Constipation During Pregnancy

By Dr. Muzammill Irshad, MBBS

Constipation During Pregnancy

It can be a very happy moment for a woman when she discovers that she is pregnant. However, pregnancy doesn’t come without its own set of problems.  

One of these is constipation, where stool travels more slowly through the colon, resulting in stool that is dry and hard.

Lets examine each reason why constipation is caused by pregnancy, and possible remedies for each of these causes.


Hormonal Changes
During Pregnancy

During pregnancy, the release of certain hormones can cause constipation.

Progesterone is a hormone that is released by the placenta. Progesterone acts to relax the smooth muscles of the body.

The smooth muscles of colon are relaxed in the process, making them less efficient at peristalsis, the wave-like contracting motion that moves stool along.

To overcome this problem, a woman can consume more fiber. Fiber enhances gut motility by bulking up the stool, making it easier to push through the colon.

Foods high in fiber include fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain products, nuts, seeds and most beans.


Iron supplements can cause constipation

Pregnant women need extra iron during pregnancy, both for her own health and her child’s health. To avoid anemia, a supplement containing iron is usually recommended by her doctor.

When a woman’s body is low in iron and there is iron available for absorption in the colon, a woman’s body will cause feces to move more slowly through the colon to absorb this iron. When stool stays longer in the colon, more water is extracted, making stool thick, hard and difficult to pass.

To help overcome this problem, iron supplements should be taken in three to four small divided doses over the day so that more iron may be absorbed before it reaches the colon.

A magnesium supplement can be taken along with iron to help enhance the absorption of iron.

Besides helping the body to assimilate nutrients, magnesium acts like a natural osmotic laxative by drawing water into the colon.

This helps to keep stool from drying out, making stool moist, soft and easy to pass.


Pressure exerted by the uterus

As pregnancy advances, the size of uterus gradually increases as the fetus grows.

As it grows, it puts pressure on the colon. This pressure constricts feces movement through the bowel. Stool stays longer in the colon, more water is extracted, and constipation ensues.

Once again, a magnesium supplement may be the best way to avoid this problem. Magnesium enhances bowel movements.

Stool remains soft, helping it to navigate better through a restricted bowel. Always drink more water when taking a magnesium supplement, as dehydration is also a major cause of constipation.


Benefits of taking a magnesium supplement during pregnancy

Magnesium is an element that is important for the proper growth of bones and teeth.

It relaxes tense muscles, including the colon. It is actually known as the relaxation mineral. Many report getting more sleep when they take their magnesium supplement in the evening.

A deficiency of magnesium during pregnancy may lead to preeclampsia and poor growth of infant. Sometimes it may even cause the intra-uterine death of fetus.

This is one reason why constipation during pregnancy should be treated with a magnesium supplement. Magnesium is even helpful in avoiding premature contraction of uterus.

Magnesium is beneficial for the treatment of seizures developed during eclampsia. Since 80% of Americans don’t get enough magnesium in their diet, taking a magnesium supplement may also result in other health benefits


Conclusion: constipation during pregnancy

Close to 50% of women experience constipation during pregnancy.

There are many causes which lead to this. Hormones secreted by the placenta slow down the movement of stool, causing constipation.

Iron supplements needed for the mother’s and baby’s health can cause constipation. As the uterus enlarges, it presses against the colon, hindering the movement of stool.

However, there are things that may be done to keep constipation from being a problem.


(Return from Constipation During Pregnancy to Pregnancy and Constipation)


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