Dangers of Constipation
During Pregnancy

By Dr. Julia Lizy, MBBS (KEMU)

Dangers of constipation during pregnancy

Constipation is a somewhat normal occurrence during pregnancy, affecting close to forty percent of pregnant women.

This is not surprising, considering the many changes a pregnant woman’s body undergoes. The total gastrointestinal system is influenced by changes in bodily secretions during this time.

Therefore, it is important for pregnant women to pay close attention to their diet, and to take some precautions to maintain regular bowel habits, thus avoiding some unnecessary discomfort.

Signs of constipation during pregnancy

  • Less than 3 bowel movements a week.

  • Stool that is dry, hard, and difficult to pass.

  • A feeling of incomplete evacuation.

Why pregnancy aggravates constipation

dangers of constipation during pregnancy
  • A growing baby tends to crowd the colon, restricting the movement of stool.

  • Sometimes a doctor will prescribe a maternity supplement that can contribute to constipation.

  • During pregnancy, extra of the hormones progesterone and estrogen are secreted. These hormones can cause the colon muscles to be less active.

Possible complications of constipation

  • If stool is extremely dry, hard and difficult to pass, it may lead to bleeding from rectum.

  • Straining to pass stool or the passing of large stools can cause hemorrhoids.

  • Constipation may result in abdominal pain.

  • In extreme conditions, a constipated bowel may result in difficulties during child birth.

  • Although rare, another of the dangers of constipation during surgery is that constipation symptoms may actually be caused by a disease. If you experience severe constipation coupled with abdominal pain, diarrhea, or the passing of blood or mucus, it is time to consult your doctor.

What can be done to prevent
constipation during pregnancy?

Generally speaking, the main ways to avoid constipation during pregnancy are:

  • Consume 20g to 35g of fiber daily. High fiber foods include fresh vegetables and fruits, beans, brown rice, breads and whole grain or bran cereals.

  • Stay hydrated – drink 6 to 8 glasses of water a day.

  • Stay active – incorporate exercise into your day.

  • Respond quickly when you feel the urge to go.

Ways to deal with constipation during pregnancy

  • Drink 6 to 8 ounces of juice every day. Prune juice seems to be the most helpful.

  • Shortly after waking up and then throughout the day, drink warm liquids.

  • After meals, the bowel becomes more active. Therefore this is a good time to attempt defecation.

  • Check to see if your maternity vitamins contain a lot of iron. If so, ask your doctor if he can recommend vitamins containing less iron.

  • Take a supplemental fiber product with a large glass of water.

A magnesium supplement may help to reduce constipation throughout a pregnancy

  • Magnesium has a gentle laxative action

  • It helps relax the colon, allowing for more normal peristaltic action.

  • Magnesium draws water into the colon. This helps moisten stool, resulting in soft and slippery stool.

Instructions for taking a magnesium supplement

The dose of magnesium needed will vary from person to person. 

Begin with a smaller amount, then increase gradually. If bowels become too loose, simply reduce the dosage.

Magnesium is a great solution for constipation since, unlike most other laxatives, it does not create a laxative dependency.

Magnesium and other health conditions

Generally speaking, magnesium is considered harmless for pregnant women. However, the following cautions are in order:

  • Do not take magnesium within two hours after taking your any kind of drugs.

  • If you are taking hypoglycemic drugs, magnesium may increase their absorption. Therefore, when taking magnesium, consult your doctor for an adjusted dosage of hypoglycemic drugs.

  • If you are suffering from severe heart or kidney disease, do not take supplemental magnesium unless advised to do so by your doctor.

Foods high in magnesium

The following are all excellent sources of magnesium:

  • Swiss Chard, peas, cabbage, spinach, greens

  • Prunes, avocados, pears, apricots, apples (with the skin) and berries

  • Cashews, pecans and other nuts

  • Oats, cornmeal, grains, lentils and wheat germ

  • Fish, seaweeds, soy milk, honey and tofu

Dangers of constipation during pregnancy - Conclusion

For most pregnant women, constipation during pregnancy is normal occurrence, but in some cases it may pose a serious threat, especially when combined with other issues. 

Eating a proper diet, staying hydrated and keeping physically active are important. 

Taking a magnesium supplement should help most women to alleviate the problem.

(Return from Dangers of Constipation During Pregnancy to Causes of Constipation)

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