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Constipation during pregnancy

Pregnant women may experience constipation, which can be very uncomfortable. Constipation is a common problem during pregnancy. Constipation refers only to bowel movements that are hard in consistency or painful to eliminate. Infrequent bowel movements (e.g., less than once daily) are not unusual. During pregnancy the muscles in your intestines become more relaxed causing constipation. In the last months of pregnancy, the growing baby puts pressure on the lower intestines

and this may also cause constipation. Medication can induce constipation such as supplemental iron and calcium. Other contributing factors include hormonal changes that cause the intestinal tract to slow down, prolonged immobilization (bed rest), little exercise, inadequate intake of fiber and fluids, irregular eating habits, and possibly stress.

During pregnancy, the body produces more female hormones than normal. It is the job of these hormones to make sure that the pregnancy develops normally. But they also automatically slow down the woman's intestinal movements. One of these hormones, called progesterone, acts by relaxing muscle. The wall (outside) of the bowel is made of muscle and relaxes, and so is less able to move food and bodily waste along. The pregnancy hormone progesterone slows down intestinal function, and the longer the stool sits in the large intestine, the harder and drier it gets. While they have many benefits, prenatal vitamins, particularly those containing iron, are very constipating. Calcium-based antacids (like TUMS®) and calcium supplements also can lead to constipation. As the uterus grows, it can press on the bowel and slow the passage of stool. If there is pain from an episiotomy or laceration, women often feel afraid to have a bowel movement and consciously or unconsciously hold back. Narcotic pain medications (such as codeine) are constipating.

Prevention and treatment of constipation involve much of the same thing. Eat a high fiber diet. Ideally, you will consume 25 to 30 grams per day of dietary fiber from fruits, vegetables, breakfast cereals, whole grain breads, prunes and bran. Drinking plenty of fluids is important, particularly with your increase of fiber. Drink 10 to 12 cups of fluids each day. It is the combination of a high fiber diet and lots of liquid that best help you eliminate your waste. Sweat, hot/humid climates, and exercise may increase your need for additional fluids. If you are inactive, you have a greater chance of constipation. Walking, swimming and other moderate exercises help the intestines work by stimulating your bowels. Schedule exercise three times a week for 20-30 minutes each. There are over-the-counter products such as Colace or Metamucil which may help soften your bowel movements and reduce your instances of constipation. Iron supplements may contribute to constipation when the dose is over 30 mg a day. Good nutrition often meets your iron needs altogether. Taking smaller doses of iron over time versus taking it all at once can ease the load of extra iron on your body. Talk to your physician about checking your iron levels and what to do with your iron intake.

More information on constipation

What is constipation? - Constipation is a condition in which too much water is absorbed from the large intestine back into the bloodstream, leaving the faeces dry, hard and difficult to expel.
What causes constipation? - Constipation is caused by a lack of fibre in the diet. In some people, constipation may result from repeatedly ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement.
What are the symptoms of constipation? - Symptoms associated with constipation include infrequent bowel movements, hard stools, straining when passing a motion, cramps, abdominal bloating, flatulence.
What're risk factors for constipation? - Risk factors for constipation include not enough liquids, lack of exercise, medications, irritable bowel syndrome, abuse of laxatives, and specific diseases.
What are the complications of constipation? - Most cases of constipation are due to inadequate dietary fiber intake, inadequate water intake, and reduced physical activity and are not serious.
How is constipation diagnosed? - The patient's observations and medical history help diagnose constipation. Other diagnostic procedures include a barium enema, which reveals blockage inside the intestine.
What's the treatment for constipation? - The first treatment for constipation is to eat a high fiber diet to provide natural bulk in daily food intake. Laxatives may be used to relieve constipation.
What're the alternative remedies for constipation? - Herbal therapies can be useful in the treatment of constipation. Homeopathy also can offer assistance with constipation.
How to prevent constipation? - Dietary modifications can correct constipation. Daily use of 500 mg vitamin C and 400 mg magnesium can prevent constipation.
What is infant constipation? - Constipation is a very common and frustrating problem in children. Constipation is most commonly caused by a diet that is low in fiber.
What causes baby constipation? - Constipation in children usually is due to poor bowel habits. Bottlefed babies suffer from constipation because formula milk is harder for a baby to digest.
What're the treatments for child constipation? - Constipation is best treated by making changes in your child's diet. The goal of treatment is for your child to have one to two soft stools each day.
Constipation during pregnancy - Pregnant women may experience constipation, which can be very uncomfortable. Constipation is a common problem during pregnancy. 
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