Staying Regular During Pregnancy
Constipation during pregnancy can be caused by a number of factors:
- Hormones that slow down digestion and relax the intestines
- Pressure on the intestines from the growing uterus
- Iron supplements
- Stress and anxiety
- Diet and (lack of) exercise
So, how can you safely relieve the pain and discomfort of constipation and stay regular during pregnancy?
Diet and exerciseYou had to know we’d throw this out there first. But it’s true—eating more fiber, drinking plenty of water and exercising daily can go a long way toward keeping you regular. Aim for a daily goal of 25 to 30 grams of dietary fiber, along with 10 to 12 cups of fluids, and try to get 20 to 30 minutes of exercise about three times each week. If you can get enough iron in your diet, you can eliminate the need for those iron supplements, too.
SupplementsBulk fiber supplements are safe and (sometimes) effective remedies for constipation—just make sure you’re drinking plenty of water along with them. You can also ask your doctor about probiotic supplements, which may help aid digestion.
While laxatives aren’t absorbed into your system, and therefore won’t cause any birth defects, some kinds of laxatives aren’t recommended during pregnancy. Here are some general guidelines:
- Stool softeners like docusate sodium are okay to make stools easier to pass.
- Lubricant laxatives, like mineral oil, aren’t recommended because they keep you from absorbing nutrients from your food.
- Osmotic laxatives (those that pull water into your intestines) aren’t recommended because they can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.
- Stimulant laxatives are a no-no because they can cause cramping and, possibly, contractions of your uterus.
If constipation is causing problems for you, be sure and ask your doctor for advice on how to stay regular. And, of course, always check with your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medicines.
For more information about eating well during pregnancy, visit the BayCare Health Library.