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Constipation during pregnancy: what you can do

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 229 views

Many women suffer from constipation during pregnancy : irregular and hard bowel movements, excessive straining and the feeling of not having emptied completely are the typical signs. The causes of constipation are varied. Changed hormone levels and less exercise slow down intestinal motility, for example. In addition, the growing child puts pressure on the intestines. Find out more about the causes and treatment of pregnancy-related constipation here!

Pregnancy: Constipation is common

Up to 44 percent of all pregnant women worldwide suffer from constipation. It is characterized by irregular and hard stools, slowed movement of food through the intestines, excessive straining and a feeling of never having completely defecated.

Those who suffer from constipation are also often plagued by bloating and hemorrhoids (caused by excessive straining). So, constipation during pregnancy can severely impact general well-being and quality of life in many ways.

How Does Constipation Happen During Pregnancy?

Constipation during pregnancy is caused by several factors:

  • Higher levels of hormones (such as progesterone ) slow down intestinal motility and thus the transit or passage time of food to bowel movements.
  • Less exercise also reduces intestinal motility in pregnant women.
  • The uterus , which increases in size, especially in the third trimester , puts pressure on the intestines.
  • The growing child also puts pressure on the intestines.
  • Not drinking enough fluids can also promote constipation.
  • The dietary supplement iron, which many pregnant women must take, can cause constipation as a side effect.
  • Changing your diet can also affect digestion.
  • Stress, anxiety or depression in the mother-to-be are other factors that can contribute to constipation.

Factors such as increasing size of the uterus and child are the reason why constipation often increases as the pregnancy progresses. According to studies, the transit time of the food to the bowel movement is sometimes considerably longer over the course of the nine months.

Other triggers for constipation during pregnancy have recently been discussed: A higher age of the pregnant woman (over 35 years) and a higher body mass index (BMI) before pregnancy presumably increase the probability of constipation.

Pregnancy: What you can do to prevent constipation

A few simple measures often help to alleviate constipation during pregnancy or, in the best case, to avoid it:

  • Exercise regularly, preferably in the fresh air (good for you and your child!) for about 30 minutes a day.
  • Drink enough water, herbal tea or diluted juices.
  • Eat high-fiber foods like whole grains and fruit.
  • Avoid foods that are difficult to digest and flatulent, such as legumes, cabbage and onions.
  • If possible, also avoid foods that inhibit digestion, such as bananas, chocolate or white flour products.
  • Eat slowly and chew well – digestion begins in the mouth!

Home remedies for constipation

Home remedies such as flaxseed and psyllium can be very helpful for constipation during pregnancy . They stimulate intestinal motility and thus relieve constipation. But make sure you use it correctly – it is particularly important that you consume flaxseed or psyllium with sufficient liquid. Otherwise the constipation can get worse!

Home remedies have their limits. If the symptoms persist over a longer period of time, do not improve or even get worse despite treatment, you should always consult a doctor.

medication for constipation

Pregnancy is a very sensitive time for the child. You should therefore avoid medication if possible. However , if the constipation during pregnancy is very severe, you can – always after consulting your attending gynaecologist! – take a gentle laxative (laxative).

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