By Dr. Chaithanya R. MBBS
Constipation and pregnancy.
Constipation is a common problem for women during the second and especially the third trimester of pregnancy.
If left untreated it may lead to other problems, like:
Constipation is a condition where it is difficult to empty the bowels. When bowel movements occur less than 3 times a week, it results in hard to pass stools.
When the intestines are functioning properly, there is a normal contraction of the smooth muscles of the colon. This wavelike contraction is called peristalsis. It allows the colon to push stool along.
Another function of the colon is to absorbs water and nutrients from feces.
When held in the colon too long, too much water may be absorbed, making stool dry and hard.
The normal movement of stool through the colon can be negatively affected by:
In pregnancy, the hormonal disequilibrium causes the whole digestive system to slow down, resulting in too much water being absorbed from stool, and hence, constipation.
The causes for constipation in pregnant women are unique. This is because the natural act of carrying a baby affects the whole body.
There are a number of hormones present during pregnancy that change a woman’s body. These hormonal changes affect the digestive tract, causing constipation.
This can be improved by taking vitamins and minerals, especially magnesium throughout the pregnancy.
Almonds and fresh sunflower seeds, along with foods high in fiber may also help the colon to contract properly.
During pregnancy, the colon may not function as it should due to:
1. The reduced progesterone levels that occur during the final weeks of the pregnancy
2. The enlarging fetus puts pressure on the colon, which can restrict the movement of stool through the colon.
These two changes will not stop until childbirth.
It is highly recommended that a pregnant woman take supplemental vitamins and minerals. As a needed mineral, magnesium is essential for a healthy pregnancy.
The daily recommended dose for a pregnant woman is up to 400 milligrams of magnesium per day.
When taken as a supplement, magnesium has some potential health benefits, not the least of which is helping to relieve constipation by helping to correct the balance of relaxation and contraction which hormones can disturb.
Since the use of drugs may have a harmful effect on the baby, the natural approach to constipation control is advisable.
It may be possible to avoid constipation by drinking plenty of water between meals, eating a diet high in fiber, and taking a daily magnesium supplement.
Constipation is a delicate subject which we tend to avoid.
However, by taking the above precautions, constipation during pregnancy may be reduced or even eliminated.