Been backed up for days? In search of some the best natural remedies to get things moving again?
Pregnancy is beautiful. But, that doesn’t mean it’s not challenging. Your body has to overcome so many weird and difficult changes during those 9 months. Constipation included.
But, being constipated during pregnancy is super uncomfortable, even painful. So, what are some ways that you can find immediate relief while not harming your unborn baby?
In this post, we’ll talk about what causes constipation during pregnancy, constipation symptoms and natural remedies to get things moving again. We’ll also cover medications and supplements that are safe to take during pregnancy, which ones should be avoided, and tips for preventing constipation from the get-go.
What Causes Constipation During Pregnancy?
Constipation is a pretty common occurrence for expecting moms. In fact, about 50% of all women will face constipation at some point throughout their pregnancy (source).
The rise of the hormone, progesterone, is thought to be the main culprit of constipation during pregnancy. This hormone helps thicken the lining of your uterine wall and relaxes the uterus, in order to prevent pre-term labor (source).
However, the increase of progesterone can also relax your intestinal muscles, causing food and waste to move slower through your digestive system.
And, as your baby grows and your uterus continues to expand, there will be more and more pressure being placed on your intestines, leaving little room for stools to move along.
Pregnancy alone may not be causing your constipation though. There are several other factors that may increase your likelihood of getting backed up, such as:
- Stress/anxiety: Pregnancy can be a stressful time, especially if this is your first baby or your pregnancy is high-risk. Unfortunately, all these emotions can trigger your digestive system to slow down, causing things to get backed up.
- Low activity levels: Many pregnant women do not get as much exercise as they should. When you’re not moving enough, your bowels aren’t moving either.
- Not drinking enough fluids: When you’re pregnant, your body requires more fluids than it ever has before, in order to support the increased amount of blood your body is making, and, of course, your growing baby. When you’re dehydrated, your body tries to suck up as much water as it can, causing your stools to become firm and difficult to pass.
- Iron tablets: Iron pills are another common culprit of constipation. If you’ve recently started taking iron supplements, chances are they’re contributing.
- Not enough fiber: Dietary fiber helps keeps your stools soft and moving. When there’s not enough fiber in your diet, your bowels can become irregular.
Pregnancy Constipation Symptoms
It’s likely that you may become constipated at some point throughout your pregnancy, particularly in the second and third trimester. Constipation is generally defined as having fewer than 3 bowel movements per week, but you may also experience:
- Straining when having a bowel movement
- Passing of hard, dry stools
- Abdominal pain/discomfort
- Pebble-like stools
- Bloating/feeling full
- Loss of appetite
Can Straining Harm My Unborn Baby?
Even though uncomfortable, constipation usually doesn’t pose a threat to you or your unborn baby during pregnancy. However, straining could lead to hemorrhoids, which can be itchy, annoying, and even down right painful. But luckily, there are lots of ways to soothe hemorrhoids.
It’s also important to be able to tell the difference between constipation pain and contractions when you’re experiencing severe pressure in your abdomen, especially when you’re in your second trimester or early on in the third. If you’re having pain in your lower abdomen or back, tightening of the stomach, or pressure on your rectum, it’s probably best to go in and get checked out.
Natural Remedies for Constipation During Pregnancy
Natural, at home, remedies should always be your first go-to when trying to treat constipation during pregnancy. Here are 8 proven natural remedies to get things moving again:
1. ) Up your fluids: Plenty of fluids will help keep your stools soft and moving smoothly.Aim for at least 10-12 cups of fluids a day while you’re pregnant (source). This can include water, herbal tea, and juice. I’d steer clear of caffeinated and carbonated beverages, as these can cause dehydration and bloating.
2.) Get regular exercise: Moving helps get things moving! Getting 30 minutes of exercise at least 3 times a week can help improve your digestion and regularity. Now, I know this might be tricky if you’re on bed rest, but consult with your physician to see if there’s any kind of simple stretches or exercises you could be doing.
3.) Eat high fiber foods: High fiber foods, like beans, peas, grapes, and berries, are all great for easing constipation.
4.) Drink some prune juice: Prunes and prune juice are a time-tested remedy for constipation. They also contain a lot of fiber, which can speed things up quickly.
5.) Add in probiotics: Probiotics also help improve digestion and regulate your bowel movements. You can add probiotics to your diet by eating yogurt, kefir, or other fermented foods, such as sauerkraut.
6.) Load up on vitamin C: Vitamin C is a water-soluble supplement that is also commonly known for constipation relief. While 85mg of vitamin C is the recommended daily amount for pregnant women, it can be safe to take up to 1,800-2,000 when needed (source).
Just be sure to increase your fluid consumption when upping your vitamin C, and bump up the dosage slowly, as too much can cause an upset stomach. You could also just eat plenty of vitamin C-rich foods, like strawberries, broccoli, red bell peppers, and orange juice.
7.) Try a squatty potty: The Squatty Potty is a uniquely designed toilet device that can improve the way you poop and help relieve constipation. It puts your body in the correct, natural angle to help elimination happen easier. I found this tool super helpful when pooping postpartum.
8.) Reduce or eliminate iron supplements: If nothing yet has done the trick, you may need to consider reducing or cutting your iron pills altogether. Of course, you still need to make sure you’re getting enough iron for you and your baby though, so you’ll need to indulge in iron rich foods, like bran, broccoli, and spinach. Red raspberry leaf tea also has some iron in it, along with several other benefits for pregnancy.
Are There Any Medications or Supplements that are Safe to Take for Constipation During Pregnancy?
If none of the natural remedies are working for you, it may be time to consult your midwife or OB about taking an over-the-counter supplement or medication. Your provider may suggest:
- Stool softeners: Stool softeners that contain docusate as the active ingriedient, such as Colace and Dulcolax, are generally considered safe to take during pregnancy. These types of medications increase the amount of water in your stools, making them softer and easier to pass.
- Metamucil: Your provider may also recommend taking a bulk-producing agent, called Metamucil. The main ingredient in Metamucil is Psyllium, which is a soluble fiber that absorbs liquid and swells, making your stools, larger, softer, and easier to pass (source).
- Magnesium Citrate: Magnesium citrate is a natural saline laxative that can be taken during pregnancy. It typically has a gentle effect and can be purchased at most drug stores. However, because of its potential side effects, it’s always best to consult with your doctor before taking (source).
- Dandelion tea: Dandelion tea is an herbal supplement that is safe for pregnancy when used in moderation. Experts agree that 1 cup a day causes no harm, and can be beneficial in reducing gas, bloating, and constipation (source).
No matter which treatment plan you and your provider decide on, just remember to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.
Which Remedies are NOT Safe for Pregnancy?
There are some natural remedies and over-the-counter medications that should be avoided while you’re expecting:
- Laxative pills: Most laxatives aren’t recommended for use during pregnancy, as they have the potential to stimulate contractions and cause dehydration.
- Mineral oils: It’s also best to steer clear of mineral oil while you’re expecting, as it reduces your body’s ability to absorb nutrients.
- Castor oil: Straight castor oil can also cause uterine contractions and bring about labor. It can cause your baby stress and may also cause them to pass meconium, or their first stool, before delivery, which can be dangerous.
- Certain essential oils: Certain essential oils that are typically used for digestive issues, such as fennel, may not be safe to use during pregnancy. Essential oil safety experts recommend staying away from ALL essential oils in the first trimester.You can find a complete list of what’s safe and what’s not over at Using Essential Oils Safely.
When to Worry
Constipation during pregnancy is usually not cause for concern. However, if you’re experiencing severe or persistent constipation, you shouldn’t hesitate to give your provider a call. You should also contact your provider when your constipation is accompanied with:
- Bloody stools (red or black tar color)
- Excruciating abdominal pain
Can I Prevent Constipation During Pregnancy?
Many at-home remedies used to treat constipation during pregnancy are also great to use for preventing things to get backed up in the first place. By exercising regularly, staying well hydrated, and eating probiotics and fiber-rich foods, you can help keep constipation at bay.
Combat that Constipation
Pregnancy is a glowing time, but it can also bring about some not so desirable symptoms, such as constipation. The rise in progesterone and increased pressure on your intestines can slow everything way down.
But, not having a bowel movement for days can leaving you feeling bloated and uncomfortable. Luckily, there are some at-home remedies to help speed things along, like drinking lots of fluids, exercising, increasing your fiber, adding probiotics to your diet, and even taking some vitamin C. If none of these natural remedies are working for you, it may be time to talk to your doctor about taking a stool softener, some Metamucil, or even magnesium citrate.
Many of the home remedies can also be used to help prevent constipation in the first place. With these tips, you can banish your constipation and start enjoying your pregnancy!
Did You Find This Post Helpful?
Did any of these natural remedies get things flowing for you? Share some of your best ways for combating pregnancy constipation in the comments below, and be sure to share this post with other expecting moms.