If everything seems to be slowing down in pregnancy, including your bowel movements, you’re not alone. Most pregnant women experience constipation at some point in pregnancy.

Several factors work against your keeping regular during this time, including the fact that each day baby is getting bigger, leaving less room for your bowels to work. Other culprits keeping you less than regular include the hormone progesterone, which is dominating your body right now, relaxing your smooth muscle tissue, and slowing down your digestive tract overall. Iron, whether in your prenatal vitamin or if you’ve been asked to take supplements, can also add to constipation. Constipation is rarely serious in pregnancy but call your healthcare provider if you have constipation with mucous or blood, with diarrhea, or sudden abdominal pain.

Tips to Prevent Constipation:

  • Fill up on fiber: Now is the time to fill up on fiber-rich foods each day, such as beans, nuts, seeds and fiber-enriched breads and cereals. Of course, fruits and veggies are some of your best fiber-rich choices as they have the added bonus of being rich in water too.
  • Liquefy your diet: Be sure to drink at least 6-8 glasses of water each day, and other non-caffeinated beverages. Prune juice can help soften your stool and get things moving. If you don’t like its taste, mix it with another fruit juice or hide it in a smoothie. Try a mug of something warm first thing in the morning, like juice or herbal tea, to help get your system moving.
  • Keep moving: Gravity is your friend when it comes to regular bowel movements. Gravity plus activity. Take a brisk walk or prenatal aerobics class regularly to help your bowels continue to push stool through.
  • Act on the urge: Listen to your body and go when you first feel that urge. Your bowels are more active after you eat, so try to gently go after each meal. Straining or pushing too hard to pass a bowel movement can inflame hemorrhoids, which are swollen veins in your rectal area. Never delay trying to go when you get the urge as that could actually make things worse.
  • Ask about fiber supplements or stool softeners: Most experts recommend if you’ve tried steps 1-4 and still haven’t had a bowel movement in 3 or more days, talk to your healthcare provider about whether you should use fiber supplements or take a stool softener. But avoid laxatives as they can dehydrate you. Most softeners are considered safe in pregnancy and can help moisten your stool so that it’s easier to pass. If your pregnancy care provider gives the OK on the fiber or stool softener, follow their directions specifically for use.

The Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) promotes the health of women and newborns.

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