Constipation in Pregnancy

Up to 40% of women experience constipation at some time during their pregnancy, usually in the first or second trimester. Increased levels of hormones in pregnancy can slow down digestion, which can cause constipation. Pressure from the expanding uterus and iron supplements may also contribute.

What are the symptoms of constipation?

Symptoms of constipation include:

  • Needing to open the bowels less often than usual
  • Hard, dry stools that may be painful to pass
  • Straining when passing a bowel movement
  • Feeling that the bowel hasn't emptied fully after a movement
  • Bloated abdomen
  • Abdominal cramps

What can I do to help prevent constipation?

There are several lifestyle changes you can make to help manage constipation:

  • Eat a well-balanced diet high in fibre, including fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole-grain bread and cereal to add bulk to your stool and help you stay regular
  • Drink plenty of water - for adults, aim to drink at least 2L of fluid a day
  • Exercise regularly
  • Try to maintain a regular toilet time; going in the morning or soon after a meal when the bowel is most active can help
  • Don't ignore the urge to use the toilet

Which constipation treatments can help?

If lifestyle changes don't work well, it is important to discuss your options with your healthcare professional. Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist will advise you on how best to manage your constipation and whether a laxative is suitable for you.

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