By Nuwanthi Fernando, a 6th year medical student
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.
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.
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.
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.
it is generally assumed that constipation during pregnancy doesn’t result in complications.
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.
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.
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.