Womens Healthcare Constipation

By Dr. Julia Lizy, MBBS (KEMU)

Womens healthcare constipation

Constipation is a chronic problem for many. Sadly, women are twice as likely to have it as men. 

Why Women are More Constipated than Men

Differences in anatomy

When women strain during bowel movements, anatomical differences make hemorrhoids, anal fissures and anorectal nerve damage more prevalent.

Each of these are contributing factors to constipation in regards to the healthcare of women.

Stress from relationships

Family responsibilities and relationships tend to be more stressful for women than for men.

It is a medical fact that stress causes waste to move more slowly through the colon, resulting in constipation.

A need for hygienic conditions

Women tend to be more sensitive than men about hygiene and the cleanliness of public restrooms.

This can result in delaying defecation until there are more adequate facilities. This delay gives more time for the colon to extract moisture from stool and cause constipation.

A result of pregnancy

During pregnancy, hormones are released that tend to relax the colon.

This causes the colon to be less effective at moving along stool. The longer stool stays in the colon, the greater the chance of constipation.

Hemorrhoid pain

Pregnancy can contribute to the formation of hemorrhoids, which cause painful bowel movements and incomplete evacuation of stools.

Women have more of a need for iron and calcium supplements to combat anemia and bone loss.

Constipation is a potential side effect of these supplements when looking at healthcare for women.

Major Causes of Constipation

Lack of dietary fiber

Not getting enough fiber in one’s diet can cause significant constipation problems.

With too little fiber, stool may not be bulky enough to stimulate good movement through the colon.

Also, since fiber holds in moisture that is needed to keep stools soft, without enough fiber stool can become dry and hard.

Not drinking enough fluids

Not drinking enough water and other fluids can lead to dehydration, which is a major cause of constipation.

When we are dehydrated, the body will pull extra water from the colon for more urgent needs elsewhere, leaving stool dry and hard.

Lack of exercise

A lack of physical activity is also a contributing factor for constipation.

Clinical studies indicate that a sedate lifestyle definitely contributes to slower stool transit times

The longer that stool is in the colon the more water the colon will extract. Even just getting up and walking every hour or two throughout the day can help.


Some medications may cause constipation or make it worse.

These includes anti-depressants, anti-epileptic drugs, antibiotics, anti-psychotics and opiate pain killers.

Laxative use

Over-use of laxatives makes the gut dependent on them for normal operation.

This leads to a worsening of constipation, even when laxatives are taken regularly, as an over-stimulated colon responds less and less to stimulation, either from stimulant laxatives or natural stimulation.

Medical disorders

Some medical conditions are said to be a cause of constipation.

Examples include:

Diagnosing Constipation

It is important to be able to discern between constipation and just having fewer bowel movements, a condition that is normal for some women.

Most women diagnose constipation and treat it themselves, using their own healthcare.

To diagnose it, do the following:

How long constipation lasts depends on the cause of constipation.

  • Constipation due to a dietary deficiency of fiber and water can last until dietary modifications are made.

  • Constipation due to a medical condition can last until that medical condition is resolved.

How to Prevent Constipation

Preventing constipation is definitely better than curing it later.

Here are some practical steps:

Get enough fiber

A woman should get between 25 to 30 grams of fiber a day. Foods that are high in fiber include:

  • Fruits and  vegetables

  • Whole grain products and bran products

  • Nuts and seeds

  • Most beans and other legumes

  • If you find it difficult to get enough fiber, a fiber supplement may be in order

It is important to add fiber to one’s diet gradually, or it may result in gas and bloating.

Stay hydrated

We should drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of water a day.

Coffee and alcohol are diuretics. Excessive consumption can lead to dehydration, a major cause of constipation.

Get some exercise

A daily exercise routine can help to keep bowels moving and help to restore normal bowel habits


Cultured or fermented foods, kefir, yogurt and drinks like Kombucha can all supply our body with beneficial bacteria needed by the gut.

There are also numerous probiotic supplements on the market that can meet this need.

When beneficial bacteria are in control of the gut, they help to keep yeast and other bad microbes from multiplying and wrecking havoc on the gut.

Don’t ignore the urge to go

Try to never ignore or postpone the urge to go. Doing so over time can result in:

  • A lessening of the urge to go

  • Stool that stays in the colon too long, becoming dry and hard

Successfully Treating Constipation

The best way to treat constipation is with lifestyle changes. Drink plenty of water, get enough fiber and keep active. 

If constipation persists, then the use of a laxative or stool softener may be justified. 

  • Bulking Agents: Fiber supplements add bulk to the stool, which is needed for peristalsis

  • Osmotic laxatives: These help to loosen stool by drawing water into the bowel. They include lactose and glycol, sodium based and magnesium based products. Milk of Magnesia and Epson Salt are common osmotic laxatives.

  • Stool softeners: Also called emollient laxatives, they are a surfactant that helps to make stools wet and soft, making it easier for them to pass through bowel. Docusate is an example.

  • Stimulant laxatives: These act on intestinal mucosa and lessen the secretion of water by the colon. They also serve as an irritant to the colon. This irritation stimulates peristalsis, the wave-like contractions of the colon that move stool along.

A magnesium supplement

Perhaps one of the more effective treatments for constipation is the use of a daily magnesium supplement

Just 200 to 400 mg of daily magnesium may be enough to counter the colon-tightening effect of calcium.

Magnesium also functions as a natural osmotic laxative that draws water into the colon. This helps to make stool moist and soft, making for easy elimination.

Since magnesium is a nutrient that most Americans don’t get enough of, taking a daily magnesium supplement may result in numerous health benefits

If you have kidney disease, don’t take a magnesium supplement unless instructed to do so by your doctor.

Conclusion, womens healthcare constipation

Constipation is a very  common complaint among women. However, it need not be viewed as incurable or problematic.

Sometimes a change in lifestyle is all that is needed to get bowels functioning normally. However, there are times when a laxative may be needed.

There are natural ways to overcome constipation. Avoiding constipation triggers is also helpful in overcoming the problem.

(Return from Womens Heathcare Constipation to What is Constipation)

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