On a day to day basis, millions of people experience constipation, and just like many other diseases, constipation is worsened during pregnancy. It has been defined that constipation is less than 3 bowel movements in a week. It occurs when there is abdominal (“stomach”) pain or discomfort in combination with decreased bowel functions or passage of hard stools. Constipation is one such side effect that has numerous roots; some include worry, anxiety, stress, lack of exercise, improper diet, low fiber, or even a side effect of a medication. In pregnancy it has been associated with hormones which are responsible to relax the intestinal muscle and put pressure of the expanding uterus on the intestines. This process is stimulated by one’s sympathetic system that is activated upon situations such as fight or flight.
Commonly, in pregnancy many women become anemic due to iron deficiency anemia and may take supplementary iron. Iron is also a known causative agent of constipation, for which reason a pregnant woman should simultaneously drink plenty of fluids. Some women may not be well suited to the form iron they may be taking, so it is imperative they tell their physician when they are experiencing said side effects so the doctor may switch their form of iron. Nonetheless, constipation may still occur so there are some preventive measurements to avoid recurrence or exacerbated symptoms:
- Eat a diet containing high fiber – for women who begin this diet, initially, they will experience some excess flatulence, but in time their body will adjust:
- Breakfast cereals – read the label
- Whole grain bread
- Drink plenty of fluids – sometimes your body is trying to conserve water, so it does not allow loss of feces to maintain homeostasis; moreover, drinking water will eliminate some toxins via your urine
- Exercise routinely – even moderate exercise a couple times a week may make the difference from a sedentary lifestyle, especially for pregnant women
- Over the counter medications – Metamucil, high fiber diet pills (very effective)
- Iron supplement change or disuse – speak to your doctor.
Pregnant women should be made aware some remedies may actually worsen their condition versus making it better. Laxatives may induce diarrhea and dehydrate their mother, potentially harming the baby. Furthermore, constipation is not a symptom that may easily be treated and be rid of. Many women experience the discomfort throughout their pregnancy without much relief. This is why, a steady diet with proper lifestyle modifications will be optimal during pregnancy.
Another important point is that stool softeners are safe during pregnancy and may be used as a management process. Colace, a form of stool softener, moistens the still to make it easier to pass through the rectum through the anal canal. Though the risks of constipation are not immediate or dangerous to the fetus, they may be for the mother. Prolonged stasis of feces inside the intestines increases the chance of bacterial overgrowth, i.e. strep. bovis, which may increase the chances of colorectal cancer. Hence, constipation is not to be taken lightly and a priority in managing. Women residing in Denver should visit the Denver Holistic Center for more information about constipation during pregnancy.