What can I do if I have constipation during pregnancy?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

Many pregnant women complain of constipation. Signs of constipation include having hard, dry stools; fewer than three bowel movements per week; and painful bowel movements.

Higher levels of hormones due to pregnancy slow down digestion and relax muscles in the bowels leaving many women constipated. Plus, the pressure of the expanding uterus on the bowels can contribute to constipation. Drink 8 to 10 glasses of water daily. Don't drink caffeine. Eat fiber-rich foods, such as fresh or dried fruit, raw vegetables, and whole-grain cereals and breads. Try mild physical activity.

This answer is based on source information from the National Women's Health Information Center.

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

A number of factors can contribute to constipation during pregnancy. These factors include:

  • Hormone changes and the pressure of the growing fetus on the intestines may slow the passage of food through the digestive tract
  • Low fluid intake results in less fluid in the digestive track and hardening of the stool
  • Iron supplements which are known to cause constipation

Maintaining good fluid intake and healthy diet and staying active can all help to prevent constipation during pregnancy.

Boston Women's Health Book Collective
Administration Specialist

During pregnancy, our blood volume increases and removes a lot of water from our digestive system. The hormones of pregnancy slow down the digestive system, and many women become constipated. It is usually easy to relieve constipation in pregnancy with diet and exercise. Here are some tips:

  • Increase the amount of water you drink.
  • Try to drink at least eight big glasses of water every day.
  • Munch on dried fruit—prunes, apricots, or raisins—as a daily snack.
  • Add whole grains and bran to your diet.
  • Cooked brown rice is excellent for this, as are oat and wheat bran.
  • Increase your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Try eating yogurt. Some women find that it stimulates digestion and eases constipation. It is easy to digest and is also a good source of calcium.
  • Get some exercise every day.
  • Give yourself time. Taking a walk in the morning, drinking a warm cup of mint or ginger tea, and waiting for your body to signal you that it is time to have a bowel movement may be all you need to stay regular.
Our Bodies, Ourselves: Pregnancy and Birth

More About this Book

Our Bodies, Ourselves: Pregnancy and Birth

Dr. Margaret L. McKenzie, MD
OBGYN (Obstetrician & Gynecologist)

Constipation is a common complaint of pregnancy. Watch this video to learn what you can do to prevent constipation.

The normal hormonal changes of pregnancy, pressure from the growing baby on the intestines and iron supplements all contribute to constipation. If you are suffering from constipation, try drinking more water and eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, bran and whole grains. Moderate exercise such as walking can help improve regularity. Your doctor may also suggest a fiber substitute or stool softeners. Hemorrhoids, which are varicose veins around the anus and rectum, are caused by pushing hard and bearing down for bowel movements. The best way to avoid hemorrhoids is to prevent constipation.

Paula Greer
Midwifery Nursing Specialist

Constipation is quite common during pregnancy. Sometimes the iron in the vitamins are constipating and sometimes it is the growing baby pushing on the intestines and the stomach along with not getting enough fluid and fiber in the diet. Many women are unaware that you need to make a fresh water supply for the baby every day in addition to the fluid they need for themselves. Pregnant women need a MINIMUM of 8-10 glasses of water a day. If you are experiencing problems with constipation the first step you should take is to ensure a adequate fluid intake. Increasing your fiber in your diet will also help. Plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables along with whole grain breads and cereals will give you some of the fiber you need. A daily walk will also help keep things moving in the right direction. If you still have a problem talk to your OB/GYN or nurse midwife about taking a fiber supplement, or changing your vitamins to one with a stool softener.

You may experience some constipation during your pregnancy. This occurs partly because your baby puts pressure on your bowel, and partly because of hormonal changes that slow the passage of food through your digestive system. Iron supplements, particularly in high doses, can sometimes add to the problem.

To minimize constipation, eat foods that are high in fiber, exercise, drink lots of nonalcoholic and noncaffeinated fluids and talk to your health care professional about switching supplements.

Constipation is a common complaint for pregnant women. Drinking plenty of fluids, exercising daily, eating raw vegetables and fruits, and eating bran and bran products are good natural remedies. If these don’t work, your doctor may prescribe a mild laxative or stool softener.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.