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Constipation In Pregnancy

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Dear blogger,

The month of December is declared a constipation awareness month. Since constipation happens over all age groups and reasons vary accordingly. We will dip deeper into constipation in pregnancy.

Pregnancy is a milestone which ultimately builds up a woman. It is a phase wherein women become mothers. The journey of pregnancy is equally meaningful and wonderful. The discomforts on the road to pregnancy have a great quality of life.

Pregnancy is much awaited and cherished phase of the couple and any discomfort needs to be addressed. When it comes to constipation in pregnancy, is a simple condition to treat under the doctor’s guidance.

Let’s understand first, what is Constipation?

Constipation simply means bowel or stool evacuation movements that are infrequent or hard to pass. Constipation is a common cause of painful stool passing. Infrequent bowel movements simply mean, typically three times or fewer bowel movements per week.

The digested food then gets converted into energy with the help of gut bacteria. In this process, the colon plays a very important role. The colon’s major functions are to conserve water, facilitate bacterial digestion of dietary fibre, and retain and throw out faeces.

The undigested food then becomes heavy while mixing with water and through colons, it is pushed further and thrown out as faeces. 20 % of women experience constipation during pregnancy. However, constipation will often resolve itself as pregnancy advances.

What causes constipation during pregnancy?

As pregnancy is a physiological process which alters food habits, which may be due to hormonal changes or nausea and vomiting, Low levels of dietary fibre in the diet can contribute to constipation during pregnancy. There are, however, other reasons why constipation is more common during pregnancy.

An increase in the pregnancy hormone, progesterone reduces gut efficiency and that’s why food tends to move slowly through your intestines. This is called reduced gastric motility.

Another probable cause of constipation is the medicines and supplements women take during pregnancy. Medicines which are prescribed for nausea and vomiting, antacids for heartburn, and strong painkillers can cause constipation in some women. Supplements like iron, calcium, and multivitamins too can cause constipation.

Do constipated women before pregnancy more likely to experience constipation during pregnancy?

That is true. Women who have had constipation before pregnancy are more likely to have constipation during pregnancy.

As constipation is often associated with straining which put extra pressure on the colon. Due to this, the colon forms a megacolon. During pregnancy, the colon health is affected further due to pressure on the abdomen. So there are chances of increased incidences of constipation during pregnancy if you have a history of constipation. It is better to prevent constipation early, rather than wait to treat it later.

How does constipation impact health during pregnancy?

Constipation negatively affects patients’ daily lives as well as their quality of life. The most common complaint of Constipation is second only to nausea during pregnancy.

Besides the discomfort of constipation symptoms, straining during defecating can damage the pudendal nerve and reduce the supportive function of the pelvic floor musculature.

Is constipation a sign of something more serious?

While most cases of constipation are not a sign of illness but complications of it during pregnancy such as haemorrhoids, and faecal impaction are annoying and reduce the quality of life. You need to talk to a doctor if you could see blood in the stool.

Does constipation affect the baby who is still in the womb?

You need to be concerned about health during pregnancy, rather than worrying about the baby. Since the discomfort of constipation occurs in the mother’s gut and bowels and isn’t passed on to the baby. Most of the prescribed medicines like laxatives are not well absorbed into the bloodstream and can be taken during pregnancy and breastfeeding, but always take medicines under the supervision of a doctor.

Will constipation continue even after delivery?

There are more chances of constipation which may continue after birth. Women who have had a caesarean often experience constipation for a few days until regular bowel movements return. Women who have stitches after a vaginal birth may hesitate to go to the toilet, which can cause constipation. Medications like painkillers after delivery may cause constipation. After the birth of the child, the entire rhythm and concentration changes which often results in self-neglect. New mothers are often busier than usual in the first few weeks and months of delivery. It is hormonal changes during pregnancy followed by breastfeeding concerns that keep all mothers busy.

Avoiding constipation during pregnancy with home remedies helps.

1.     During pregnancy, women should drink 8 to 12 cups (64 to 96 ounces) of water every day. Water has many benefits. It helps in digestion and helps form the amniotic fluid around the foetus. Water helps nutrients to circulate in the body and helps waste leave the body and reduces constipation.

2.     Have a high-fibre Diet: Diet should be rich in high-fibre foods such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans, prunes and bran. Pregnant women should aim to include 25 to 30 grams per day of fibre in their diet.

3.     Exercise regularly and manage physical activities: involve moderate exercises which stimulate bowel movements, improve intestinal function, and prevent constipation. Women should aim to exercise for 20 to 30-minute periods at least three times a week but ideally, they should be active daily

In nutshell, do note, constipation in pregnancy is due to Hormones and lifestyle changes, which are the major culprits.

It is not a good idea to just sit on the toilet and push the hard stool with straining & pressure. Pushing harder to try and force a bowel movement can increase intra-abdominal pressure, which can lead to other GI issues, like haemorrhoids and anal fissures. These concerns can burden the journey of pregnancy.

We need to ensure and correct constipation with extra precaution during pregnancy. There are many medications available which are strictly to be taken under a doctor’s guidance along with lifestyle changes. Let every pregnancy be constipation free.


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