Pregnant women and their bowels. Constipation. Maybe it’s too much information — certainly we often don’t feel comfortable bringing it up in conversation even with our closest of friends — but a new study from Loyola University Medical Center shows that nearly three-quarters of women experience constipation at some point during pregnancy, so it's definitely an issue worth addressing.
So now that it’s out there, we can move on from the awkwardness of bringing it up to talking about solutions. Constipation can make you uncomfortable at best and at worst, can increase your risk of other complications such as hemorrhoids, perineal varicose veins and pelvic organ prolapse.
The drastic hormonal shifts during and after pregnancy are the primary culprit for the stopped up feeling. Other factors include activity level, diet and stress or anxiety. Here are 5 things you can do today to get you going:
1. Drink 10 glasses of water a day. Dehydration worsens constipation. When your body needs water, your bowels slow even more and feces become harder. Simple as that. Before you have anything else to eat or drink, down 2 glasses of water. Then drink water steadily throughout the day.
2. Eat your fiber. Fiber makes the digestive process work more efficiently. Since fiber is not absorbed or digested by the body, it moves through the digestive tract, pushing all other intestinal contents with it. Soluble fiber also helps with constipation by absorbing water to make stools softer. Natural sources of fiber include all fruits and vegetables, whole grain breads and cereals and legumes like beans and lentils. Some fiber-packed options: broccoli, pears, raspberries, split peas, lentils, black beans and artichokes. Add a cup of bran cereal to your diet every day to boost your fiber quotient. All Bran does it for me, every time.
3. Take your time. Try to give yourself the time to go in the morning. After you’ve had your 2 glasses of water and high fiber breakfast, sit down to read the news or write a couple of emails for 10 minutes. Often, that’s all it takes to get things moving. If your first thought after reading this suggestion was “Yeah right, who has time for that?”, you must simply make the time. Get up 10 minutes earlier and put it into your routine. You will see the results immediately and will be a happier mama for it.
4. Exercise regularly. Walking 20 to 30 minutes a day at a moderate pace not only burns calories and increases strength as well as muscular and cardiovascular endurance, it also stimulates intestinal movement.
5. A simple stretch (or two). Who knew that these great stretches for the lower back are also good for intestinal health!?