You’ve read up on what to expect when you’re expecting, but you probably didn’t expect to have so much trouble pooping. Constipation is a common side effect of pregnancy, and there are steps you can take to try to remedy it.
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Ob/Gyn Stacie Jhaveri, MD, explains why you can’t seem to go and what you can do about it.
Constipation and pregnancy: why?!
If you’ve already bought the classic children’s book Everybody Poops for your new little one, you may be feeling the irony that this new little one is the reason you can’t currently poop.
Why exactly does being pregnant stop you up so badly? Dr. Jhaveri explains.
- Hormones: Like everything else during pregnancy, you can largely chalk this up to hormones. “The high levels of progesterone your body produces during pregnancy cause your bowel muscles to relax,” she says. “The problem is that to have a bowel movement, you need your bowel muscles to contract. A relaxed bowel is a constipated bowel.”
- Supplements: If you’re taking a prenatal vitamin (psst, you should be!) or an iron supplement, increased levels of iron and other vitamins may be contributing to that backed-up bowel.
- Pressure on your rectum: “Your expanding uterus could put extra pressure on your rectum and bowels,” Dr. Jhaveri explains. This can — you guessed it — cause constipation.
Is constipation a sign of pregnancy?
If you’re feeling constipated, but it’s not quite time to pee on a stick to see if you’re pregnant, you may be looking for early signs of conception. But constipation isn’t the sign you’re looking for.
“Constipation can have a number of causes unrelated to pregnancy, so constipation in and of itself is not indicative of pregnancy,” Dr. Jhaveri says. “And pregnancy-related constipation doesn’t typically appear until month two or three.”
If you’re constipated, beware of hemorrhoids
Constipation can cause hemorrhoids, swollen veins that appear as painful lumps on your anus, and can make existing hemorrhoids even more painful. They might form as a result of increased circulation and pressure on the rectum and vagina from your growing baby.
5 ways to relieve pregnancy constipation
If you’re desperately trying to figure out how to relieve constipation during pregnancy, look no further.
Dr. Jhaveri shares helpful tips for finding relief and getting your insides in order — and if you’re pregnant but not constipated, these same tips can help you avoid it. “Most of these are just healthy principles to follow when you are pregnant,” she says, “and fortunately, they can also help to prevent constipation.”
- Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water — at least 10 to 12 glasses per day — to give your body the lubrication it needs.
- Increase your fiber intake: Fiber keeps you regular, so eat high-fiber cereal and fresh fruits and veggies to keep things running smoothly.
- Get moving: “Regular exercise during pregnancy has lots of important benefits, including helping to relieve constipation,” Dr. Jhaveri says. Even a brisk walk can help.
- Try a stool softener: Get an assist from over-the-counter products designed to moisten your bowels, which make it easier for you to poop.
- Talk to your Ob/Gyn: If you just can’t seem to go, it might be time to talk to your doctor, who can walk you through the options.