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Constipation During Pregnancy

Why so constipated?
Constipation is a common problem during pregnancy. As many as half of pregnant women get constipated at some point.  One culprit is an increase in the female hormone, progesterone, which makes sure the pregnancy develops normally.  It also relaxes smooth muscles throughout the body, including the digestive tract, which becomes less able to move food and bodily waste along.  The problem may be compounded later in pregnancy by the pressure of your growing uterus on your rectum. Iron supplements, particularly in high doses, can make constipation worse.  Pregnant women should make sure their diet is rich in fibre and includes plenty of liquid. That is the best way of guaranteeing normal intestinal activity.

What are the signs of constipation?

  • More  than four days between each bowel movement.
  • Faeces are hard, which makes them difficult to pass.
  • There  is a feeling that not all the faeces are being passed.
  • If the faeces are very hard, they may cause bleeding from the rectum.
  • Constipation  can also be a cause of lower abdominal pain.
  • In  extreme circumstances, a constipated bowel can result in difficulties giving birth.

Rarely, these symptoms can be the signs of other more serious diseases. Always consult your doctor if you are concerned.

What can you do about it?
Although there is very little published information available on the potential risks associated with the use of commonly used laxatives during pregnancy, initial treatment of constipation in pregnancy should be medicine free, as follows:

  • Eat Fibre - Eat a variety of high-fibre foods such as whole-grain cereals and breads, brown rice, beans, prunes and fresh fruits and vegetables every day. Adding a couple of tablespoons of unprocessed wheat bran to your cereal in the morning and following it with a glass of water can help, though it may take a few days before you notice a difference.  Fibre is important because it pushes the intestines to work harder. It also absorbs liquid and will help ensure that the faeces do not dry out, but remain soft.  It is crucial to pace yourself, however, adding a little fibre to every meal if you’re not used to a fibre rich diet so your body has a chance to adjust slowly.
  • Avoid Overeating - Don’t overload at mealtime as big meals can be particularly taxing on your digestive tract.  Try eating six mini-meals a day rather than three large ones – you’ll also experience less wind and bloating.
  • Drink Water - Drink plenty of water – at least six to eight glasses a day. A glass of fruit juice every day, especially prune juice, can also be helpful. Some people find that drinking a warm liquid right after waking up helps get things moving.  If there is not enough liquid in the diet, the process of digestion will slow down, the intestine can't do its job and the faeces will become hard and difficult to pass.
  • Good Bacteria - Probiotic acidophilus, found in yoghurts that contain active culture, will stimulate the intestinal bacteria to break down food better, aiding the digestive tract in its efforts to keep things moving.
  • Regular Exercise - Walking, swimming, riding a stationary bike, and yoga can all help ease constipation and leave you feeling more fit and healthy.  Exercise gently stimulates the bowel, which leads to improved digestion. It will also enhance general wellbeing and fitness in preparation for the actual delivery.
  • Listen to Your Body - Your bowels are most likely to be active after meals, so make time to use the bathroom after you eat. Never put off going to the bathroom when you feel the urge.
  • Check Supplements - If your prenatal multivitamin contains a large dose of iron (and you're not anaemic), ask your healthcare provider about switching to a supplement with less iron.
  • Avoid Herbal Remedies - Steer clear of herbal remedies that could be unsafe during pregnancy. Ask your doctor before taking any constipation medication or remedy.

Is constipation ever serious?
If you have severe constipation that is accompanied by abdominal pain, alternates with diarrhoea, or you pass mucus or blood, call your doctor immediately.  Also, straining during a bowel movement or passing a hard stool can lead to or worsen haemorrhoids, which are swollen veins in the rectal area. Haemorrhoids can be extremely uncomfortable, though they rarely cause serious problems. In most cases, they go away fairly soon after your baby is born. However, if the pain is severe or you have rectal bleeding, call your caregiver so you can be evaluated.

Courtesy of http://www.babycenter.com/0_constipation-during-pregnancy_836.bc, http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/health_advice/facts/constipationpreg.htm#ixzz2NRimoEsx and http://whattoexpect.co.uk/pregnancy/symptoms-solutions/constipation/