Relieve constipation in pregnancy

As if pregnancy isn’t difficult enough without one of the most common complaints being constipation! Nutritionist, Charlotte Stirling Reed, looks at improving pregnancy constipation as part of the series; how to ease pregnancy ailments. For the first article on easing pregnancy side effects see how to ease morning sickness.

Constipation During Pregnancy

Why do I get constipation?

During and after pregnancy it is not uncommon for women to suffer from constipation. The reason so many women have to deal with this uncomfortable problem is due mainly to changes in female hormones.

Excess hormones are excreted in the body with the primary role of supporting the growth of your developing baby and therefore other hormone roles such as stimulating movement in the intestines are put on the backburner.

This leads to the slowed movement of the smooth muscle in the digestive tract, and as a result the movement of food through it also slows leading more water to be absorbed from the gut than normal.  This often results in solid and difficult-to-pass stools – characteristic of constipation.

How do I deal with constipation?

The first way to deal with constipation is by making small dietary changes.

1. Drink plenty of water.

Water is the first line of defence against constipation as the more you drink, the softer your stools will become. We should be aiming to have around eight glasses of water per day throughout pregnancy. Many women find that increasing water intake alone is enough to improve their constipation.

2. Increase your intake of high fibre foods

Eat plenty of wholegrain products such as wholemeal pasta, brown rice, beans and wholegrain cereals. However, without drinking enough fluid fibre can actually make constipation worse so make sure you’re drinking enough.

3. Get your 5-A-Day

As well as containing plenty of fibre, fruit and vegetables also contain a lot of water. Sometimes opt for raw vegetables and snack on dried fruits such as apricots, figs and prunes which are all very high in fibre. Additionally, 100% fruit juices may go some way to improving your constipation but try to stick to no more than one glass a day- and have it with a meal!

4. Make sure you exercise.

Getting enough exercise is vital to improve the movements of your digestive tract and therefore the smooth passing of stools. So make time to exercise every day – starting slowly to ensure you don’t overdo it. Try gentle exercises such as walking or doing housework as well as swimming and light jogging.

5. Check your iron intake.

If you are taking an iron supplement during your pregnancy it may be worth taking to your doctor about whether you could try another brand or manage without as iron supplements can often make constipation symptoms worse.

6. Consult your GP if in doubt about the severity of your constipation

Additionally have tried improving your diet and are still suffering from constipation then get it checked out with your doctor. Avoid over the counter medications unless recommended by your GP.

Photograph:

Micah Taylor @ Flickr

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