Irregular bowel movements causing a bloated, gassy, clogged-up feeling are a very regular pregnancy complaint. Constipation tends to start as early as progesterone levels rise, around the second to third month of pregnancy. It may get worse as pregnancy progresses and your uterus grows.
Causes Of Constipation during pregnancy
Pregnancy hormones are the culprit behind constipation. Progesterone causes the muscles in your bowels to relax, allowing food to hang around longer in the digestive tract. The upside is there's added time for nutrients to be absorbed into your bloodstream and reach your baby. The downside is you end up with a waste-product traffic jam. Your expanding uterus also takes up valuable space normally occupied by your bowel, cramping its usual activity.
1. Fight back with fiber: Fiber-rich foods help you eliminate waste; aim for 25 to 35 grams each day. Check the food labels if you want, but there's no need to do the math. Instead, focus on simply eating plenty of whole-grain cereals and breads, legumes (peas and beans), fresh fruits and veggies (raw or lightly cooked — preferably with skin left on) and dried fruits. Going for the green can also help you go, in both the form of leafy green vegetables and kiwi fruit, which packs a potent laxative effect. Sample from this fiber-rich and tasty menu to get started.
2. Try adding some bran or psyllium to your diet, starting with a sprinkle and increasing as needed: Be sure to check with your doctor first before you do this, though, and don't go overboard, since these fiber powerhouses can carry away important nutrients before they can be absorbed.
3. Resist refined: Shun refined grains (white bread, white rice, refined cereals and pasta), which tend to back things up.
4. Drink up: Downing 12 to 13 full glasses of fluids (water, vegetable or fruit juice and broth) every day keeps solids moving through your digestive tract and makes your stool soft and easier to pass. You can also turn to warm liquids, including that health spa staple, hot water and lemon, to help stimulate peristalsis (the intestinal contractions that help you go). Prune juice is a good pick for truly tough cases, since it's a mild laxative.
5. Don't max out at mealtime: Big meals can overtax your digestive tract, leading to things getting backed up. Try eating six mini-meals a day rather than three large ones and you'll also experience less gas and bloating.Go when you gotta go. Regularly holding it in can weaken the muscles that control your bowels and lead to constipation, so try to go whenever you have to. Consider your supplements and medications. Ironically, many of the supplements and medications that do a pregnant body good (prenatal vitamins, calcium and iron supplements, and antacids) can exacerbate constipation. So check with your practitioner about alternatives (such as slow-release iron supplements) or adjustments in dosages until the situation improves. Also ask your practitioner about taking a magnesium supplement to help fight constipation. Taking it at night may relax achy muscles and help you sleep better, too.
6. Get your fill of probiotics: The probiotic acidophilus, found in yogurts that contain active cultures, stimulate the intestinal bacteria to break down food better to keep things moving. You can also ask your practitioner to recommend a good probiotic supplement in capsules, chewables or powder form that can be added to smoothies.
7. Get a move on: Regular exercise during pregnancy encourages regular bowel movements. Even just a 10-minute walk can get things moving, so make sure you're getting the recommended amount of practitioner-approved exercise.
8. Do your Kegels: Pelvic floor exercises can help keep you regular when practiced regularly. Stay away from stimulant laxatives. Not all laxatives and stool softeners (especially herbal or homemade ones) are safe for use during pregnancy. Talk to your practitioner before taking any constipation medication or remedy.