Constipation in Pregnancy


By Dr. Shrey Lakhotia, BDS

Constipation in pregnancy


Pregnant women are prone to constipation. Almost 40 per cent of pregnant women become constipated at some point during their pregnancy.

In fact, pregnancy may help to cause constipation.


Dealing with Seven Causes

of Constipation in Pregnancy

1. Higher levels of Progesterone

There is increased production of the hormone progesterone during pregnancy. This hormone relaxes the muscles of the intestinal wall.

This allows food to stay in the colon longer for enhanced absorption of nutrients for the benefit of both mother and baby.

The problem is, the longer stool stays in the colon, the dryer it becomes. The colon continuously works to extract both nutrients and moisture.

To help counter this problem, a woman can:

• Try and eat more constipation-busting fiber.

• Take a magnesium supplement.  Magnesium draws water into the colon, to reverse the side effect of progesterone to dry out stool.


2. Oral iron supplements

Iron supplements are needed during pregnancy to help meet the needs of mother and baby for iron.

However, Iron supplements may contribute to constipation in pregnancy

when they are not well absorbed and end up in the colon. 

Here are some possible ways to overcome constipation caused by an iron supplement.

  • Take smaller doses of iron throughout the day to increase absorption and reduce constipation. To accomplish this, an iron tablet may be divided into 2 or even 4 parts.

  • Ask the health care provider to check the mother’s iron levels to better manage the iron she needs during pregnancy.

  • Ask your doctor to prescribe a vitamin supplement containing less iron.

  • Ask for iron injections to avoid poor absorption problems of oral iron supplements.


3. Dehydration

A pregnant woman can become dehydrated because of increased demands placed on her body. To manage this:

  • She can increase her intake of fluids, especially water.

  • She can decrease her consumption of coffee, tea, colas and other caffeinated drinks. Caffeine can serve as a diuretic, flushing an excessive amount of water from the body.


4. Lack of exercise

During pregnancy it is more difficult to maintain one’s normal exercise routine.

A lack of physical movement can lead to constipation in pregnancy. To overcome this, you can do the following:

  • Do exercises that are approved for pregnancy. This can contribute to regular bowel movements and prevent constipation.

  • Take a daily magnesium supplement. Magnesium helps to keep stool moist, soft and slippery, helping to reduce transit times.


5. Pressure exerted by the uterus

The enlarged uterus presses against the intestines and rectum during the later stages of pregnancy.

This can lead to an impaired flow of stool, resulting in constipation in pregnancy. To overcome this:

  • Take general measures to keep stool soft, so that it can better move through those constricted places in the colon.

  • Take a magnesium supplement to help keep stool soft, so it can move easier through restricted areas of the colon.


6. Tailbone pain or pelvic pain caused by pregnancy

Pelvic pain or PPGP (pregnancy related pelvic girdle pain) is a normal symptom experienced during pregnancy.

It can be caused by a variety of the factors listed above. The three main therapies are:

  • Targeted exercises to ensure the joints of the pelvis, hip and spine move normally.

  • Exercises that strengthen the pelvic floor, stomach, back and hip muscles.

  • Water exercises.


7. Stress

Pregnancy is a demanding condition that can be quite stressful for the mother.

Stress is a common cause of constipation in pregnancy. Here are some measures to counter stress during pregnancy:

  • Take time each day to just relax and enjoy life.

  • Play calming music in the background.

  • Exercise - some exercises are known to reduce stress.

  • Spend time in meditation.

  • Go for counselling to address psychological problems.

  • A magnesium supplement may help. Magnesium is known as the relaxation mineral. It relaxes muscles which may even help you sleep better at night.


More on magnesium and pregnancy

  • Magnesium can help to repair and build the body’s tissue during and after pregnancy.

  • During pregnancy, a severe magnesium deficiency can cause pre-eclampsia, poor growth of the baby, and even death.

  • Calcium and magnesium work together. While calcium helps muscles to contract, magnesium helps to relax muscles. These two minerals work together for proper muscle function.

  • Studies indicate that during pregnancy, getting enough magnesium may help prevent premature contracting of the uterus.

  • Magnesium helps with the development of infant bones & teeth.

  • Magnesium helps to regulate blood sugar and insulin levels.

  • It helps the function of certain enzymes.

  • Research shows that magnesium is helpful in controlling irregular heart beats and cholesterol.

  • Magnesium may also help to reduce cramping in the legs and feet.


Taking a magnesium supplement during pregnancy makes a lot of sense.

Note: As with any over-the-counter remedy, talk with your doctor before starting on a magnesium supplement. Supplemental magnesium may interfere with certain prescription medications.

Those with kidney disease should not take a magnesium supplement unless instructed to do so by their doctor.


Conclusion

Pregnancy can be demanding and stressful. Constipation is quite common during pregnancy.

It can be managed by eating the proper diet, increasing fluid intake and doing exercises approved for pregnancy.

(Return from Constipation in Pregnancy to Pregnancy and Constipation)


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