Pregnancy Constipation Remedies

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Pregnancy constipation is a common problem. In many cases, constipation is triggered by pregnancy-related hormonal changes. Pregnancy constipation may also occur as a result of the uterus putting pressure on the intestine or rectum.

Pregnancy constipation may be especially common during the first trimester. In these first three months of pregnancy, women tend to experience an increase in levels of a hormone called progesterone. Changes in progesterone levels may slow the rate at which food passes through the digestive tract and, in turn, increase the risk of constipation.

In order to treat pregnancy constipation safely and effectively, it's crucial that you consult your doctor before using any natural remedies. Self-treating and avoiding or delaying standard care can have serious consequences.

Here's a look at the science behind natural remedies to relieve pregnancy constipation.

1) Fiber

Fiber may be effective in the treatment of pregnancy constipation, according to a 2004 research review from Current Gastroenterology Reports. Sizing up the available research on pregnancy-related constipation, the review's authors found that using food or supplements to increase fiber intake appears to offer constipation relief.

There are two main types of fiber: insoluble fiber (which gives stools bulk and makes them easier to pass) and soluble fiber (which dissolves in water and forms a gel-like substance in the intestines). Since insoluble fiber may be particularly helpful in treating pregnancy constipation, consider increasing your intake of insoluble-fiber-rich foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, wheat bran, and flaxseed.

When it comes to choosing a fiber supplement, certain fiber sources may be especially effective. In a 2001 report published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, for instance, scientists noted that supplements containing bran or wheat fiber were likely to alleviate pregnancy constipation.

While popular fiber supplements such as Metamucil contain psyllium husk, little is known about the safety and effectiveness of using psyllium husk for pregnancy constipation.

To reduce your risk of bloating and gas, make sure to increase your fiber intake slowly. It's also important to drink plenty of water when following a high-fiber diet.

People on a gluten-free diet should look for gluten-free foods, such as brown rice, flaxseeds, gluten-free oatmeal, quinoa, lentils or amaranth.

2) Senna

In the 2004 research review from Current Gastroenterology Reports, the authors noted that senna may also help treat pregnancy constipation. A plant found in supplements and tea, senna contains anthraquinones (compounds that act as powerful laxatives).

Senna may cause a number of side effects, such as intense cramping and nausea. In addition, senna should be avoided by people with heart conditions and digestive disorders (including ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease). Talk to your doctor before using senna for pregnancy constipation.

3) Herbal Remedies

Some research shows that certain herbs (such as cascara sagrada, rhubarb, and aloe) may help ease constipation. However, there is currently a lack of studies testing the safety and effects of these herbs on women with pregnancy constipation.

Due to the limited research on the safety of supplements during pregnancy, it's too soon to recommend herbal supplements for pregnancy constipation.

4) Exercise

Pregnant women may also be able to protect against constipation by getting regular exercise. This can be as simple as taking a healthy, brisk walk. Unless you are restricted to bed rest, be sure to include movement and exercise throughout the day.

5) Water

Staying hydrated is important for preventing and relieving constipation, especially during pregnancy. Be sure you are drinking enough water. If you have adopted a healthy high-fiber diet, more water is needed as well.

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Article Sources
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  1. Trottier M, Erebara A, Bozzo P. Treating constipation during pregnancy. Can Fam Physician. 2012;58(8):836-8.

  2. Prather CM. Pregnancy-related constipation. Curr Gastroenterol Rep. 2004;6(5):402-4. doi:10.1007/s11894-004-0057-7

  3. Jewell DJ, Young G. Interventions for treating constipation in pregnancy. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2001;(2):CD001142. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD001142

  4. Ulbricht C, Conquer J, Costa D, et al. An evidence-based systematic review of senna (Cassia senna) by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration. J Diet Suppl. 2011;8(2):189-238. doi:10.3109/19390211.2011.573186

Additional Reading
  • Baron TH, Ramirez B, Richter JE. "Gastrointestinal Motility Disorders During Pregnancy ." Ann Intern Med. 1993 Mar 1;118(5):366-75.
  • Derbyshire E, Davies J, Costarelli V, Dettmar P. "Diet, Physical Inactivity and the Prevalence of Constipation Throughout and After Pregnancy." Matern Child Nutr. 2006 Jul;2(3):127-34.
  • Jewell DJ, Young G. "Interventions for Treating Constipation in Pregnancy. " Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2001;(2):CD001142.
  • National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. "Constipation". NIH Publication No. 07–2754. July 2007.
  • Prather CM. "Pregnancy-Related Constipation." Curr Gastroenterol Rep. 2004 Oct;6(5):402-4.