You expected morning sickness and fatigue during your pregnancy — but constipation and hemorrhoids?
Unfortunately, irregular bowel movements and constipation are common pregnancy complaints. And, all that straining can lead to painful hemorrhoids — swollen veins in the rectum. Pregnancy isn’t always the most comfortable time in a woman’s life, yet constipation and hemorrhoids can heighten the discomfort to an even greater degree. Being unable to have regular bowel movements can make you feel even more bloated and miserable. So what’s slowing things down?
Hyagriv Simhan, MD, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC, says constipation during pregnancy has many causes. For one, progesterone relaxes the muscles of the intestines, which slows down your gastrointestinal intestinal tract. The increased blood supply requires more fluid intake, which can leave you dehydrated and contribute to slow bowel movements. The iron in your prenatal vitamins also may be constipating.
Prevention is Key
According to Dr. Simhan, the best thing you can do about constipation and hemorrhoids during pregnancy is to prevent them.
“By being proactive and staying ahead of it, you can avoid many of the problems,” he says.
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What to Do
Double your water intake. Drinking at least eight 12-ounce glasses of water daily will keep solids moving through your digestive tract and help keep stools soft. Your increased fluid intake will also help with blood volume.
Eat Fiber-Rich Foods
A diet rich in fiber — whole grain breads and cereals, beans, fresh fruits, and vegetables — will help you eliminate waste. Aim for 30 grams of fiber a day.
Spread out your food intake by eating smaller more frequent meals. Try to eat five or six mini-meals each day.
Simply getting up and moving can help constipation. Regular exercise during pregnancy — walking 10 to 15 minutes several times a day — helps stimulate bowel movements and keep the digestive tract healthy.
Say No to Laxatives
If lifestyle changes aren’t working, ask your doctor about over-the-counter stool softeners, such as Colace®. Avoid laxatives, though: the ingredient that stimulates the bowel to contract also may stimulate the uterus to contract.
For more information or to schedule an appointment with an obstetrician/gynecologist near you, visit the Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC online, or call 1-866-MyMagee (696-2433).