Constipation In Pregnancy
Causes, Prevention and Treatment Guide

Constipation in pregnancy is a very common problem, particularly in late pregnancy from the sixth month upwards. Whether you are in early or late pregnancy, here are top tips to help overcome constipation in pregnancy!

Every woman is believed to be constipated at one point or the other in the course of a pregnancy.

The severity could be so mild that an expectant mother might even not realize she is constipated, other than an irregularity in opening her bowel.

For some other mothers to be, constipation during pregnancy could pose a real challenge, causing a nagging abdominal pain, nausea, difficulty opening the bowel, feeling bloated, with loss of appetite.

Is that your case? What are the causes of constipation in pregnancy? Are there top tips to prevent constipation in early or late pregnancy? Are there safe medications to take for constipation even if you are pregnancy?

What Is Constipation

You can rightly say you are constipated whether you are pregnant or not, if you are passing infrequent stools (opening you bowel less than you normally would), or having difficulty opening your bowel. Some have tried to measure what is normal as an average of at least three bowel motions in a week.

The definition of constipation also include the presence of at least two of the following at more than one in four defecation:

  1. Straining on defecation
  2. The passage of lumpy or hard or dry stool
  3. Feeling of incomplete evacuation of the bowel
  4. Sensation of blockage of the back passage with stool
  5. Inability to pass stool as you would normally do.

Constipation is twice as common in women compared to men, and at least one in three expectant mothers will complain of being constipated. But what are the causes of constipation?

Causes of Constipation in Pregnancy

Being pregnant means that you are more likely to be constipated due to the following peculiarity pregnancy brings with it:

  • One of the hormones of pregnancy is called progesterone. This hormone causes the muscles of the uterus (womb) to relax and keep the pregnancy going. It also causes the muscles of the wall of the bowel to relax, leading to a slow transits of ingested material. This causes constipation.

  • Another cause of constipation in pregnancy is due to the pressure of the enlarging uterus on the abdomen, leading to compression of the bowels, and reduced transit time.

  • Iron and vitamin tables, commonly given in pregnancy is another frequent cause of constipation in pregnancy.

  • Reduced exercise levels are not uncommon in pregnancy.

  • There is also a lesser tendency to drink water, especially in early pregnancy when most mothers-to-be suffer with nausea, and want their mouth to be as dry as possible. This will also lead to constipation.

A low fiber diet, presence of diabetes, use of medications for depression, hypertension or pain killers containing codeine, and presence of irritable bowel syndrome are other factors that can predispose one to developing constipation in pregnancy.

So also is the presence of painful conditions like piles (also called haemorrhoid), anal fissure.

Symptoms of Constipation in Pregnancy

The symptoms of constipation in pregnancy are non-specific, and they may include one or a combination of any of the following:

  • Infrequent passage of stool
  • Feeling bloated
  • Passing foul smelling flatus or wind and more frequently than normal
  • Inability to stool as you would normally do, with or without pain in the back passage (anus) as attempt is made to stool
  • Feeling generally unwell, with low energy level,
  • Loss of appetite or reduced appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Feeling nauseated

Diagnosis of Constipation

Constipation, be it in early or late pregnancy is often diagnosed mainly from the story the patient gives. Rather than seeking to "prove" the presence of this condition, steps should be taken to relieve the symptoms.

If constipation must be diagnosed, a simple plain abdominal x-ray can be requested. This may show impaction of faeces in the large intestine.

Other tests that may be necessary include blood tests check thyroid levels, calcium levels, potassium the full blood count.

Treatment of Constipation Constipation in Pregnancy

The treatment of constipation in pregnancy is one that needs doing with lot of care.

This is the case, whether in early pregnancy, where drugs that may interfere with the developing child is to be avoided, or in late pregnancy, where you do not want to give laxatives that may stimulate the womb, and precipitate a premature labor.