Constipation during Pregnancy

Constipation is a fairly common problem among pregnant women. Research shows that it affects nearly 50% of expecting moms – predominantly during the first and third trimester. Though it does not harm the baby in any way, it can cause a lot of abdominal discomfort due to associated problems like heart burn, bloating and indigestion.

Constipation can be tackled with simple natural remedies. However, most women find it embarrassing to talk about it and end up suffering in silence.

Here are some of the common causes for constipation:

Iron supplements don’t agree with many and this could be one of the factors contributing to constipation. Iron supplements don’t get absorbed easily during digestion. Only a small amount gets into the bloodstream while a large portion is left in the intestines. This unabsorbed iron binds with the undigested food and becomes a sticky mass, and clogs the intestinal tract leading to sluggish bowel movements.

If you’re severely constipated, you could ask your doctor to replace your iron with herbal extracts which don’t normally cause constipation. Or you could switch to a supplement with less iron and boost your iron intake by including foods rich in iron.

Pregnancy hormones: You could blame your pregnancy hormones too for constipation. The high levels of hormones relax the intestinal muscles causing a slowdown in the movement of food. This increases water absorption in the bowels and results in constipation.

As the months progress, this problem can be aggravated by the growing uterus which exerts pressure on your intestines and compresses them.

Reduced water and food intake: Excessive vomiting during early pregnancy can cause food aversion and thus lead to reduced consumption of food and water which is not enough to move your bowels. Vomiting also causes dehydration, ultimately leading to constipation.

Your diet: If you don’t watch what you eat, you could end up being constipated. Foods such as bread, pasta, cakes etc which contain refined flour lose much of their fibre during processing. They also absorb most of the fluid you drink and bind the contents to a pasty mass which slows down the bowel movement. So it’s important that you eat these in measured quantities and instead include fruits, veggies, whole grain cereals and high fibre foods such as brown rice in your diet.

Is constipation a cause for worry?

Constipation during pregnancy is generally not harmful. In very rare cases, it could lead to serious medical problems like hemorrhoids, rectal bleeding and rectal fissures. If you are severely constipated and suffering from abdominal pain and notice blood or mucus while passing motion, it is a sign that you have to call/visit your doctor immediately.

Easy ways to prevent constipation

· Keeping yourself hydrated is very important to prevent constipation. If need be, you may have to drink twice the amount of water. At least 8 glasses of water are recommended to keep the bowels soft and ensure easy movement along the digestive tract.

· Eating smaller quantities regularly will help relieve constipation. This gives your stomach enough time to digest the food and transfer it to the intestine before your next meal. Eating larger quantities makes it harder for the digestive system to process your food.

· Drink a glass of warm water as soon as you wake up in the morning.

· Exercise regularly. Low intensity exercises like walking, yoga, swimming will stimulate bowel movements and ensure a smooth passage for your bowels. Pregnant women should exercise thrice a week at least for 25-30 minutes. Do consult with your health consultant to find out what exercises are safe during pregnancy.

· Never put off – go to the toilet when there is an urge.

· Try taking natural laxatives

· Have a tablespoon of honey before going to bed or soon after waking up in the morning.

· Having a teaspoon of coconut oil or olive oil before every meal is known to soften the stool and relieve constipation

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