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Constipation

Constipation Causes And How To Treat

Progesterone

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This is a hormone that is increased during pregnancy. It relaxes the smooth muscles in your body to help allow the uterus to expand. However this also affects the bowels, it makes the movement of the waste through the bowels slower which in turn allows more fluid to be absorbed out of the forming stool. This can result in a harder, dried out stool which is more difficult to pass out.

Diet

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Like with all people if you do not get enough fibre in your diet this can lead to increased constipation therefore increasing your fibre intake is crucial in fighting constipation. Fibre gives bulk and form to your stool as well as softening it.

How To Increase Fiber

Diet changes is the best option and Fibre rich foods are fruits, vegetables, whole grains and pulses. Fibre recommendations vary from country to country but when pregnant and struggling with constipation try and aim for above 25g of fibre a day. If appropriate sometimes a fibre supplement can be taken but discuss with your healthcare provider first.  What is particularly important for constipation is increasing your intake of soluble fiber as foods containing soluble fiber absorb water therefore help to make your stools softer and easier to pass.

Therefore in addition it is important you keep your fluids up when increasing Fiber intake as increased fiber without enough hydration can do the reverse and worsen constipation.

If you are keen to have a High Fiber Diet Plan to try there is a 7 day High Fiber Meal plan to follow in the Pregnancy Recipes Guide containing all the recipes, schedule and shopping list.

Activity And Exercise

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It is not uncommon to experience fatigue and nausea especially in the first trimester. This can have a significant impact on your activity levels, unfortunately decreased activity levels can contribute to a slower gut transit and a higher likelihood of constipation. Brisk walking is an easy option to get things moving. For other exercise alternatives check our ‘Exercising Safely in Pregnancy’ Section.

Prenatal Supplements

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Some of the prenatal supplements such as iron or calcium can also contribute to constipation. Consider which supplements you are taking and discuss with your doctor about alternatives or even alternative administration like iron IV infusions. If not on a Magnesium supplement discuss with your Doctor about trying some.

Effect of Growing Uterus & Fetus

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The growing fetus and expanding uterus can put physical pressure on the gut and make it more challenging for the stool to pass through it

Positioning On the Toilet

Squatty Potty Position

Simply just changing your position when doing a bowel movement can make a really big difference. One muscle of your pelvic floor – the Puborectalis is an important muscle in your bowel function. The muscle circles around the rectum like a tether and when it is pulled more tightly and stops the faeces from passing out. However when wanting to have a bowel movement this muscle needs to be able to relax and lengthen so that the faeces can pass through the rectum easily. Just try using a small stool to change your Anorectal angle will help this Puborectalis muscle relax and lengthen.

Don’t Put Off the Toilet Call

Many people will put off going to the toilet to pass stool, however after about 15 minutes your internal anal sphincter will come back on and lift up the stool back into the intestine. This will then further dehydrate the stool and make it harder to pass later on.

Dehydration

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Keep HYDRATED! Sufferers of constipation have a dry stool that sticks like glue to the intestinal walls. As well as increased fibre, water or fluids go hand in hand to help reduce constipation. If you increase your fiber without water then the fiber can become a constipating agent rather than a bulk creating agent. Try addinng fruit to water if do not enjoy plain water or try drinking more fruit teas.

Aim for at least 2 litres of water a day!

Tummy Massage

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Some studies have found that abdominal massage may help relieve constipation of a number of different reasons. As well as decreasing pain and discomfort it has been shown to increase peristalsis, increase the frequency of bowel movements and decrease the time of the bowel movement spent in the colon. Try the following technique:

  1. place your right hand on your abdomen above your right hip
  2. massage up towards your rib cage and then across the abdomen under your rib cage to the left
  3. then down to above the left hip
  4. this square like motion is to be repeated 5-7 times.

Particularly useful to do this massage before wanting to try a bowel movement.

Learn To Relax the Pelvic Floor

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Sometimes the pelvic floor can be overactive and tight and if the puborectalis muscle in the pelvic floor is tight it can pull on the rectum constricting it and making it more difficult for stools to pass. Pelvic floor relaxation can be practiced on a daily basis for a few mins to help your pelvic floor to relax and ease this issue. Below the video shows you how to do this and then there are a few different positions that pelvic floor relaxation can be practiced in.

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