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Constipation During Pregnancy: Understanding the Causes and Finding Relief

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Irregular digestion and hard stools are among the many possible side effects of pregnancy. As uncomfortable as it is, you are not alone! About half of all women suffer from constipation during pregnancy. Paying attention to the little things in daily life can help you prevent it well.

What helps with constipation during pregnancy? For constipation during pregnancy, you can provide relief with lots of exercises and a high-fiber diet. Additionally, you should drink plenty of fluids, eat slowly, and avoid constipating, bloating, and hard-to-digest foods.

In this article, we explain how constipation occurs and what preventative measures you can take. You'll also get tips for quick relief from constipation.

Obstipation – What Exactly Is It?

Obstipation is the medical term for constipation, meaning that bowel movements are impaired. The stool is often hard, making the trip to the bathroom sometimes very painful and associated with intense straining. The following are official criteria for diagnosing constipation:

  • When there is no bowel movement for four days
  • When intense straining is required for bowel emptying
  • When there is a continual feeling of incomplete evacuation

If these signs occur regularly for longer than three months, it is considered chronic constipation.

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Constipation During Pregnancy: Causes, Consequences, and Remedies

Diet and hormonal changes play a significant role when it comes to constipation during pregnancy:

  • Hormones:

In addition to physical changes, your hormonal balance changes during pregnancy. Your body produces more progesterone, which relaxes the uterine muscles, suppresses contractions, and thus prevents premature labor. It also has a calming and mood-lifting effect. However, it also causes the intestinal muscles to relax, which slows down digestion. While this allows the body to absorb nutrients better, it also often results in constipation and bloating.

  • Diet:

Things that are good for your body are even more important during pregnancy. Along with a diet high in fiber, your body especially needs plenty of fluids and exercise. This stimulates your metabolism and helps prevent digestive problems. As it becomes increasingly difficult to move with a growing belly, the intestines become sluggish over the course of the pregnancy. Particularly altered eating habits due to pregnancy-related morning sickness can be a trigger for constipation.

  • The Growing Baby:

Digestive issues often occur in the third trimester of pregnancy. Your baby becomes heavier and exerts more and more pressure on your intestines, which in turn slows down digestion.

  • Iron:

Vitamins taken during pregnancy often contain higher amounts of iron. While this is important for oxygen transport in the bloodstream, it can also slow down digestion.

  • Psychological Factors:

Stress, fears, and depression can also negatively affect digestion and thus contribute to constipation.

What Are the Consequences of Constipation?

Constipation during pregnancy is not uncommon. Up to 44 percent of pregnant women worldwide are affected. If you exhibit signs of constipation, it is advisable to speak with your gynecologist. To them, this issue is part of their daily routine, and they will be able to help you quickly.

The most common consequences of constipation during pregnancy are bloating and hemorrhoids. Although the latter are uncomfortable and often painful, they usually resolve after pregnancy. To alleviate the pain, you can get creams prescribed by your doctor.

Caution: Constipation should be closely monitored and treated, as in the worst case, it can lead to intestinal obstruction. If you experience symptoms such as a bloated abdomen, severe abdominal pain, lack of bowel movements, as well as nausea and vomiting, you should urgently visit a hospital.

Incorrect treatment can also lead to premature labor and early delivery, which is why you should discuss all measures with your gynecologist.

What Helps with Constipation During Pregnancy?

Even though it often cannot be completely avoided, you can prevent constipation during pregnancy and alleviate the symptoms. A healthy and balanced diet supports your intestine. For example, fiber passes undigested into the bowel, absorbs water there, and thus causes the stool to swell. This makes it softer and easier to pass.

If constipation already exists, the main thing is to: stay calm. Although constipations are uncomfortable, they are usually harmless. Below you will find five helpful tips for existing constipation.

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5 Tips for Dealing with Constipation During Pregnancy

  • Exercise
  • Exercise is not only good for your intestines but also for you and your child. You should aim to be active for at least 30 minutes a day outdoors. In addition to relaxed walks, swimming and gentle yoga have been proven to be very useful for pregnant women.

  • Fluids
  • Mineral water, fruit juice spritzers, and unsweetened teas are considered suitable beverages. During pregnancy, you should aim to drink at least two liters of fluids per day to optimally support your body.

  • Diet
  • Consume mainly fiber-rich foods. Fruits, vegetables, whole-grain bread, and other whole-grain products are suitable.

  • No-Gos
  • You should largely avoid digestively inhibiting and constipating foods like bananas, chocolate, and white flour products during pregnancy. Also, harder to digest and bloating foods such as legumes, cabbage vegetables, and onions should be avoided.

  • Slow Eating
  • Make sure to take your time while eating. Slow and thorough chewing aids digestion, as it begins in the mouth.

    In particularly stubborn cases, soaked prunes in the morning can provide quick relief from constipation. Also, a glass of warm water on an empty stomach stimulates digestion. In addition, you can and should take daily one to two tablespoons of lactose as it softens the stool. You can stir lactose into juice or yogurt.

    If you're taking additional pregnancy vitamins or supplements, you should discuss their composition with your doctor if you're experiencing constipation.

    Laxatives and Medications for Constipation During Pregnancy

    Laxatives and medications for constipation during pregnancy should always be the last resort and used only in consultation with your doctor. Not all laxatives are suitable for pregnant women, and they act as strong diuretics that can lead to serious dehydration. They can also disrupt your electrolyte balance.

    Even though the market offers a variety of laxatives, suppositories, and Epsom salts for constipation, you should not experiment on your own. In the worst case, these remedies can lead to diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and premature labor, thus potentially causing serious harm to you and your baby.

    Alleviating Abdominal Pain from Constipation

    A troublesome symptom of constipation is abdominal pain. At the beginning of pregnancy, gentle abdominal massages can help alleviate the pain and get your digestion moving. Heat, for example through the use of a hot water bottle or a warm bath, can also relieve abdominal pain as it works to relax and destress.

    Judes Pregnant Picnic in the Park constipation pregnancy signs

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    The Right Nutrition After Pregnancy

    To get your digestion up to speed and keep your body fit, it is crucial to pay attention to the right nutrition. In this article we go into detail on this topic. On our blog, you can find many more interesting articles about childbirth and baby care.

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