Oh the many joys of pregnancy. Constipation during pregnancy might be the worst. As if the nausea, swelling, cravings and hormone fluctuations were not enough. Due to a variety of reasons that we’ll outline below, sometimes pooping during pregnancy becomes far more difficult than you’d ever imagine.
In this article we’ll talk about:
- When Does Constipation in Pregnancy start
- What causes constipation during pregnancy
- Symptoms of Constipation
- Pregnancy Constipation Relief Tips
- Preventative Tips
What Causes Constipation During Pregnancy?
Hormones are the biggest cause of pregnancy constipation. In the first trimester your body starts producing a hormone called progesterone (typically referred to as the “pregnancy hormone”. Progesterone helps prepare your uterus for baby by thickening the lining. Progesterone also causes relaxation in your muscles (including your intestinal muscles) slowing down digestion, which can lead to constipation.
Additionally the pressure and weight from your growing uterus as well as iron consumption from your prenatal vitamin all exacerbate the constipation issue.
When Does Constipation in Pregnancy Start?
Constipation usually starts in the first trimester when the influx of progesterone is first experienced. You’ll hear many women say “I should have known I was pregnant, I hadn’t pooped in a few days”. However it is also experienced in the 3rd trimester as well when progesterone spikes and the weight of your womb is pressing on your bowels.
For the unfortunate few, constipation may be a symptom experienced throughout the entire 9 months. If you are one of the lucky ones, rest assured, we have some tried and true tips to help you manage throughout your pregnancy.
Constipation during pregnancy is awful and can potentially cause or exacerbate issues like hemorrhoids so it’s best to stay on top of it as much as possible.
Symptoms of Constipation
There are several tell tale signs of constipation, these include:
- Fewer bowel movements
- Abdominal bloating (although you kind of always feel bloated through pregnancy)
- Hard or pellet like poops making it painful as it moves through
- Blood in stool due to passage through the rectum
You thought the constipation was bad, and then the hemorrhoids showed up. Hemorrhoids are swollen blood vessels in the anus. They can range in size from a peanut to a walnut.
Hemorrhoids are very common in pregnancy for a couple of reasons. The first is you are more likely to be constipated in pregnancy which can lead to hemorrhoids. Second, increased blood volume and flow to the pelvic area. Increased pressure on the veins from baby and your growing uterus. Changing hormones and prolonged sitting also contribute.
Hemorrhoids are also very common in the postpartum period as a result of whatever you experienced during pregnancy, as well as from the pushing during labor. In most instances the hemorrhoids will go away on their own.
Symptoms of Hemorrhoids:
- Bleeding after a bowel movement.
- Pain during a bowel movement.
- Itching, burning, swelling
- Complete and total agony means that there is a likelihood that you have a thrombosed hemorrhoid.
How to Treat Symptoms of Constipation During Pregnancy:
- Use witch hazel wipes or pads that contain witch hazel
- Aloe Vera
- Sitz baths several times a day. A sitz bath is a warm water bath about 3-4 inches deep (just soaking your area) Bonus points if you use epsom salt.
- Preparation H
- Baking Soda can help manage the itching
- Avoid sitting for prolonged periods of time
- Don’t spend a lot of time on the toilet.
- Don’t push your poop out. Breathe it out. This is something you should practice for pushing your baby out to minimize tearing.
- Coconut Oil
Over the Counter Creams:
- Doctor Butlers
- Preparation H
- Earth Mama Perineal Balm
Prescription Creams to Ask Your Doc:
Constipation Preventative Measures:
There are a lot of different lifestyle factors you can implement to help manage pregnancy constipation.
- Add more fiber to your diet. You should be getting at least 20-35 grams per day. We recommend lots of cruciferous veggies.
- Integrate these foods into your smoothies!
- Chia Seeds
- Ground Flax Seed
- Eliminate and/or reduce refined and processed foods as in most of these foods the fiber has been eliminated.
- Drink a lot, and we mean a lot of water. Easy way to do the math is drink half your weight in ounces. We recommend adding another 20 oz to that while pregnant.
- Exercise daily. Check out the Juna App for daily pregnancy safe workouts.
- Add Liquid Magnesium with Calcium into your daily vitamin regimen.
- Eat smaller meals throughout the day instead of big meals. This will help not tax your intestines.
- Take a look at your gut health. We have a whole podcast on this topic for pregnancy.
Now it’s time to break out the big guns.
Immediate Constipation Relief During Pregnancy: Natural Remedies
Here are some more serious interventions for constipation. As always, we recommend you consult with your doctor before trying anything.
- Add a fiber laxative like Metamucil or Citrucel – these help your intestines absorb water and stools easier to pass.
- Integrate colace (prescribed by your doctor) into your daily regiment.
- Liquid Magnesium
- If all else fails, use a glycerin suppository
- AVOID stimulant laxatives as you can build a dependency on these.
How to Prevent Constipation
We wish there were some foolproof ways to avoid constipation. Unfortunately you got a lot of things working against you during pregnancy. The things you should make sure you are doing is drinking lots of water, eating lots of high fiber foods, lots and lots of cruciferous vegetables and fruit, and lastly, make sure you are exercising daily.
If all else fails, here is a delicious smoothie recipe that will help get things moving.
Constipation Relieving Smoothie
- 10 oz coconut water or almond milk
- 1/2 ripe banana
- 1/2 avocado
- 3 dates
- 1 fiber blend
- 1 collagen peptides
- 1/2 cup frozen mixed berries
- 1 handful spinach
Throw everything into a blender and mix
Have you experienced constipation? What have you tried and what has worked for you?