About half of all pregnant women report that they suffer from constipation. When you’re pregnant, large amounts of progesterone circulate in your bloodstream, slowing the activity of your digestive tract, and constipation can result. If you take an iron supplement, constipation can be made worse.
Here are a few suggestions for preventing or dealing with constipation:
- Adopt good bowel habits: Go to the toilet when you’ve the urge to open your bowels (don’t put it off), take your time with a bowel movement (no rushing) and avoid forcing bowel motion (wait till you actually have the urge).
- Change iron supplements: If you take an iron supplement and constipation results, ask your midwife or doctor to recommend another supplement that isn’t constipating. Liquid iron supplements, for example, are less constipating.
- Chew your food properly: Chewing breaks up your food and, together with the enzymes in your saliva, aids the digestive process.
- Drink a cold or hot liquid on an empty stomach: Doing this may help stimulate your bowels.
- Drink plenty of water: Staying well hydrated helps keep food and waste moving through the digestive tract. Some juices (especially prune juice) may help, while others (such as apple juice) may only exacerbate the problem.
- Eat plenty of high-fibre foods: Bran cereals, brown rice, fruits and vegetables are all good sources of fibre. Some women find it helpful to eat some popcorn, but make it yourself or choose the low-fat kind, without all the butter and added oil. Check the fibre content on package labels and choose foods with higher fibre content.
- Exercise as regularly as you can: Exercise is known to help to relieve constipation, so enjoy some safe exercise. Even walking works. (Refer to Chapter 4 for more on exercising while pregnant.)
Adopting these strategies is a successful approach to preventing or treating constipation for most women, meaning a laxative isn’t usually required. However, if you find that you can’t avoid a laxative, don’t use one more than twice per week (unless, of course, your midwife or doctor advises otherwise). The safest laxatives to take during pregnancy are bulk-producing laxatives such as Fybogel or Metamucil.
This article is an excerpt from Pregnancy For Dummies 3rd Edition (Australian and New Zealand Edition)
Your complete guide to having a healthy, happy pregnancy. This updated and expanded third edition of Pregnancy For Dummies offers mothers-to-be practical advice and expert guidance on every stage of their pregnancy — and beyond!
Understand what's happening with your baby and your body, and be guided through what to expect from labour, birth and becoming a new parent.