Let’s get real. Let’s talk constipation. This is a subject one rarely likes to talk about and something I’ve only been able to read about on official or medicine websites. In pregnancy, it is one of the most common symptoms a woman can suffer and up to half of pregnant women get constipated. I wanted to share my experience so far of dealing with it (and overcoming it!), in the hopes that it helps some of you out there who might be suffering from it as well.
Why does constipation during pregnancy occur?
There are lots of reasons! An increase in progesterone during pregnancy slows down the intestine muscles and thus things start to move slowly (something that can also bring bloating and gases). Besides that, there’s more pressure on the rectum due to the ever-expanding uterus and more chances of dehydration because of the increased blood supply. Some prenatal vitamins’ iron content can also contribute to constipation, but hey, remember it’s perfectly normal. Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean you have to suffer!
What to do?
Having experienced constipation during pregnancy many times, a few during my first trimester, and lots of it during my second trimester, I’ve tried the good, the bad and the almost-ugly in natural remedies. Below is a list of things to eat or drink to alleviate constipation that have helped me, listed in order from those that helped me the least to those that helped me the most. Granted, I’m not an expert dietician so be sure to always check with your gynecologist or doctor when trying any of these remedies.
- Digestive cookies: these are more common in Europe. In our Spain trip, I tried taking them at breakfast and with my coffee, since they are said to contain more dietary fiber than regular cookies, though I never really saw results.
- A considerable increase in my fruit intake: pregnant women are advised to eat between 2-3 servings of ½ cup each of fruit. I increased this by half, focusing on fruits with more fiber such as:
- Mangoes: this was also influenced by my cravings! Each medium-sized mango has about 5 grams of dietary fiber.
- Plums, of every kind! Though each have only about 1 mg of fiber.
- Kiwi before breakfast: kiwis known to be a great source of Vitamin c (even more than the equivalent in orange!), apparently kiwi also have a naturally occurring enzyme that helps to digest proteins faster.
- Prenatal vitamins with added fiber: I took regular prenatal vitamins during my first trimester but then switched to a more natural option, Rainbow Light Prenatal Daily Duo, and things started moving at a normal speed. I think it was because they have non-constipating iron and 24 mg of digestive support components (I’m not sure what they do, but hey they worked!).
- Yogurt with probiotics: yummy, but not effective for me. My stomach is invincible.
- Ginger tea: this has been such a lifesaver throughout pregnancy! It helped me through first trimester nausea and it’s also great against bloating, since ginger has natural muscle relaxing properties, and is known to improve digestion. I try drinking about a cup a day.
- Lots and LOTS of fluids: water should be your best friend during pregnancy. It helps with hydration but also to pass more of the fiber you are consuming. Aim to drink more than 2 L. (66 oz) of water (or other liquids, natural juices, etc.) every day.
- Coffee: caffeine is a natural digestive aid. However, you got to remember that it’s also something that should be regulated during pregnancy (I limit my intake to less than 200 mg per day – that’s about 2 8-oz cups of regular brewed coffee or 4-5 cups of black tea /green tea).
- Prunes and prune juice: to some, their taste might be too bitter or disgusting, but these guys have been my most effective digestive buddies. Besides other beneficial properties, prunes have loads of dietary fiber: 3 prunes contain almost 4 grams and a whole cup of pitted prunes has about 12 grams! I eat about 4-5 prunes along with some yogurt after lunch as dessert and, on days I feel extra bloated, I’ve also eaten some in the morning or have drunk 1 glass of prune juice at night (try to get prune juice without added pulp, which might lead to bloating).
Things I didn’t try but that have worked for others:
- Exercise: this is known to boost your metabolism and thus aid in “bowel motility.” I don’t really exercise much beyond a good walk, so I can’t talk from experience.
- Stool softeners: many sites I’ve visited warn against laxatives, though there are some over-the-counter stool softener options for pregnant women. Again, always consult with your doctor before taking any medication.
- Drinking warm water after waking up: some people add honey and lemon to it as well.
Hope some of these natural remedies for constipation during pregnancy work for you! Let me know which other ones should I try of are effective! Happy pregnancy!
Some other good resources: