Constipation during pregnancy

  3 min


  • Pregnancy
  • Tips

During pregnancy, your body is expanding, evolving, and creating greater amounts of the hormones progesterone and oestrogen. Your intestinal muscles also tend to relax when you're pregnant. This slows down the entire digestive tract, so your intestines need more time to process food.

Constipation during pregnancy can cause abdominal pain or discomfort, along with hard, difficult and infrequent poos. These are the usual signs of constipation during pregnancy1,2.

Common symptoms of constipation during pregnancy

For a safe and peaceful pregnancy, it's important to address any discomfort. This includes constipation, which is second to nausea as the most common gastrointestinal complaint in pregnancy3. Constipation is most prominent during the third trimester when it can impact day-to-day life, making things very uncomfortable. Symptoms include:

  • Fewer than three poos a week. This is a rough estimate based on average data. If you're in doubt about whether or not you're constipated, don’t hesitate to speak to your doctor4.
  • Dry, hard poo or excessive straining
  • Feeling gassy, bloated and uncomfortable
  • Feeling like you can’t completely empty your bowels

Causes of constipation during pregnancy

Pregnancy creates a lot of change in a woman’s body. And around 50% of pregnant women experience constipation, with the odds increasing as your due date approaches. Although the condition isn't dangerous, you still need to address it to look after yourself and your baby1,2.

During pregnancy: hormonal increases and bodily changes

First trimester. The main cause of feeling bloated in this trimester is the increased amount of progesterone your body is creating. This hormone is here to prevent uterus contractions up to the eighth month of pregnancy. It acts on all muscles of the body, including the digestive system. By relaxing the intestinal muscles, progesterone causes digestion to slow down and reduces peristaltic contractions. This means food passes more slowly through the gastrointestinal tract, leading to dryer and harder poo2.

Second trimester. In your middle trimester, the uterus is growing and pressing against the lower bowel.

Third trimester. Your levels of the hormone aldosterone increase during this trimester. And this makes your colon absorb more liquid and electrolytes. This tends to make poo harder and bowel movements more difficult. It also slows things down in the intestine2.


Constipation can affect your day-to-day life, and that adds unnecessary stress to your days.

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Diet & lifestyle

Good nutrition isn’t just important during pregnancy. Whether you're already pregnant or planning to become pregnant, eating a healthy, well-balanced diet is one of the best things you can do for yourself... and your future child.

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Some medicines can lead to constipation, such as4:

  • Drugs used to treat depression
  • Antacids containing aluminium or calcium
  • Iron supplements
  • Some allergy medicines (antihistamines)
  • Certain painkillers (opioids, NSAIDs)
  • Some drugs for high blood pressure, including diuretics
  • Some drugs used to treat Parkinson’s disease

If you suffer from constipation during pregnancy and use these kinds of medicines, don't stop them taking them. Talk to your doctor instead.

After childbirth: decreasing hormones and recovery

After childbirth, your body begins to recover from the important changes that have taken place in the abdominal area and uterus. It doesn't take long for the hormone levels in your blood to drop. And this change can affect activity in the intestine and cause short-lived constipation.

Quick tips to prevent constipation during pregnancy

Once you’ve managed to pinpoint constipation as the cause of your discomfort, you can do something about it. The good news is, a few simple daily habits can help you feel lighter and brighter:

1. Physical activity

Regular movement - even taking a walk - can stimulate intestinal motility. And this reduces the risk of other unpleasant ailments, such as swelling or haemorrhoids. If you're able, exercise three times a week for 20-30 minutes.

2. Changes to your diet

A balanced, fibre-rich diet is a good first step to giving your body what it needs to compensate for the rising hormones and changes you're going through. Good nutrition can also often meet your iron, calcium and vitamin needs during pregnancy. This is great because it can reduce the need for iron supplements, which can cause constipation. Talk to your doctor about checking your iron levels and how to manage your iron intake during pregnancy.

3. Regular hydration

As your progesterone levels rise, and your motilin hormone levels decrease, it can take longer for poo to move through your system. During pregnancy, there's also an increase of water absorption from the intestines, and this can cause poo to dry out. So it's important to stay hydrated. Plenty of liquids, alongside a high-fibre diet, is the best way to help your body get rid of waste.

Talk to your doctor

Being pregnant, or planning for pregnancy, is the perfect opportunity to take a look at your lifestyle - and how you might improve it - for the healthiest pregnancy possible. Take the opportunity to talk with your doctor about habits such as smoking and alcohol use, as well as how you’ll handle your pregnancy at work.

Raise any concerns or fears you may have about your pregnancy and childbirth. The sooner these fears and concerns are addressed, the sooner you'll have peace of mind.

    1. American Pregnancy Association. Constipation in Pregnancy. 2020. Accessed 14/11/2022
    2. Harms RW. Mayo Clinic guide to a healthy pregnancy. 2011. Mayo Foundation for medical education and research.
    3. Trottier M, Erebara A, Bozzo P. Treating constipation during pregnancy. Can Fam Physician. 2012 Aug;58(8):836-8.
    4. Camilleri M, Ford AC, Mawe GM, Dinning PG, Rao SS, Chey WD, Simrén M, Lembo A, Young-Fadok TM, Chang L. Chronic constipation. Nat Rev Dis Primers. 2017 Dec 14;3:17095.
    5. Basilisco G, Coletta M. Chronic constipation: a critical review. Dig Liver Dis. 2013 Nov;45(11):886-93.
    6. Sanofi data on file - Coated Tablets 2017. Available upon request through
    7. Jessurun JG, van Harten PN, Egberts TC, Pijl YJ, Wilting I, Tenback DE. The Relation between Psychiatric Diagnoses and Constipation in Hospitalized Patients: A Cross-Sectional Study. Psychiatry J. 2016;2016:2459693.
    8. Mindsethealth - Anxiety and Constipation - Can Stress Cause Constipation? 2019 Accessed 14/11/2022

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