to Relieve Constipation During Pregnancy

Here are some lifestyle changes you can make to treat or prevent pregnancy constipation:

◊ Go to the bathroom when you need to have a bowel movement. This seems like a no-brainer, but many women resist the urge to have a bowel movement due to inconvenience or other reasons. The more you eliminate, the less likely stool is going to build up in your bowels and cause constipation.

◊ Get up and move. Having an exercise routine can help you relieve constipation. How? It helps food move faster through the large intestine and helps the bowel muscles to contract, moving waste along.

If you are used to an exercise routine, your body should already benefit from movement. If you don’t have an exercise routine or are generally stationary throughout the day, it’s best to start out with the best exercise available for pregnant women: walking. Walking can help keep things moving in your body, even if it’s just a walk around the office or a walk around the block. Aim for 10-30 minutes of walking or other light exercise a day to help with bowel movements.

◊ Eat smaller meals to combat heartburn and eat slowly. Why combat heartburn to relieve constipation? If you don’t have heartburn, there will be no need for antacids. Without antacids, there’s no need to worry about taking in extra calcium.

By eating smaller meals and eating slowly, you are giving your stomach and digestive system the chance to process foods without causing heartburn or having things getting blocked up. Also, if you eat six smaller meals opposed to three large meals, your body can move the smaller amounts of food along much easier.

◊ Ask your doctor for a laxative (last resort). If none of these suggestions work and you have been constipated for three days or more, your doctor may prescribe a laxative such as one with milk of magnesia. Do not take anything other than what is prescribed by your doctor!


When to Call Your Doctor about Constipation

Constipation rarely becomes a serious problem, but it is important to know when to call your doctor.

Call your doctor if any of the following occur:

  • Lack of bowel movements for three or more days
  • Feeling very sick or weak due to lack of bowel movements
  • Vomiting occurs, especially if it's yellow or green (an indication of bile)
  • Fever caused by lack of bowel movements
  • Severe pain



Constipation and Pain : Hemorrhoids and Fissures

If you don’t do something about your constipation, you mind end up with one of two unpleasant consequences that will make going to the bathroom even worse: hemorrhoids or fissures. Hemorrhoids are bulging blood vessels in the rectal area that can be very painful and potentially bleed. Fissures are tiny tears in the skin of the rectal area that can also bleed. Both are caused by pressure on the rectal area from the growing uterus and straining from constipation. Luckily, both can be avoided if you take the steps to relieve constipation and have a healthy diet that will keep your bowel movements regular.


Sources

These are my sources for my research, plus they were my favorite books to go to when I was pregnant:

Your Pregnancy Week by Week by Glade Curtis

What to Expect When You're Expecting by Heidi Murkoff

Your Pregnancy and Childbirth Month to Month by the American College of Gynecologists

Questions & Answers

  • How can I avoid constipation fissures during pregnancy?

    If you follow the steps I list in the article, it should help. If not, I suggest speaking with your doctor.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • ThePracticalMommy profile imageAUTHOR

      Marissa 

      6 years ago from United States

      EuroCafeAuLait, popcorn is a great way to get fiber, isn't it? I'm glad you liked FEW; it is my way to remember to stay healthy. :)

      Thank you very much for reading and commenting!

    • EuroCafeAuLait profile image

      Anastasia Kingsley 

      6 years ago from Croatia, Europe

      The FEW words is a great anagram for good health even for non-pregnant people. I've been lucky - no real issues with constipation in pregnancy, but I do know that POPCORN is a great source of roughage and does the job! Great table, really beautifully done.

    • ThePracticalMommy profile imageAUTHOR

      Marissa 

      6 years ago from United States

      sofs, I'm sorry to see you struggled with this is both of your pregnancies! I'm glad you found it to be informative. :) Thanks for your comment!

    • sofs profile image

      sofs 

      6 years ago

      Well written and informative. I wish I had this information when I struggled with both my pregnancies. Thanks for the share. Have a great day!

    • ThePracticalMommy profile imageAUTHOR

      Marissa 

      6 years ago from United States

      randomcreative, thank you very much for your comment! It really is as simple as eating enough fiber, drinking more water and moving around, barring any other complications.

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 

      6 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Great resource! The list of high fiber foods is really helpful as are the quick fix tips, such as drinking more water and moving around.

    • ThePracticalMommy profile imageAUTHOR

      Marissa 

      6 years ago from United States

      GoodLady, lots of luck to your daughter-in-law! I'm glad that even though she couldn't read it that the information was useful to her. :)

    • ThePracticalMommy profile imageAUTHOR

      Marissa 

      6 years ago from United States

      teaches12345, GoodLady, Brainy Bunny and twoseven, thank you all very much for your comments! I'm glad this is turning out to be a very useful hub. :D

    • twoseven profile image

      twoseven 

      6 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      Great info! I was looking for exactly this kind of information when I was in my first trimester and this is way better than anything I found online at the time. I have to emphasize that prune juice really helps, and I think it's the fastest and most effective if you're really struggling. Also, eating a couple of prunes (though also not my favorite!) really helps too. Thanks for the great info!

    • Brainy Bunny profile image

      Brainy Bunny 

      6 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      Great and thorough information. I like the handy table of fiber amounts in various foods.

    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 

      6 years ago from Rome, Italy

      I'm staying with my daughter in law right now who's having a hard time of her four month pregnancy so it's great to tell her all that you have written (she can't read the Hub herself because she is Italian!). Her eyes lit up with the information. Thanks so much. This Hub is so helpful.

      Voting up.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      6 years ago

      Voted up for the great information, advice and well written hub. I suffered leg cramps and backaches more than anything else -- thankful that this was not an added concern. Thanks for sharing and it will help many mommies-to-be.

    • ThePracticalMommy profile imageAUTHOR

      Marissa 

      6 years ago from United States

      Just Ask Susan, Judi Bee, and angela_michelle, thank you all so much for your comments! I'm glad this guide would be useful to pregnant women. :)

    • angela_michelle profile image

      Angela Michelle Schultz 

      6 years ago from United States

      This is definitely a very helpful, excellent resource for any pregnant woman!

    • Judi Bee profile image

      Judi Brown 

      6 years ago from UK

      Excellent resource for pregnancy. I was lucky in this regard when pregnant, but more than 12 years later I still feel I need to catch up on my sleep!

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      It's been so long since I was pregnant but I wish I would have been able to read your hub way back when. Excellent guide.

    • ThePracticalMommy profile imageAUTHOR

      Marissa 

      6 years ago from United States

      Thanks, SimeyC! Best of luck to your daughter. :)

    • SimeyC profile image

      Simon Cook 

      6 years ago from NJ, USA

      Very interesting hub - not much use to me, but will pass on to my pregnant daughter.

    • ThePracticalMommy profile imageAUTHOR

      Marissa 

      6 years ago from United States

      alissaroberts, I too was surprised by some of the foods, like raspberries, when I was doing the research for this hub. What a great way to get fiber! As a double bonus, you could add the raspberries to water to flavor it, which would work for both fluid intake and fiber intake. Yum!

      Thank you for reading and commenting! :)

    • alissaroberts profile image

      Alissa Roberts 

      6 years ago from Normandy, TN

      A fantastic hub on one of the not so pleasant effects of pregnancy. A couple of the food items on the chart surprised me to be so full of fiber. This will be a great guide to anyone suffering through this pain. Great job - voted up and useful!

    • ThePracticalMommy profile imageAUTHOR

      Marissa 

      6 years ago from United States

      twinstimes2, thank you very much! Getting enough fiber is so essential for our health, so it is still relevant even if you're not expecting. :)

    • twinstimes2 profile image

      Karen Lackey 

      6 years ago from Ohio

      Awesome resource for pregnant women! I hoping not to use it again personally! Love the chart. So hopeful for a quick glance on how to increase fiber and which foods are best. Great Hub!

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, wehavekids.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://wehavekids.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)