What kinds of laxatives can be used during pregnancy?

Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Practitioner

Bulk-forming laxatives that contain psyllium (for example, Metamucil) or methylcellulose (for example, Citrucel) are considered safe for long-term use in pregnancy. They are also known as fiber supplements. They absorb moisture and help create softer, bulky stools that are easier to pass. They often come as a drink mix and are taken daily with up to 2 glasses of water.

Osmotic laxatives can be used if bulk-forming laxatives do not work. Laxatives that contain lactulose (for example, Constulose) or sorbitol are considered safe for short-term use in pregnancy. The sugars in these laxatives draw water into the bowel from surrounding tissues and help create softer stools. This type of laxative often comes as a liquid. You may need a prescription for this medicine.

Stimulant laxatives may be used with extreme caution. They are reserved for severe constipation that does not get better with other treatment. Laxatives that contain senna (for example, Ex-Lax) or bisacodyl (for example, Feen-a-Mint) may be safe for occasional, short-term use during pregnancy. These drugs encourage the squeezing action of the intestines. They may work best as a rectal suppository. Your doctor will decide if you need this type of laxative. 

This answer was adapted from Sharecare's award-winning AskMD app. Start a consultation now to find out what's causing your symptoms, learn how to manage a condition, or find a doctor. 

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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.