It is estimated that one in five women get constipation during their pregnancy, many of whom will never have had constipation before. There are a number of reasons for this.
Hormonal changes affect bowel movements. During pregnancy, the body produces more progesterone, which relaxes the muscles to allow the baby to grow. However, the wall of the intestine is made of muscle, too. As the progesterone makes it relax, it can become less efficient at moving along food.
Many women are advised by their doctor to take iron tablets during pregnancy to supplement their diets which may not be delivering enough iron. This can be a contributing factor to constipation.
Frequently in pregnancy, tastes can change which means women alter their diet. This change in eating habits can also affect bowel activity, particularly if it means a reduction in fibre-rich foods.
The growing baby puts pressure on the bowel, while the discomfort of its weight and general tiredness may lead to a lack of exercise. Both can slow down bowel movements.
Constipation Relief during Pregnancy
There are a number of different things you can do to help get your digestive system moving again during this time.
Increase your fibre intake
Your digestive system may need a little help during this time. Eating more fibre-rich foods, like fruit, vegetables, cereals and wholemeal bread will help provide the necessary roughage to keep your system moving. Your body gets lazy so change your sources of fibre-rich food and don’t reply on the same bowl of cereal to work for 9 months of your pregnancy.
Drink plenty of fluids
Drinking a lot of fluid helps keep the stool soft and easy to pass. At least 7-8 glasses a day is recommended. You can drink as much water as you like. Some fruit juices especially prune juice) help too.
Make sure you get enough exercise
Try and take 20 to 30 minutes of safe exercise (such as walking or swimming) two or three times a week as this will help to kep things moving. When you don’t do any exercise, you will feel heavy, sluggish and uncomfortable. Exercise keeps your digestive system moving.
If things are particularly bad, consult your doctor as he may suggest a pregnancy friendly remedy.