Constipation is recognized in several ways during pregnancy. You may have hard impacted stools that are difficult to pass or you may be going several days without having a bowel movement which can lead to abdominal cramps and pains. Constipation is also a problem when your stools occur in lots of small hard pieces rather than one whole piece. Constipation can cause you to strain when using the toilet which can cause or worsen hemorrhoids. If you are suffering from constipation, it can be for a number of reasons.
One of the most common reasons pregnant women are constipated is because of too much iron in the diet. This does not often occur from foods that you are eating, but from the prenatals you are taking. Prenatal vitamins often contain very high levels of iron. If you do not have an iron deficiency, you can try switching to prenatal vitamins with a lower dose of iron, reducing your intake of prenatals, switching to another brand, or you can forego prenatal vitamins during pregnancy and increase the beneficial food in your diet in order to make sure that you are getting proper nutrition.
Water also plays a key role in constipation during pregnancy. If you are not drinking enough fluids, you can become constipated. Try increasing your fluid intake. A good rule of thumb is just to keep a glass of water beside you wherever you are. You will take sips throughout the day without even thinking about it.
Another reason why pregnant women are often constipated is because of the hormone progesterone. Progesterone slows down the digestive tract and can cause stools to become impacted. There is, unfortunately, nothing that you can do about this, but you can try other methods to help relieve your constipation.
Lack of sufficient high-fiber foods is also a culprit. Try eating more fruits and vegetables, especially dried fruits like apricots and prunes, and get plenty of leafy green vegetables including kale, broccoli, and other greens. Breads and pastas should be 100% whole-grain. Fruit juices such as prune juice and orange juice also contain fiber.
Most healthcare professionals also agree that regular exercise helps with digestion and constipation. Be sure that you are getting plenty of good exercise, especially exercise that involves the legs such as bicycling, walking, and swimming.
Unless prescribed by a healthcare professional, NEVER take any kind of laxative during pregnancy, even natural forms, as they can cause uterine contractions and may start labor early. Especially avoid taking mineral oil. Mineral oil, a petroleum byproduct, has been known to cause a decrease in the absorption of vitamins and minerals by the body as well as other health problems.