How to Relieve Pregnancy Constipation

Constipation During Pregnancy

Of the many positive things women look forward to during pregnancy, such as the pregnancy glow or the first kick, constipation is not on the list. The discomfort constipation brings about is not pleasant, nor are some of the other outcomes caused by constipation.

Below are the common causes of constipation in pregnancy and ways to relieve it.

Hemorrhoids During Pregnancy

Did you know?

Common consequences of untreated constipation are hemorrhoids and fissures. Read more about these issues below and find out how to avoid them!

Side Effects of Pregnancy

What was your worst pregnancy ailment?

  • Morning sickness
  • Backache
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
See results without voting

Pregnancy Constipation

Here are a number of things that cause constipation during pregnancy:

1. Increased levels of hormones coursing through the pregnant body. This is sometimes one of the first signs of pregnancy, even though it isn’t the most common—or preferred—one. Certain hormones that our bodies produce during pregnancy, estrogen and progesterone, cause the digestive system to slow down and the muscles of the bowels (small bowel and colon included) to relax. Those two reactions then make the elimination move slowly, hence the inability to go to the bathroom easily or without strain.

2. Growth of uterus. Before you are pregnant, your uterus is about the size of a pear. By the time you reach the end of the pregnancy, your uterus will grow to fill your abdomen from the pelvic bone up to the rib cage. Can you imagine what that does to the organs in your abdomen? The organs—stomach, intestines, etc.—are pushed up, pushed down, and pushed aside. A lot of pressure is put on the digestive tract due to this, again causing things to slow down towards the end of pregnancy.

3. Iron and calcium supplements. When you visit your OB/Gyn for the first time, he/she is going to recommend that you take prenatal vitamins or supplements to make sure that you fill in any gaps in your nutrition. Iron plays a vital role in this: it is necessary for helping the developing blood supply of the baby and for aiding in your expanding blood supply. Without iron, you may suffer from anemia, which causes more problems such as dizziness, fainting, etc. Calcium is needed during pregnancy to help the baby’s muscle, heart, nerve and bone development. Without enough of it, your baby will draw your calcium store from your bones, causing you to potentially be at greater risk of osteoporosis (weakening and breaking in the bones) later in life.

Too much of these two supplements, however, can cause constipation. Watch your intake of both, in food and in vitamin supplements. You should get about 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily (although if you are 18 and under, your amount increases to 1,300 mg to account for your own need of calcium to grow) and an average of 27 mg of iron per day. Basically, you can meet these needs by taking a prenatal vitamin and eating four servings of calcium rich foods and a few servings of iron rich foods.

4. Increased use of antacids with calcium. Another fun part of pregnancy is heartburn and/or acid reflux. Remember how I mentioned that hormones relax muscles and the growing uterus pushes other organs? This has an effect on the valve between your esophagus and stomach as well, allowing stomach acid to creep up and cause irritation. A common solution for that is to take antacids with calcium, but taking additional calcium on top of the amount you receive from prenatal vitamins and food can cause constipation.

Food High in Fiber

Make some healthy dietary changes to combat constipation!
Make some healthy dietary changes to combat constipation! | Source

List of High Fiber Foods

Pear, with skin
1 medium
5.5 grams
Apple, with skin
1 medium
4.4 grams
1 cup
8 grams
Whole wheat spaghetti
1 cup
6.2 grams
1 cup
4 grams
Popcorn, air popped
3 cups
3.5 grams
Brown rice
1 cup
3.5 grams
Sunflower seed kernels
3/4 cup
3.9 grams
1 oz
3.5 grams
Baked beans
1 cup
10.4 grams
1 cup
8.8 grams
1 cup
5.1 grams
Sweet corn, cooked
1 cup
4.2 grams
Baked potato, with skin
1 medium
2.9 grams
Tomato paste
1.4 cup
2.7 grams
Need to get fiber? Eat some of these fiber rich foods. Source: Mayo Clinic Website (For more fiber rich foods, visit the Mayo Clinic online!)

Constipation Relief During Pregnancy

Here are some healthy choices you can make with your diet to help treat or prevent pregnancy constipation:

◊ Increase fiber intake. Fiber is necessary in our diets to help our bodies flush out stool. A pregnant woman should consume about 25-35 grams daily. It can be found in fruit, vegetables, whole grain foods, legumes or dried fruit.

If you are not used to this much fiber in your diet, slowly increase the amount you take in every day. Too much fiber all at once can cause another not-so-fun pregnancy symptom, flatulence.

◊ Drink more water. Water is also necessary in our diets to help flush out stool, along with having the other benefit of keeping us hydrated. A pregnant woman should drink about eight 8oz cups (64 oz or 2 quarts) a day of water or drinks that contain water like fruit/vegetable juices, milk, decaffeinated coffee/tea, or sparkling water. Your best bet, however, is to stick with the water so you won’t have to worry about excess calories or sugar.

Try to spread the recommended amount of water throughout the day instead of all at once. You need to keep your body consistently hydrated, plus you don’t want to suffer from another not-so-fun pregnancy complaint: frequent and urgent urination.

◊ Monitor vitamins and supplements. As already mentioned above, it is necessary for a pregnant woman to take prenatal vitamins or supplements to add to the vitamins and minerals in foods consumed daily. Be aware of what is in these vitamins and supplements. Too much calcium and too much iron can cause constipation.

If it is recommended that you take a separate iron supplement, ask about taking a stool softener to accompany it.

◊ Drink prune juice. Another common solution, although not my favorite, is to drink prune juice to help relieve pregnancy constipation. Prune juice contains a natural laxative to help with muscle contractions in the bowels plus certain sugars that help the intestines draw water from the body to eliminate stool.

Home Remedies for Constipation : Remember These FEW Words!

If you can remember to increase your fiber, exercise and water, you'll be well on your way to preventing constipation!
If you can remember to increase your fiber, exercise and water, you'll be well on your way to preventing constipation! | Source

When to Call Your Doctor about Constipation

Constipation rarely becomes a serious problem, but it is important to know when to call your doctor.

Call your doctor if any of the following occur:

  • Lack of bowel movements for three or more days
  • Feeling very sick or weak due to lack of bowel movements
  • Vomiting occurs, especially if it's yellow or green (an indication of bile)
  • Fever caused by lack of bowel movements
  • Severe pain

How to Relieve Constipation During Pregnancy

Here are some lifestyle changes you can make to treat or prevent pregnancy constipation:

◊ Go to the bathroom when you need to have a bowel movement. This seems like a no-brainer, but many women resist the urge to have a bowel movement due to inconvenience or other reasons. The more you eliminate, the less likely stool is going to build up in your bowels and cause constipation.

◊ Get up and move. Having an exercise routine can help you relieve constipation. How? It helps food move faster through the large intestine and helps the bowel muscles to contract, moving waste along.

If you are used to an exercise routine, your body should already benefit from movement. If you don’t have an exercise routine or are generally stationary throughout the day, it’s best to start out with the best exercise available for pregnant women: walking. Walking can help keep things moving in your body, even if it’s just a walk around the office or a walk around the block. Aim for 10-30 minutes of walking or other light exercise a day to help with bowel movements.

◊ Eat smaller meals to combat heartburn and eat slowly. Why combat heartburn to relieve constipation? If you don’t have heartburn, there will be no need for antacids. Without antacids, there’s no need to worry about taking in extra calcium.

By eating smaller meals and eating slowly, you are giving your stomach and digestive system the chance to process foods without causing heartburn or having things getting blocked up. Also, if you eat six smaller meals opposed to three large meals, your body can move the smaller amounts of food along much easier.

◊ Ask your doctor for a laxative (last resort). If none of these suggestions work and you have been constipated for three days or more, your doctor may prescribe a laxative such as one with milk of magnesia. Do not take anything other than what is prescribed by your doctor!

Constipation and Pain : Hemorrhoids and Fissures

If you don’t do something about your constipation, you mind end up with one of two unpleasant consequences that will make going to the bathroom even worse: hemorrhoids or fissures. Hemorrhoids are bulging blood vessels in the rectal area that can be very painful and potentially bleed. Fissures are tiny tears in the skin of the rectal area that can also bleed. Both are caused by pressure on the rectal area from the growing uterus and straining from constipation. Luckily, both can be avoided if you take the steps to relieve constipation and have a healthy diet that will keep your bowel movements regular.


These are my sources for my research, plus they were my favorite books to go to when I was pregnant:

Your Pregnancy Week by Week by Glade Curtis

What to Expect When You're Expecting by Heidi Murkoff

Your Pregnancy and Childbirth Month to Month by the American College of Gynecologists

More by this Author

Comments 22 comments

ThePracticalMommy profile image

ThePracticalMommy 4 years ago from United States Author

EuroCafeAuLait, popcorn is a great way to get fiber, isn't it? I'm glad you liked FEW; it is my way to remember to stay healthy. :)

Thank you very much for reading and commenting!

EuroCafeAuLait profile image

EuroCafeAuLait 4 years ago from Croatia, Europe

The FEW words is a great anagram for good health even for non-pregnant people. I've been lucky - no real issues with constipation in pregnancy, but I do know that POPCORN is a great source of roughage and does the job! Great table, really beautifully done.

ThePracticalMommy profile image

ThePracticalMommy 4 years ago from United States Author

sofs, I'm sorry to see you struggled with this is both of your pregnancies! I'm glad you found it to be informative. :) Thanks for your comment!

sofs profile image

sofs 4 years ago

Well written and informative. I wish I had this information when I struggled with both my pregnancies. Thanks for the share. Have a great day!

ThePracticalMommy profile image

ThePracticalMommy 4 years ago from United States Author

randomcreative, thank you very much for your comment! It really is as simple as eating enough fiber, drinking more water and moving around, barring any other complications.

randomcreative profile image

randomcreative 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Great resource! The list of high fiber foods is really helpful as are the quick fix tips, such as drinking more water and moving around.

ThePracticalMommy profile image

ThePracticalMommy 4 years ago from United States Author

GoodLady, lots of luck to your daughter-in-law! I'm glad that even though she couldn't read it that the information was useful to her. :)

ThePracticalMommy profile image

ThePracticalMommy 4 years ago from United States Author

teaches12345, GoodLady, Brainy Bunny and twoseven, thank you all very much for your comments! I'm glad this is turning out to be a very useful hub. :D

twoseven profile image

twoseven 4 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

Great info! I was looking for exactly this kind of information when I was in my first trimester and this is way better than anything I found online at the time. I have to emphasize that prune juice really helps, and I think it's the fastest and most effective if you're really struggling. Also, eating a couple of prunes (though also not my favorite!) really helps too. Thanks for the great info!

Brainy Bunny profile image

Brainy Bunny 4 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

Great and thorough information. I like the handy table of fiber amounts in various foods.

GoodLady profile image

GoodLady 4 years ago from Rome, Italy

I'm staying with my daughter in law right now who's having a hard time of her four month pregnancy so it's great to tell her all that you have written (she can't read the Hub herself because she is Italian!). Her eyes lit up with the information. Thanks so much. This Hub is so helpful.

Voting up.

teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

Voted up for the great information, advice and well written hub. I suffered leg cramps and backaches more than anything else -- thankful that this was not an added concern. Thanks for sharing and it will help many mommies-to-be.

ThePracticalMommy profile image

ThePracticalMommy 4 years ago from United States Author

Just Ask Susan, Judi Bee, and angela_michelle, thank you all so much for your comments! I'm glad this guide would be useful to pregnant women. :)

angela_michelle profile image

angela_michelle 4 years ago from United States

This is definitely a very helpful, excellent resource for any pregnant woman!

Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 4 years ago from UK

Excellent resource for pregnancy. I was lucky in this regard when pregnant, but more than 12 years later I still feel I need to catch up on my sleep!

Just Ask Susan profile image

Just Ask Susan 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

It's been so long since I was pregnant but I wish I would have been able to read your hub way back when. Excellent guide.

ThePracticalMommy profile image

ThePracticalMommy 4 years ago from United States Author

Thanks, SimeyC! Best of luck to your daughter. :)

SimeyC profile image

SimeyC 4 years ago from NJ, USA

Very interesting hub - not much use to me, but will pass on to my pregnant daughter.

ThePracticalMommy profile image

ThePracticalMommy 4 years ago from United States Author

alissaroberts, I too was surprised by some of the foods, like raspberries, when I was doing the research for this hub. What a great way to get fiber! As a double bonus, you could add the raspberries to water to flavor it, which would work for both fluid intake and fiber intake. Yum!

Thank you for reading and commenting! :)

alissaroberts profile image

alissaroberts 4 years ago from Normandy, TN

A fantastic hub on one of the not so pleasant effects of pregnancy. A couple of the food items on the chart surprised me to be so full of fiber. This will be a great guide to anyone suffering through this pain. Great job - voted up and useful!

ThePracticalMommy profile image

ThePracticalMommy 4 years ago from United States Author

twinstimes2, thank you very much! Getting enough fiber is so essential for our health, so it is still relevant even if you're not expecting. :)

twinstimes2 profile image

twinstimes2 4 years ago from Ohio

Awesome resource for pregnant women! I hoping not to use it again personally! Love the chart. So hopeful for a quick glance on how to increase fiber and which foods are best. Great Hub!

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