Constipation during pregnancy

Kathy Wheddon Nutritional Therapist DipION

Pregnancy is one of the body’s most amazing achievements, in its ability to create, carry and nurture life. But, of course, there might be a few uncomfortable symptoms along the way, and one of those can be suffering from constipation. Constipation is a common issue that can occur at any stage of pregnancy, and it’s likely to be down to the hormonal changes that the body is experiencing. Frequent constipation can also follow if there is a need to supplement with an iron supplement to avoid anemia. There are a few things you can do to try to prevent it from happening, or to relieve it if it does.

pregnant woman holding tummy

Quite often people with mild constipation only need to wait for a few days and things return to normal. Sometimes simply drinking more water or eating more roughage can bring about quick results and get things moving. However, the first thing many people reach for is a laxative, either a natural food laxative (like prunes or rhubarb), or a medicinal laxative.

Laxatives can come with side effects, ranging from excess wind and bloating to abdominal cramps and diarrhoea. They should only be taken for short-term relief, as using for longer periods of time can increase the risk of bowel dependency, and the body will rely on the extra help that laxatives provide. This means that when you stop taking the laxative, your bowel is less efficient at digesting food than it was before. Additionally, not all pharmaceutical laxatives are safe for use during pregnancy. You should always be mindful to consult your doctor or pharmacist before you choose to take an over the counter laxative.

With that in mind, you might feel more comfortable taking a natural approach. The same recommendations apply for constipation during pregnancy as any other time. Look to eat more roughage (dietary fibre) and to drink at least 1.5 to 2 litres of water every day. You might also want to consider taking a probiotic & prebiotic supplement, which naturally encourages bowel movements and is safe to take during pregnancy. Do your research to find one that is well-trialled and will specifically help to target symptoms related to constipation. The great thing about probiotics is that they don’t interact with any medication that you’re already taking, and will not cause the dependency that a laxative can result in.

Whichever method you choose, be sure to check with your doctor before taking any medication during pregnancy.

Find out more:

Probiotics for pregnancy (in the Probiotics Learning Lab)

Constipation in newborns