When your hormones are all over the place, you’re exhausted and you’re already dealing with morning sickness, constipation—along with the gas, bloating and that uncomfortable heavy feeling—is one more pregnancy symptom you’d rather not have to deal with.
Constipation is a surprising common complaint during pregnancy—studies show between 11 and 38 percent of women are affected.
Blame it on the hormone progesterone, which is in full effect during pregnancy and can cause the muscles in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract to slow down and prevent waste from moving through.
Pregnancy constipation can also be a result of the increase in water absorption from the intestines which causes stool to dry out and the growing uterus, which may disrupt the normal functioning of the GI tract.
A decrease in activity and lack of exercise as well as the iron and calcium in prenatal vitamins can also back things up.
The good news is that you don’t have to suffer for 9 months feeling miserable.
Here are some strategies that can help prevent—and cure—pregnancy constipation.
Short on time? Check out 3 of my top strategies in this video.
1. Eat more fiber
Fiber-rich foods are the perfect antidote to pregnancy constipation but they can be hard to get in your diet especially during the first trimester, when all you can tolerate are saltine crackers, for example, and other foods with simple, refined carbohydrates.
As morning sickness subsides however, usually (but not always) around the second trimester, you’ll be able to start introducing healthy, high-fiber foods again to get you back on track.
Stick to vegetables, especially the dark, green leafy types that are packed with nutrition and fiber, as well as fruits, beans and legumes, whole grains and chia seeds and flaxseeds.
2. Drink up
During pregnancy, it’s crucial that you drink plenty of water but it’s even more important if you’re constipated because it will help move things along.
Aim for 10 cups (2.4 liters) of water each day, which the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recommend during pregnancy.
In addition to drinking plenty of water, a cup of coffee, black tea or a bit of prune juice especially in the morning may also do the trick.
3. Try magnesium
Magnesium relaxes the bowels and certain types are known to have a laxative effect.
According to an August 2017 study in the Advanced Biomedical Research,
magnesium may even prevent pregnancy complications.
Before starting any supplement however, always check with your provider about the type, dosage and safety.
4. Avoid refined carbohydrates
White, refined carbohydrates found in foods like rice, pasta, crackers, snack foods, and processed foods are binding so it’s best to avoid them as much as possible.
5. Get moving
Getting plenty of exercise not only ensures a healthy pregnancy, it can also prevent constipation.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommend women with uncomplicated pregnancies get between 20 and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most or all days of the week. Walking, swimming and prenatal yoga are all good choices.
6. Talk to your doctor
If constipation persists after changing your diet, upping your water intake and exercising, talk to your doctor about changing your prenatal vitamin which may be backing you up.
Your doctor may also prescribe a fiber supplement, a stool softener, or a laxative. Although they’re generally considered safe, it’s always a good idea to check in with her first since every woman and every pregnancy is unique.