Urgh! Do you have abdominal pain or constantly feel bloated due to constipation? The joys of pregnancy, right? Unfortunately, constipation is a common side effect with over 50% of expecting mothers experiencing it at some point during their pregnancy, although it is most pronounced in the later stages. In this blog, we’re going to discuss why some women develop constipation during pregnancy and discuss four simple tips for reducing it.
Constipation during pregnancy
As I mentioned in my intro, constipation is REALLY common during pregnancy.
The five main reasons for this are:
- During the pregnancy, there is a marked increase in the hormone progesterone. Progesterone helps to relax your body’s muscles, including the muscles of your bowels which slows the movement of food through your digestive tract,
- Many women move less during pregnancy, especially in the late stages of pregnancy, when you’re carrying all that extra baby weight. Less physical activity also slows the movement of food throughout your gastrointestinal system.
- We require significantly more fluid during pregnancy. If you’re dehydrated, it can make your poo hard.
- As your baby grows in your uterus, it puts pressure on your bowels, particularly your rectum (where stools are stored) which can make them difficult to pass, and
- High iron levels in perinatal multivitamins or iron supplements can bind to food in your intestines and slow digestion.
So, what can we do to reduce constipation during pregnancy?
Well, there are some simple and effective strategies that you can utilise to help regulate your bowels, but if these DON’T work for you, it’s important to talk to your prenatal dietitian because chronic or severe constipation can lead to the development of haemorrhoids which can cause further problems down the track.
1. Make sure that you are eating adequate fibre
I have to say, that few of the women that I see for constipation are meeting the recommended fibre requirements, so keep a food diary and check that you’re getting enough. Choose fibre-rich foods such as whole grains, fresh fruit and plenty of vegetables every day.
2. Keep your fluids up
Dehydration is a common cause of constipation during pregnancy as pregnant mummas have significantly higher fluid requirements than other women. You may feel like you’re peeing all day, but keep drinking! Especially is your wee is coloured.
3. Be active every day
In addition to making you feel fitter and healthier, gentle exercise can stimulate bowel muscles to help keep your regular. Walking, swimming and cycling on a stationary bike are all great activities that you should be able to do throughout your pregnancy (but check with your healthcare professional if you have any other medical conditions).
4. Review your nutritional supplements
Too much iron (from supplements) can increase constipation. Check your iron requirements by reviewing your blood tests and oral iron intake with the help of your dietitian, then consider whether you can cease or reduce iron-containing nutritional supplements.
Constipation concerns usually resolve after the birth, but it can develop at any point in time, so it is good practice to ensure that you maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle to prevent constipation re-occurring when you have your baby to look after as well.
If you haven’t done so already I’d recommend downloading my free pregnancy meal plan to help you ensure you’re having adequate fibre during pregnancy. Just go to melaniemcgrice.com/pregnancy. And, if you have any additional questions, you can contact me on social media or in the comments box below.
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