constipation during pregnancy

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. Constipation and hemorrhoids can heighten discomfort even more. 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 UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital, says many things cause constipation during pregnancy. For one, progesterone relaxes the muscles of the intestines, which slows down your gastrointestinal tract.

Also, your increased blood supply requires more fluid intake. Not drinking enough can leave you dehydrated and contribute to slow bowel movements. The iron in your prenatal vitamins might also cause constipation.

Can Constipation Hurt the Baby During Pregnancy?

Constipation during pregnancy is rarely dangerous. Even though it can make you feel uncomfortable, it won’t hurt your baby. Occasionally, though, constipation is a symptom of a serious health condition.

If you have constipation along with any of these other symptoms, you should call your doctor:

  • Severe belly pain.
  • Constipation that alternates with diarrhea.
  • Mucus or large amounts of blood in your stool or from your vagina.

Can Straining Cause a Miscarriage?

Straining to have a bowel movement will not cause a miscarriage. According to the American Pregnancy Association, most miscarriages happen from:

  • Problems with the baby’s chromosomes.
  • Problems with the mother’s hormones, uterus, or cervix.
  • Infections or exposure to certain toxins.
  • Lifestyle factors like smoking, drinking alcohol, or using illegal drugs.
  • Having certain health conditions like diabetes or kidney disease.

Can Straining During Pregnancy Cause Bleeding?

Constipation and straining can cause small tears and hemorrhoids in your rectum. Sometimes they can bleed, so you might see spots of pink or red blood on the toilet paper or in the toilet. In this case, the blood is due to rectal bleeding, not vaginal bleeding.

Should I Be Worried If I Spot While Constipated When Pregnant?

Rectal bleeding doesn’t affect your uterus or baby. Most of the time this kind of spotting isn’t cause for concern. But if the bleeding is heavy or you’re not sure where it’s coming from, call your doctor to check you out.

Five Tips for Preventing and Relieving Constipation When Pregnant

According to Dr. Simhan, prevention is the best medicine for constipation. “By being proactive and staying ahead of it, you can avoid many of the problems,” he says.

1. Stay hydrated

Try to drink at least eight 12-ounce glasses of water daily. That will keep solids moving through your digestive tract and help keep stools soft. The increased fluid intake will also help with blood volume.

2. Eat fiber-rich foods

A diet rich in fiber — whole-grain bread and cereals, beans, fresh fruits, and vegetables — will help you eliminate waste. Aim for 25 to 30 grams of fiber a day.

3. Pace yourself

Spread out your food intake by eating smaller, more frequent meals. Try to eat five or six smaller meals each day.

4. Get moving

Simply getting up and moving can help with constipation. Aim for regular exercise during pregnancy. Walking 10 to 15 minutes several times a day helps stimulate bowel movements and keeps the digestive tract healthy.

5. 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.

When Should I Contact My Ob-Gyn for Constipation During Pregnancy?

Constipation is very common during pregnancy. Although it can make you feel like you’re all stopped up, it’s usually not serious. If constipation is impacting your daily activities or eating or is causing significant pain or discomfort, talk to your doctor.

For more information or to schedule an appointment with an obstetrician/gynecologist near you, visit the UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital online, or call 1-866-696-2433.

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