Constipation is right there with morning sickness when you think about the delights of pregnancy. It can be a telltale sign of an impending bundle of joy, or you be lucky ones and not have issues until the later trimesters. While there is no cure for constipated pregnant ladies, there are a few things you can do to ease the tension. Here’s a look at understanding why constipation tends to occur, the consequences of long term constipation, and what to do about it.
Why Am I So Constipated?!
Over half of pregnant women experience constipation, and some experience it the whole nine months. There are several physiological factors at play. Progesterone impacts the way the smooth muscles of your bowels act by making them relax. When those muscles slow down food stops moving through the bowels at its normal speed. It takes longer for everything to slide through your intestines, which means stuff waiting at the end doesn’t get the push it needs.
Another concern that can cause pregnant constipation is the seven pounds of infant sitting on your rectum as Baby grows. Add to that the extra space and weight of your uterus, and you can see how your rectum would have trouble performing. Constipation may be worse for women with blood issues or those who require iron supplements.
What Is This Going to Do to Me?!
Some literature advertises the dangers of having fecal matter backed up inside you, filling your body with the toxins of excrement. Fortunately, most experts agree that this is unlikely since this particular cause of constipation is not going to be excessively long term. However, hemorrhoids are always a potential consequence of constipation. Unless you already know you are having a cesarean section, there’s a pretty good chance you are going to get hemorrhoids during labor.
Hemorrhoids that appear from constipation can get much, much worse when combined with labor. Even more unfortunately, you will probably become more susceptible to developing hemorrhoids during periods of strain for potentially years to come. If you alternate constipation and diarrhea, experience abdominal pain, notice rectal bleeding (a small amount of blood can occur from hemorrhoids), or see mucus or blood in your stool, talk to your doctor.
How Do I Make it Stop?
Have your baby! Once your bundle of joy is out in the world and your hormones settle back down, things should return to normal. Remember, there is an end in sight! In the meantime, there are a variety of things you can do to help ease constipation.
Diet plays a big role in constipation. Make sure you are getting plenty of fiber from fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains. Staying hydrated is also important (and you should be doing that anyway!), so make sure to drink 80—yes eighty—ounces of water throughout the day. Virtually clear urine is a good sign of being well hydrated. Regular exercise can also help your stool run smoother. If you weren’t active before your pregnancy, talk to your doctor before engaging in anything too strenuous, but a 30 minute walk, some gentle water aerobics, and yoga are good for a whole lot more than just constipation.
Before you take any stool softeners or laxatives, talk to your doctor about which ones are safest for Baby, what dose to use, and how often is acceptable. Perhaps most importantly—if you feel the urge, don’t wait. Go now. Right after a meal tends to be your best chance, so make sure you can go when you need.