Constipation Pregnancy


By Nuwanthi Fernando, a 6th year medical student

Constipation pregnancy


Although pregnancy is a wonderful time for most women, some things about pregnancy aren’t so wonderful. 

For example, as many as 50% of pregnant women experience constipation sometime during their pregnancy.


Three Primary Causes of

Constipation During Pregnancy


1. Slower transit of stool

Hormones released to facilitate the pregnancy cause intestinal muscles to relax.

The colon normally contracts in a wave-like motion called peristalsis to move stool along. When this process slows down, stool stays in the colon longer.

When food enters the colon it is a liquid slurry. One of the functions of the colon is to remove water, turning this mush into formed stool. When stool stays in the colon longer, more water gets removed. The result is dry, hard stool that is difficult to pass.

2. The expansion of the uterus

As the weeks of a pregnancy pass and the baby grows larger, the enlarged uterus presses more and more on abdominal organs, including the colon.

As the uterus presses against the colon, it restricts the movement of stool. The result is that stool stays in the colon longer, which results in more water being extracted.

As was noted above, this leads to dry, hard and compacted stool. 

The uterus presses on the rectum too, making it more difficult to pass stool.

3. Iron supplements

It is advised that a woman take an iron supplement during pregnancy, both for her own health and that of her baby. When iron isn’t properly absorbed, it ends up in the colon.

If this iron is needed by the body, it slows down stool to give more opportunity to the colon to absorb more iron.

Unfortunately, it absorbs extra water from the stool as well, resulting in constipation during pregnancy.


Complications of Constipation During Pregnancy

it is generally assumed that constipation during pregnancy doesn’t result in complications.

The truth is, more severe and prolonged constipation can lead to the development of hemorrhoids and anal fissures.

Hemorrhoids can cause a lot of pain and discomfort.

They are caused by excessive pressure being brought to bear on veins designed to engorge with blood to seal the anus.

Anal fissures are tears in the anus caused by the passing of large, hard stool. They may only take a few days to heal, but can make defecation during that time quite painful.


Winning the battle against constipation during pregnancy

constipation pregnancy
  1. Changing one’s diet is the first step in overcoming constipation during pregnancy. Increase the amount of dietary fiber to 25 g. to 35 g. a day.

  2. Dehydration is a major cause of constipation. Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water daily, and avoid diuretics, including excessive coffee, tea, colas and other caffeinated beverages.

  3. Keep moving. While you may want to avoid strenuous exercise, something as simple as talking a walk can help in the effort to stay regular. Exercise increases metabolism, which in turn helps to keep stool moving at a better rate through the colon.

  4. Relax. Stress tends to depress colon muscle activity. So listen to some music, do some simple exercises (proven to help relieve stress), and try to take time each day to let down and relax when dealing with constipation during pregnancy.


Take a magnesium supplement to help prevent constipation

Although the above recommendations are good, you may need more help in overcoming constipation during pregnancy.

Taking a magnesium supplement, just 300 to 400 g. a day, can help a lot.

  • Magnesium acts as a natural osmotic laxative that draws water into the colon. Even when stool stays longer in the colon, the magnesium helps to keep it from drying out.

  • Magnesium helps with digestion, helping the body to better absorb iron supplements.

  • Magnesium is a needed nutrient that most people don’t get enough of in their daily diet. Because it helps to supply needed magnesium, taking a magnesium supplement may result in certain health benefits

  • Besides calcium, magnesium is very important in helping your baby to develop strong bones.


Conclusion, constipation pregnancy

There are natural factors that promote constipation during pregnancy.

However, there are numerous actions that may be taken to keep constipation at bay. Pregnancy should be a time of joy and anticipation, not of constipation, hemorrhoids and anal tears.

Here is wishing you a constipation-free pregnancy.

(Return from Constipation Pregnancy to Pregnancy and Constipation)

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