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Constipation during pregnancy

Is Constipation a sign of pregnancy?
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Doctor Answers (1) on Constipation during pregnancy

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Ms. Swati Kapoor Bangalore | Dietitian/Nutritionist
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Before answering the question directly, it is important for us to understand what constipation is,Constipation refers to infrequent bowel movements or difficulty in passing stools which are usually hard , it often gives the sensation of incomplete bowel evacuation. Some of the causes of constipation are → Antacid medicines containing calcium or aluminum → Changes in your usual diet or activities → Colon cancer → Eating a lot of dairy products. → Eating disorders → Irritable bowel syndrome There are several signs of pregnancy. Most commonly - A missed period is one of the surest signs of pregnancy - As pregnancy hormones increase the blood supply to your breasts, you may feel a tingling sensation around your nipples,this can be one of the earliest signs of pregnancy. - Other signs include vomiting usually during the morning hours , darker nipples and a feeling of fatigue or lethargy. - Food cravings can also be a sign of pregnancy. Now as seen above, constipation is not a symptom of pregnancy per se, but is associated with it. You may wonder how? During pregnancy the ovaries and placenta produce a hormone called progesterone ( pro- for and gesterone meaning pregnancy) The main function of this hormone is to facilitate and maintain pregnancy like its name suggests but this hormone has other effects on the body too , one of which is relaxation of smooth muscles. Both the bladder and the bowels in our body are lined with smooth muscles which facilitate the evacuation of their lumens respectively. Relaxation of these smooth muscles lead to decrease in pressure which is involved in expelling stool and urine, hence causing constipation and difficulty in urination. By this we can say that constipation is not a sign of pregnancy but a consequence of the hormones produced in excess during pregnancy. Another cause proposed to cause constipation in pregnancy is that the uterus enlarges considerably , to such an extent that it compresses the bowel and bladder. Compression of the bowel often leads to reduction in its lumen, which is the passage for stools. This would require an increase in pressure to evacuate the stools but due to smooth muscle relaxation as explained above the passage of stools becomes even more difficult hence aggravating constipation. Iron medication which is prescribed during pregnancy is also known to cause difficulty in expulsion of stools. Hence it is often important for a layman to understand that constipation is not exactly a symptom of pregnancy but is a condition associated with it.
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