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Ashley Roman, MD
OB-GYN

Constipation During Pregnancy

Ah, constipation—another not-so-fun side-effect of pregnancy. Thankfully, there are ways to make it better and prevent it down the line.

Having trouble going number two? Chances are, you're experiencing constipation. Trust us, you know it when you’ve got it. It's a common pregnancy symptom (sorry), but that doesn't mean you're left to suffer. Read on to learn what's causing your constipation, how to find relief and how to prevent it in the months ahead.

Constipation Symptoms

Wondering what it feels like to be constipated while pregnant? You might have that “stopped up” feeling,  abdominal discomfort or have feces that are dry or hardened. Going to the bathroom could be difficult or painful. And unfortunately, constipation is super-common in pregnancy. The American Pregnancy Association says approximately half of all women get constipated at some point during their pregnancy.

Causes Of Constipation During Pregnancy

During pregnancy, elevated progesterone levels cause smooth muscle to relax, which slows the passage of food through your intestines. This increases water absorption from the bowel and results in constipation. Your rapidly growing uterus, which compresses your intestines and pushes your stomach upward, also contributes to the problem. Stress, lack of exercise and a low-fiber diet can make you constipated too.

Will Constipation Affect Baby?

It won’t be a problem for baby. For you, the constipation will probably just be a nuisance, but in some cases, it does lead to serious medical problems such as hemorrhoids, rectal bleeding and rectal fissures.

Constipation Relief During Pregnancy

The first step in finding constipation relief is to make sure you’re drinking lots of water (at least eight glasses a day), consuming enough fiber (as in fruits and vegetables) and getting ample activity (try walking 20 to 30 minutes daily). If the constipation persists, Metamucil or a mild stool softener such as Colace can help. If you’re taking iron supplements, these may be contributing to your constipation—talk with your doctor about possible alternatives. In general, mineral oils, oral laxatives, enemas and rectal suppositories should be taken only after talking with your doctor, because they may stimulate labor.

Drinking plenty of water and eating those fruits and veggies can help prevent constipation later in pregnancy. Staying active can help prevent constipation too.

What Other Pregnant Women Do When They Have Constipation

“I’ve had some constipation lately, and the only thing that seemed to ease it was Metamucil (recommended by my doctor).”

“I’ve been constipated on and off throughout this pregnancy—it’s one of those symptoms that can be heavily influenced by what you eat. I take Colace to keep things moving when I start to feel a little constipated, but I’ve also been eating apples daily to try to keep things moving naturally (without medication)—it really does help!”

“I had some severe constipation a couple weeks ago, and it is certainly not fun. I suggest getting a bottle of prune juice. Between drinking a glass of prune juice, eating an Activia yogurt and taking one Colace, my constipation has turned around.”

Plus, more from The Bump:

Staying Hydrated During Pregnancy

Hemorrhoids During Pregnancy

Gas and Bloating During Pregnancy