Constipation in pregnancy

How to relieve constipation symptoms when you're expecting...

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Let’s start with the bad news: constipation is uncomfortable, unwelcome and sadly pretty common during pregnancy.

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Losing the ability move things along swiftly is something around half of pregnant women experience, either while they’re expecting or just after the birth.

The good news? You can take a pretty pro-active approach to easing the symptoms…

Why am I getting constipated during pregnancy?

Like just about everything else, it’s those pesky hormone changes behind the uncomfortable symptoms of constipation 👍👍👍

Your body’s high progesterone levels – which ensure your uterus doesn’t start contracting in early pregnancy – can slow your digestive system down a bit.

“When you know it’s because progesterone is telling your uterus not to contract and having the same effect on your bowel, it’s more understandable,” says midwife Denise Linay from the Royal College of Midwives (RCM).

She adds: “Knowing why a hormone is a positive thing for pregnancy but not for other parts of your body can help make symptoms more bearable.”

However, there’s more than hormones at work in some cases, as the expansion of the uterus also puts a bit of pressure on the base of your intestine at the same time.

Oh, and if you’ve been prescribed iron pills for anaemia as well, then that also ups your chances of feeling a bit backed up.

So, it’s not because of anything I’m doing?

It may well not be, but lifestyle changes that’ve cropped up during your pregnancy may be a factor.

For instance, you might be doing less moving and shaking now you’re bumping round. Or changes to your taste buds might have put you right off certain fibrous foods.

And all this stuff – that you’re not doing on purpose – can mess around with your insides.

As poor MFMer Mrsb84 says: “Suffering from constipation and this morning had a particularly bad experience and took about 25 minutes and resulted in me shaking and holding my breath from straining so much…”

How can you stop the symptoms of constipation?

The best thing you can do is load up on:

  • Fibre 🍞
  • Exercise 😅
  • Water 💧
  • Fruit and veg (such as butternut squash, figs, berries, avocado, etc) 🍓🥑🍇

Increasing the amount of fibre you get should really help, so do think about trying a cereal for breakfast, along with the sticking to the classic 5-a-day routine.

Add in some exercise (a walk around the block will do) and plenty of water, and we’ve got ourselves a game plan.

Just make sure you don’t overdo your iron intake (you’re not a weightlifter, after all 😂)

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Our mums share their solutions…

MFM member PootleO_B says: “I suffered quite badly from 5 weeks up to about 23 weeks, then was told to try fresh orange juice (Tropicana or fresh squeezed). It is expensive but a couple of big glasses of that a day certainly did the trick!”

Another MFM insider tip is to try All-bran and a cup of coffee.

And K8bimbo reckons: “Eat a kiwi everyday as it really helped with constipation. I found I had it until around 16 weeks and it’s soooooo uncomfortable it’s a joke. I also had a big tub of the California dried prunes to hand and think they helped.”

While new mum Lucie shared this timely toilet tip with us: “I started drinking more water during the day, plus when I was on the loo I found it really helped to read something. Even if it was the side of a shampoo bottle, it took my mind off the job in hand!”.

If you can handle the sugar in dried fruit (and we can always argue that it’s better for us than cake), MFM member A1Wylie says she’s “found that dried apricots work brilliantly. My 96-year-old great aunt suggested them to me!”

“I’ve been eating Kellogg’s All-Bran religiously for months now to try and ease my pregnancy constipation, and it’s worked because I’m almost as regular as clockwork! It’s nice and filling when the pregnancy munchies kick in, too,” added mum-to-be Rachel Pratt from Sunderland.

“I suffered badly when I was pregnant and found the key was fibre, fibre and more fibre!” noted mum Danielle Jones, from Dorset.

“I made sure I had a piece of fruit with my breakfast, and then another with lunch and a dinner packed with veg. It sounds a lot but it eased my discomfort.”

Are there any medications that are safe to take if I’m constipated?

If fruit and cereal for breakfast doesn’t work (even though it sounds delish), your pharmacist or GP can recommend some constipation relief remedies that are safe in pregnancy.

Examples include Lactolose, a natural remedy that eases constipation, or high-fibre drink Fibrogel, which is known to help move things along.

If all else fails, retire to the bathroom with a good book 📖 for however long it takes.

Good luck 🍀

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