Are you feeling bloated? If so, you may be just experiencing constipation in pregnancy.
Nearly 50% of pregnant women deal with irregular bowel movements while carrying a child. Pregnancy constipation is even more common than diarrhoea, and it tends to get worse as you leapfrog through the stages during these months. In other words, the symptoms can start early in your pregnancy, but they usually become more intense in the third trimester, since your growing baby puts extra pressure on the rectum area.
Fortunately, there are many ways to ease the pain and help your digestive system speed up. Are you tired of being gassy and frustrated? Then, take a look at the following tips and tricks, so that your trips to the toilet are no longer a 'nightmare'.
What cause constipation in pregnancy?
Constipation during pregnancy is mainly caused by, surprise, your pregnancy hormones! They are stirring up lots of trouble in your body. It's an easy equation: when pregnant, these hormones (progesterone) make your bowels relax and the nutrients stay longer in your digestive tract, so they can also be absorbed by your baby. But that's not all. There are more culprits to blame! As months go by, your body changes and your uterus expands in order to host your baby-to-be. That process takes up room, slowing the transit of food through your bowels. In addition, we can't forget about prenatal vitamins, which contain iron and are also related to constipation in pregnancy.
Is constipation in pregnancy dangerous?
Pregnancy constipation alone can be really annoying, but it hardly ever leads to more threatening conditions. Yet, you need to be on the lookout for any related problems, especially:
- Haemorrhoids: listed as one of the most common pregnancy symptoms, the so called 'piles' are swollen or enlarged veins in or around your rectum. They often show up late in your pregnancy, due to the extra pressure that you’ll have on your blood flow by then. Piles can itch, hurt and make you bleed.
- Anal fissure: this is no more than a tear that appears in your anal skin. Mostly, it's caused by the effect of passing a hard poo, which is directly linked to constipation. An anal fissure feels like a burning pain and it may come along with some bleeding.
In both cases, you need to seek medical care. The doctor will probably prescribe you creams and ointments to treat the affected areas. This way, piles and anal fissure should heal within a few weeks.
Ways to make constipation in pregnancy better
From CaptainMums, we don't want you to end up facing either haemorrhoids or an anal fissure. Our goal is for you to prevent such problems by adopting the best measures in advance. How can you make constipation in pregnancy better? Let's get some guidance:
- Keep a balanced diet: that is essential to prevent you from feeling worse. Embrace fibre-rich and whole-grain foods, such as legumes, both dried and fresh fruits and vegetables. You should try to have between 25 to 35 grams of fibre a day and, at the same time, avoid refined cereals, pasta, cookies, white bread and rice. They'll just clog your bowels even more! When you start introducing high-fibre foods into your diet, do it gradually.
- Remove large meals: eating big portions of food won't give you any relief, but it may leave your stomach more cramped. Forget about having three big meals and try to spread the amount of food into six smaller ones. That will definitely be gentler for your digestive system and will also help with other annoying pregnancy symptoms like heartburn.
- Drink plenty of liquids: keeping yourself hydrated can put some order to the 'traffic jam' that's striking your stomach these days. Don't pass up the opportunity to drink eight full glasses of fluids, including water and juice (prune juice is a fantastic choice!). If they are hot, like broth, that will get things moving even faster.
- Work out: No, it's not about running a marathon. After all, you have a baby on the way and resting is a priority! However, some exercise, even taking a 15-minute walk everyday, can encourage food to pass through your digestive system without so many obstacles.
- Try some intestinal bacteria: it's not as bad as it sounds. We are referring to the probiotic acidophilus, the bacteria found in certain yogurts, which helps you regulate the gut flora.
- Consider your medication: when you get pregnant, you need to start taking vitamins and supplements to make sure that the embryo develops healthily. Nevertheless, these supplements are also usually responsible for constipation in pregnancy. Though they are necessary, it would be good if you could talk to your GP about possible alternatives, including slow-release iron supplements and changes in the current dosages.
Taking laxatives or stool softeners should be the last resort for you when undergoing pregnancy constipation. They can feel harsh on your body and, more than that, some of them aren't safe to take while expecting a baby. If your constipation in pregnancy is severe and the remedies listed above don't work out, contact your doctor before deciding on laxatives.
Need help? Ask other mummies in CaptainMums' forum!