Around half of pregnant women have constipation at some point during their pregnancy. It’s one of the most common annoyances and it can also lead to piles, which is even more painful.
Why does constipation occur during pregnancy?
A diet which is low in fibre, lack of exercise, not drinking enough fluids and anxiety can all contribute to being constipated. Also, during pregnancy, the body produces more progesterone, a hormone that relaxes all muscles in the body, including the intestines. That’s why your digestion slows down which can cause both constipation and bloating.
If your doctor recommends an iron supplement, that may also make you more constipated. You may feel better if you change the type of supplement you take, but consult your doctor first.
How can you prevent constipation in pregnancy?
To prevent and treat constipation, you need to apply the same measures you would have taken before pregnancy. They mainly concern nutrition:
- Consume more fibre. Ideally, you need about 25 to 30g of fibre per day. That means about five large apples or eight bananas. Fibre can be found in fruits and vegetables, wholegrains and nuts. Make sure every meal includes vegetables, and you can have fresh fruit for dessert. If you get bloated easily then try to exclude foods that may cause this, such as legumes (e.g. beans and lentils) and cruciferous vegetables (e.g. cauliflower and cabbage).
- Drink more liquids. If you eat more fibre, you need to drink more water. Generally, 10 to 12 glasses per day are enough, but increase the amount if it’s hot and you sweat a lot. You can also drink herbal tea. Fruit juices are not a great option because they are high in sugar.
- Take some gentle exercise on a daily basis. Constipation occurs more often when people are sedentary. Try to exercise for about 20 to 30 minutes, three times a week.
As mentioned above, you can try to change the iron supplement you take, but only with the consent of your doctor.
Important! Laxatives are not allowed during pregnancy because they can lead to dehydration and, in more serious cases, can stimulate contractions. That also applies to some herbal supplements, such as those containing senna or buckthorn leaves. Mineral oils are also forbidden in pregnancy. Always check with your doctor first.