Just today I had a client send me a message that reads, “Help! I’m constipated! What can I do? 🚫💩 Is happening here!”
Constipation during pregnancy is a real pain in the, well you know, for many. If you find yourself suffering from this common pregnancy complaint, grab your favorite beverage and a high fiber snack and continue reading below.
The mechanics of constipation during pregnancy.
During pregnancy, the hormone progesterone is responsible for nurturing the pregnancy from conception. Your ovaries produce progesterone in the early weeks after conception to maintain an optimal environment for your growing baby. Around 8-10 weeks the placenta takes over the production of progesterone to support the pregnancy, and the levels of progesterone in your body increase dramatically. The downside of elevated levels of progesterone is that it relaxes smooth muscle found in your digestive system and intestines. As a result, waste travels more slowly through your intestines, which may cause harder stools. The high levels of iron in your prenatal vitamins may also cause constipation.
As your pregnancy progresses, the baby and your growing uterus will begin to shift your internal organs. With this change comes increased pressure on your intestines. The decrease in blood flow to the digestive organs can further slow down digestion and the elimination of waste.
How to find relief.
There are many avenues to pursue when it comes to relieving and preventing constipation during pregnancy. For some, it may take a combination of a few different approaches to find what works best for you.
Increase fiber in your diet. Aim for at least 25-30 grams of quality fiber a day. Some individuals may need more to find relief. High fiber foods include:
- Raspberries – 1 cup = 6.4 grams
- Pears – 1 medium = 5.1 grams
- Strawberries – 1 cup = 4.4 grams
- Blueberries – 1 cup = 4.2 grams
- Bran Cereal – 1 cup = 19.9 grams
- Black Beans (cooked) – 1 cup = 13.9 grams
- Red Lentils (cooked) – 1 cup = 13.6
- Kidney Beans (cooked) – 1 cup = 11.6 grams
- Avocado – 1 medium = 11.8 grams
- Peas (cooked) – 1 cup = 8.8 grams
- Kale (cooked) – 1 cup = 7.2 grams
- Winter Squash (cooked) – 1 cup = 6.2 grams
Avocado toast made with one medium avocado on whole wheat bread will give you 13.8 grams of fiber to start off your day! Or try one cup of bran cereal with a cup of raspberries for a whopping 26.3 grams of fiber!
If you think you’re drinking enough, you’re probably not, especially here in Arizona! Aim for 10-12 cups of water/fluids each day. That’s 80 – 96 ounces a day. It’s no surprise that many individuals find it hard to consume water. Perhaps they don’t like the taste, or they are simply too busy and forget to hydrate. When you combine fiber and good hydration, the foods that are now moving more slowly through your intestines move more easily. The more fluid and fiber, the easier things will pass.
Making hydration fun and stylish will help make it easier.
First, pick out a new water bottle! My favorite water bottles (and I have many) are the double wall, insulated kind. I like my water cold and in the Tucson heat, it’s hard to keep water icy cold all day. My favorite brands are S’Well and Hydroflask. Having a fun bottle is only part of the equation. Now you need to remember to drink! If you love technology, consider using a fun addition to your water bottle. Ulla is a fun gadget that reminds you to hydrate. These cute hydration bands will blink if you have not taken a drink from your bottle within the last 40 minutes. If you prefer a discreet smartphone app you can try Daily Water for iOs or Water Drink Reminder for Android.
Moderate exercise helps to stimulate the intestines which will increase blood flow. Increased blood flow can help to get the waste moving. Gentle exercise such as walking or swimming is a great place to start. Swimming is my favorite pregnancy exercise. The buoyancy of the water helps to alleviate many pregnancy-related aches and pains. Plus it is easier on the joints! Aim for 20-30 minutes of exercise 3 times as week. Hydration during exercising is essential. If you work up a sweat be sure to consume extra water. As always, check with your doctor before starting any new exercise program and follow all recommendations for bed or pelvic rest.
Check your prenatal vitamins.
The extra iron in prenatal vitamins can be a common cause of constipation. Discuss your individual need for iron supplementation with your doctor. Dietary sources of iron can be found in:
- White Beans (cooked) – 1 cup = 8 mg
- Lentils (cooked0 1/2 cup = 3 mg
- Spinach (boiled) 1/2 cup = 3mg
Combining your fiber and your iron for the win!
Over the counter options.
There are over the counter fiber supplements available to help create larger (easier to pass) stools and to help improve the viscosity of the “flow”. Before taking any over the counter supplements or remedies, check with your prenatal care provider to find the one that is right for you.
Remember, constipation during pregnancy is something that up to half of all expecting individuals experience. You are not alone! Don’t be afraid to reach out to your care provider or your Tucson Doula for help!