Over 50% of pregnant women are affected by constipation at some point during the pregnancy. It is an acute or chronic condition in which bowel movements occur less often than usual or consist of hard, dry stools that are painful or difficult to pass. Bowel habits vary from person to person, but an adult who has not had a bowel movement in three days is considered constipated.
Most common causes of constipation during pregnancy are:
- The increased level of hormones (progesterone) in pregnancy, which relax the smooth muscles and intestinal muscles and decrease the bowel movements, slowing down the movement of food and wastes in digestive system. This causes constipation.
- The external pressure of the increased size of uterus in pregnancy on the intestines.
- Intake of iron supplements in pregnancy (one of the side effects is constipation).
- Worry, stress, anxiety.
- Sedentary life style, minimal physical activity or exercise.
- Intake of foods with low fiber, which decrease the bulk of stools and may result in passing hard stools.
- Dehydration, low intake of water.
Pregnant women with constipation usually present with symptoms such as, abdominal pain or discomfort, difficulty and decrease in frequency of passing stools, hard stools, bloated abdomen, loss of appetite, etc.
Take these measures for relief of constipation during pregnancy
Fiber rich food increases the bulk of stools and helps in relieving constipation. Introducing fiber rich food to regular diet may slowly minimize gastrointestinal upset. Aim to eat 25-30 gm of fiber per day -generally recommended.Fiber rich foods are
- whole grain bread
- green leafy vegetables
- cabbage, cucumber, ridge gourd, bottle gourd, beans, radishes
- pulses such as lentils, peas, whole moong dal
- fruits such as, strawberries, apples, cherries, oranges, papaya, watermelon, plums
Probiotic rich foods such as curd, yogurt , buttermilk, etc will help growth of friendly gut bacteria
Drinking plenty of water of at least 2-3 liters per day, especially in combination with intake of fiber rich food is the best way to eliminate wastes from the body.
Regular physical activity like walking, doing exercises for at least 20-30 minutes a day generally help in increasing bowel movements.
A change of iron supplements after consulting a doctor or drinking plenty of water with iron supplements in pregnancy. Iron intake in pregnancy may as well be managed by iron rich foods such as green leafy vegetables, spinach, lentils, beans, pumpkin,animal foods such as red meat, fish, poultry liver, iron fortified cereals and tofu.
Consult a doctor if you have any of these
- constipation became an ongoing problem
- presence of rectal bleeding,
- unexplained weight loss
- persistent tiredness.
– Dr. Divya Teja Pasupuleti