Baby on board and feeling backed up? Constipation in pregnancy is really common, there’s a whole lot going on with hormones, growing body parts and increased iron that makes going to the loo a whole lot harder.
Thankfully there are some really easy ways to get those bowels moving again, including simple changes to diet and gentle exercise.
What is constipation?
Basically, it’s not being able to poo, or passing hard stools. It’s technically defined as having less than three bowel motions a week, with stools that are difficult or hard to pass.
What’s with pregnancy constipation?
According to Healthline there are a few reasons why so many mummas-to-be suffer from constipation, which usually hits its straps in the second and third months of pregnancy.
Hormones: While growing a bub, a woman’s body kicks up its level of progesterone so that muscles relax as everything starts moving and changing. This relaxing hormone also relaxes our intestines, so they’re slower than usual. This means food is digested slower, and sometimes leads to constipation. According to What to Expect, there is an upside – the longer digestion time means there’s more time for nutrients to be absorbed into your bloodstream and in turn, by your baby.
Womb pressure: There’s a teeny human pressing on your bladder as your uterus continues to grow. It tends to cramp the bowel and the way it usually does its job.
Increased iron: Prenatal vitamins usually contain a boost of iron, and because iron supplements tend to not absorb well during digestion, much of the iron gets left behind in the intestines. It binds to other undigested bits and pieces and doesn’t flow well through the bowel.
How to ease constipation in pregnancy
There are some really easy ways to get everything moving if you’re suffering from pregnancy constipation. Just remember to have a chat to a midwife or doctor first. Here are what the Mum’s Grapevine Pregnancy Facebook Group members recommend:
1. Pear juice
This one is easy, cheap and added bonus: it’s delicious! Lots of our mums swear by drinking pear juice every day to make sure bowel movements stay regular.
2. Pregnancy vitamin timing
Often the extra iron in pregnancy supplements us a factor in pregnancy constipation, so our crafty mums have found that taking their daily supplement at the right time works wonders. Most say having the vitamin just before dinner means bowel movements are perfectly fine the next day.
3. Add fibre to your drinks
Adding fibre to drinks is one of the most common ways our mums tackle their pregnancy constipation. Adding some natural fibre to a morning drink is usually enough to get things moving – just make sure to check with your health provider before starting.
4. Eat dates
Sweet little morsels that taste delicious and according to our mums, give pregnancy constipation a run for its money! If you’re not a massive date fan, blitz them up in a smoothie.
5. Drink prune juice
Suits fans will be familiar with Louis Litt’s infamous ‘prunie’ drinks, and it seems he was onto something! Our group members are big on drinking prune juice to stay regular during pregnancy. It apparently works like a mild laxative.
6. Try bran, muesli or porridge for brekkie
Swap the morning toast for fibre-packed cereal like bran, muesli or porridge. It’s delish and the mums in our groups say it’s a great way to kickstart the bowels in the morning. Our mums recommend looking for cereal with linseed or sprinkling psyllium on top.
7. Drink peppermint tea
A soothing brew of peppermint tea helps calm the stomach muscles and is said to promote healthy bowel movement during pregnancy. Any excuse we say!
8. Use a step stool
2-up Step Stool ($14.95).Yep, we’re talking about using a stool to help with your stools. Getting in the right position to poop is really important.
Here’s how Felicity from our baby groups describes the optimal position to help with bowel movements: “What can also help when things do get moving, is to get into a bit of a squatting position by using a small stool to rest your feet on, and lean forward as far is comfortable (which I realise ain’t much with a big bump)! When I had my first the physio at the hospital suggested a stool to lift your knees higher than your hips as it positions your insides to make it easier. It’s been helping me this pregnancy to get things moving without straining.”
Also, take your time on the loo. Easier said than done if you have an inquisitive toddler as well, but if you can try and take your time on the toilet, and avoid straining. Go when you have the urge, especially when you get up in the morning.
9. Drink coffee. Or don’t
Some of our mums say drinking coffee helps gets their bowels back in running order, others say cutting out coffee during pregnancy helps. You may need to experiment and see which one works for you.
10. Eat more fruit
An oldie but a goodie! If morning sickness is making it tricky to eat bulk lots of fruit – get creative! Blitz up a bunch of fruit in a pregnancy smoothie (another constipation hot tip from our mums – add a handful of spinach). Or just sprinkle some berries on yoghurt – which is also something our mums recommend.
11. Drink water
Contigo Infuser Bottle ($44.95): Pregnant women need to be drinking at least seven to eight glasses of water a day, and more if it’s hot. Drinking plenty of water helps gets things moving along. Sometimes this is easier said than done, so make water a little more appealing by infusing water with fruit or tea.
Getting moving might just help things get moving! Things like walking and swimming are great gentle pregnancy exercise when you’re not feeling energetic, you’ll feel better for it and it’s known to get the bowels going. Our mums also recommend doing dedicated tummy exercises – just consult a professional first.
13. Eat smaller meals
Big meals mean big digestion, so break down your meals into smaller portions throughout the day to give your body a break.
There are laxatives, stool softeners and medications that can be taken for constipation during pregnancy, so have a chat to your midwife or doctor about these.
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