How to get rid of constipation during pregnancy using natural remedies.
Congrats! You’re pregnant! Now that the morning sickness has passed, why are you still feeling so bloated? Gassy? Constipated?
Unfortunately, constipation is the second most common gastrointestinal complaint in pregnancy (nausea is the first, not surprisingly). Constipation can affect up to 38% of pregnant women.
Since over one-third of pregnant women experience constipation, let’s talk about some natural ways to help relieve constipation in pregnancy.
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What Causes Constipation in Pregnancy?
Constipation is having infrequent bowel movements (less than three per week), hard stools or difficulty passing stool.
Many women experience some degree of constipation during pregnancy because of changes in gastrointestinal motility.
Pregnancy can affect how contents such as food and fluid move through the digestive system.
There are multiple pregnancy-related changes that contribute to constipation. These include:
- Hormone changes that affect bowel motility. Progesterone levels increase during pregnancy. This is important because progesterone prevents the body from ovulating and prepares the breasts for milk production. Studies have shown that progesterone also decreases the activity of the muscles in the colon or large intestine (source). This causes the movement of waste products to sloowww down as they travel through the colon on their way to be expelled as a bowel movement.
- Increased water absorption from the intestines. Increased levels of aldosterone during pregnancy can increase water absorption in the colon. This can lead to harder and drier poop, which is more difficult to pass (source).
- Enlarging uterus . As it grows, the uterus can displace and compress the bowel which further slows down the movement of contents through the bowels.
All these changes are happening naturally in our bodies during pregnancy and can potentially lead to constipation. So what are some natural ways to relieve constipation while pregnant?
The following are general suggestions but make sure to always talk to your healthcare provider about the best treatment for you!
natural Ways To Relieve Constipation while pregnant
1. Increase Your Fiber Intake
Changing your diet is one of the easiest natural ways to help relieve constipation while pregnant.
How does fiber help improve constipation?
Fiber is the part of vegetables, fruits, and grains that is not digested by our bodies. There are two kinds of fiber: soluble and insoluble.
Soluble fiber dissolves in water. It forms a gel-like substance that helps your stool pass smoothly through your bowels (source). Soluble fiber can slow down the passage of food from the stomach to the intestine, which helps your body absorb nutrients.
Insoluble fiber holds on to water to produce softer stools and helps speed up the transit of food in the digestive tract (source).
Which Foods Help Increase Fiber Intake?
There are many food options with high fiber content. A lot of beans, vegetables, and fruit contain needed fiber. Below is a list of foods that can help relieve constipation in pregnancy by providing greater than 5 grams of fiber per serving.
Source: Dietary Guidelines 2020-2025
A reader left a great comment about using chia seed and flaxseed to help relieve constipation, which is such a fabulous idea. One tablesoon of chia seed provides about 4 grams of dietary fiber and there is about 2.8 grams fiber in one tablespoon of whole flaxseed. Since they can be added to or sprinkled on many different types of foods, flaxseed and chia seed are a sneaky way to add more fiber into your diet.
How much fiber should I be eating?
The American Pregnancy Association recommends 25-30 grams of fiber per day for pregnant women.
KEEP IN MIND: Consuming large amounts of fiber can lead to abdominal bloating, distention and gas. It’s best to start expanding your fiber intake in small amounts. Then, slowly increase each day as tolerated.
You can start by paying attention to how much fiber you are already eating each day.
Check the nutrition labels or use a search engine like Calorie King to look up the fiber content in the foods you’re eating. WRITE IT DOWN. Add everything up at the end of the day. You may be surprised by how much or how little fiber you are actually getting each day.
2. Try Some Prune Juice
Having trouble fitting in enough fiber each day? Try drinking prune juice!
The same thing we use to help our little ones when they’re backed up can work for mamas too.
Prunes and prune juice contain relatively high amounts of fiber BUT ALSO contain sorbitol.
Sorbitol draws water into the large intestine which stimulates peristalsis. Peristalsis is a fancy name for the muscle contractions that move food through the digestive tract.
Prune juice is naturally high in sugar and calories so use in moderation!
Try starting out with 4 oz twice a day and look for 100% fruit juice with no added sugars.
3. Take Probiotics
Probiotics are supplements that contain healthy bacteria. They can alter the intestinal flora to improve bowel function. (source)
In this pilot study from 2012, a small sample of women at an obstetrical practice in Amsterdam took a daily probiotic for four weeks. The women did report an improvement in their constipation symptoms.
Microbial imbalance in the gastrointestinal tract is thought to contribute to constipation. Probiotics help improve microbial imbalance. They also lower the pH of the colon which can improve how well food moves through the intestines. (source)
Another study found the pregnant women who ate 300 grams of yogurt with probiotics had improved relief of constipation symptoms and increased frequency of bowel movements.
Probiotics may also help prevent gestational diabetes. Find out more things that can help you pass the glucose tolerance test during pregnancy.
4. Drink More Water
Pregnant women should be drinking about 10-12 cups of fluid per day according to the American Pregnancy Association. This equals about 80 to 96 ounces.
Despite knowing how important it is, I always have trouble keeping up with my water intake.
Here are some tips for increasing your daily water consumption:
- Add lemon juice or berries to your water to enhance the flavor.
- Download an app on your phone to keep track of your water intake and to remind you to hydrate throughout the day. I started using Plant Nanny. This app helps you track your water intake by having you grow a plant. The more water you drink, the faster your plant grows (and yes, your plant will die if you’re not drinking enough water)!
- Buy a fun water bottle that you’ll want to drink out of! This adorable Fox Sake water bottle from Amazon is cute AND motivational. This gallon size water bottle is available in multiple colors and has measurements written on the side to help you keep track of the amount of water you’re drinking.
5. Bulk-Forming Laxatives
If increasing dietary fiber and fluids do not have the desired effect on relieving constipation, bulk-forming laxatives are usually recommended. These are considered generally safe to use in pregnancy because they are NOT absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract (source).
However, you should always discuss with your healthcare provider first.
One of the most common bulk-forming laxatives is psyllium (which is found in Metamucil). Psyllium is derived from the seeds of an herb called Plantago ovato. Psyllium can help treat constipation by absorbing liquid and creating soft, bulky stools that are easier to pass.
Keep in mind, however, that bulk-forming agents can cause side effects such as gas and bloating.
6. Herbal Supplements Like Glucomannan
I personally had not heard about glucomannan until I was researching natural ways to relieve constipation while pregnant. Glucomannan is a dietary fiber made from the root of the konjac plant.
This study investigated the effects of glucomannan on constipation in pregnancy. The women in the study reported softer stools and increased frequently of bowel movements.
There were no complications reported in the study from the use of glucomannan.
IMPORTANT: I decided to include this on this list of natural ways to relieve constipation while pregnant because of the positive effects noted in the study. However, there is not enough information yet about the safety of taking glucomannan if you are pregnant. If you chose to try something like this to treat your constipation, talk with your doctor first!
6. Increase Your Activity
Being more active is another one of the simplest natural ways to relieve constipation while pregnant.
Studies have shown that exercise helps to manage and prevent constipation.
Physical activity affects colonic motility and helps move food through the body faster. Mechanical stimulation of the gastrointestinal tract from bouncing, upright posture, and gravity during exercise may also play a role in relieving constipation by helping stool move through the colon (source).
Related post: Needs help trying to find time to fit exercise into your busy schedule? Tips for Finding Time to Exercise as a Working Mom
8. Position Yourself Properly on the Toilet
This may seem like a strange tip, but make sure you are sitting on the toilet in a way that helps facilitate the passage of stool (source).
When we potty trained my daughter, she did amazing learning to pee on the toilet but it was a big struggle to get her to sit on the toilet for bowel movements. Why? I always thought it was because she prefered to squat rather than sit because it’s easier to poop that way!
How Should I Sit on the Toilet To Relieve Constipation?
9. Try a Bidet
Bidets conventionally allow you to clean your front and back areas after going to the bathroom. Studies have also found that using a bidet before going to the bathroom can help improve constipation.
Pregnant women in this study had a decrease in the severity of their constipation after using bidets before going to the bathroom.
Although widely used in European countries, most American households don’t have bidets in their bathrooms. If you’re interested, however, you can install bidet attachments for your toilet.
Complications of Constipation in pregnancy
Constipation in pregnancy is mostly just a pain in the butt – see what I did there? However, constipation can ocassionally result in complications.
These include fecal impaction, bowel obstruction, and rectal prolapse (source). Straining and the passage of hard stool can possibly lead to hemorrhoids, anal fissure or rectal ulcers. Constipation may also cause pelvic floor damage or weakening of the pelvic floor muscles. (source)
For these reasons and to prevent the general discomfort caused by constipation, it’s important to make sure you properly treat constipation during pregnancy.
Final Thoughts on Natural Ways to Relieve Constipation While Pregnant
Constipation during pregnancy can be an uncomfortable experience. There are many safe and natural ways to treat this common pregnancy side effect. If you are experiencing constipation or any other issues during your pregnancy, always talk to your doctor about the right treatment methods for you.
Have you experienced constipation during pregnancy? What other methods helped relieve your constipation symptoms? Let me know in the comments!
Related pregnancy posts:
- What You Should Know About the Glucose Tolerance Test
- How To Pass the 3 Hour Glucose Test While Pregnant
- Hospital Bag Must-Haves for Pregnant Mamas
- Newborn Essentials (For The First 3 Months)
Originally published December 29, 2019. Revised and updated.