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Ashley Roman, MD

Constipation During Pregnancy

Ah, constipation: another not-so-fun side-effect of pregnancy. But don't stress; there are ways to make it better — and even prevent it in the coming months.

What is constipation during pregnancy?

You probably already know that constipation is having trouble going number two.

What are the signs of constipation during pregnancy?

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.

Are there any tests for constipation?

Nope. You know it when you’ve got it.

How common is constipation during pregnancy?

It’s super-common! The American Pregnancy Association says approximately half of all pregnant women get constipated at some point during their pregnancy.

How did I get constipated?

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.

How will constipation affect my 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.

What’s the best way to treat constipation during pregnancy?

The first step in treating constipation 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 discussion with your physician, because they may stimulate labor.

What can I do to prevent constipation during pregnancy?

Drink plenty of water and keep eating those fruits and veggies. Staying active can help prevent constipation too.

What do other pregnant moms 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.”

Are there any other resources for constipation?

American Pregnancy Association

Plus, more from The Bump:

Staying Hydrated During Pregnancy

Hemorrhoids During Pregnancy

Gas and Bloating During Pregnancy