It is said pregnancy gives every woman an overwhelming feeling of joy but surprisingly quite a few women are unaware of the health hardships that occur during pregnancy. The growing baby in the womb demands changes in various biological processes in the body and cause wide range of health problems. Constipation is one such medical problem that commonly affects pregnant women. Constipation is a condition in which the bowels (intestines) cease to function smoothly. As a result, eliminating fecal matter can be terribly painful. The softness of stools vanishes and they appear hard in individuals who experience constipation. Hence, defecation during constipation may cause excruciating pain.
Reasons for Constipation While Pregnant
Painful bowel movement has several reasons and is often attributed to the lack of exercise and hormonal changes. It is discussed below:
Pregnancy causes disturbances in the production of two female hormones, estrogen and progesterone. Either of these hormones is produced in excess amounts which can have a negative impact on various bodily functions including digestion and bowel function. In other words, fluctuating levels of these hormones is bound to slow the bowel movement, leading to constipation.
The nutritional needs of pregnant women increase dramatically due to the developing fetus. A healthy diet alone may not be able to fulfill these requirements of the body. Hence, doctors often prescribe iron, calcium or vitamin supplements to ensure healthy delivery. However, these prenatal supplements recommended with good intentions can cause problem. This is because excess of iron or calcium dosage can interfere with normal bowel function leading to constipation.
Lack of Physical Activity
Physical activity takes a backseat during pregnancy. Although, this is quite normal due to increased weight, completely avoiding any kind of exercise is not advised. Reducing level of physical activity during pregnancy is essential but that does not mean remaining physically inactive. Lack of exercise can also cause infrequent bowel movement. This happens because in the absence of exercise, the intestinal muscles lose their flexibility thereby, causing slow movement of stools through the colon.
As the months of pregnancy pass on, the tummy is seen protruding. This bulged up belly puts excessive strain on the lower intestinal muscles. Thus the lower intestines that do the job of eliminating fecal matter have to support the burden of this change in body posture. Too much stress on the intestines can make them difficult to stimulate stool movement, eventually causing infrequent bowel movement.
If the pregnant woman is suffering from thyroid disorders then one can expect bowel function to slow down. Thyroid problems like hypothyroidism that triggers a decrease in the production of thyroid hormones can cause constipation. Regular bowel movement goes haywire in hypothyroidism and so pregnant women may complain about excessive straining during bowel movement due to formation of hardened fecal matter.
Treatment for Constipation During Pregnancy
Before treating any medical condition, identifying the cause is utmost essential. In case supplements are the culprits, reducing the dosage may help to restore normal bowel movement. Regular exercises during pregnancy can also contribute immensely to alleviate symptoms of constipation. Light exercises such as walking (20-30 minutes) can be effective to promote stress free bowel movement. Many times, a diet low in fiber is often responsible for causing constipation. So, by simply including high fiber foods in the diet, pregnant women will be able to get rid of constipation. Staying hydrated, which means drinking adequate water is equally important to ensure smooth bowel movement.
Though strained bowel movement is not a serious issue, it needs to be addressed immediately at the earliest. Do not consider chemical based laxatives or colon cleansers as constipation remedies during pregnancy. This is because simple home remedies (mentioned above) often work to restore healthy bowel function. If they don't relieve constipation one should not hesitate to contact a doctor and take the necessary prescribed treatment.