Pregnancy & Constipation: Cause, Symptoms, Prevention, Relief

  5 min


  • Pregnancy

Constipation during pregnancy can lead to extra worry. After all, you’re looking out for two people.

In general terms, if you find yourself pooping fewer than three times a week, and if your stools are dry, hard, lumpy, and difficult to pass, you’re probably constipated. However, this can vary from person to person1A

Pregnancy is a beautiful time for many, but in real life there are no storks to help you carry the load, and pregnancy can be challenging. You’ll likely have enough on your mind without waking up to the added emotional and physical bloating of pregnancy constipation.

In this piece, we’ll explain everything you need to know about recognizing constipation during pregnancy.

How Common Is Constipation During Pregnancy?

Constipation is common during pregnancy. Although it’s a common complaint outside of pregnancy as well, pregnant women might experience constipation more frequently than the wider population.2A

A recent review found that as many as 40% of pregnant women experienced constipation. In comparison, it only affected 21% of non-pregnant folks of a similar age.2B That’s basically double.

So, if you’re pregnant, and finding stools hard to pass, then rest assured. You are far from alone.

When Does Constipation in Pregnancy Start?

Constipation can happen at any time during pregnancy and after childbirth.3A

When evaluating how women experience constipation during different periods of pregnancy, the rates are pretty similar between the second and third trimesters.2C

  • Constipation affects 61% of pregnant women in the second trimester 14
  • Pregnancy constipation becomes less common during the third trimester, affecting around 55% of pregnant women at this time14

Iron and calcium supplements might worsen constipation when expecting.4D

What Causes Constipation During Pregnancy?

Constipation during pregnancy is usually due to numerous factors.14 In order to ready itself for giving birth, your body goes through some drastic changes during pregnancy. Hormones like progesterone initiate this process of transformation.3B

Progesterone is key to preparing your body for pregnancy. However, progesterone also has some other effects. For example, it relaxes smooth muscle in the gut, meaning that your bowels start working slowly.4F The result of this is that you may find pooping harder than you are used to.

Your digestive system also has less space than usual once your baby starts growing.3C The growing fetus can push up against your gut, which may also slow down the pooping process.3D

All that said, pregnant or not, there are several other reasons that can lead to constipation. Some of these non-baby-related factors include:

  • Eating a diet low in fiber:3E Fiber helps to soften stool and move it through the gut more easily.3F
  • Taking medications that cause constipation as a side effect:3G Constipation can happen due to medications like iron pills, or other medications.3H These include some allergy meds, blood pressure meds, anti-seizure drugs, and medications for psychiatric health problems.3I
  • Carrying on with a daily routine that increases constipation risk:3J There are plenty of factors in everyday life that can make constipation more likely. These include not drinking enough water, exercising too infrequently, stress, and an irregular pooping schedule.3K
  • Living with underlying disorders that affect digestion:5A If you have a condition like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or celiac disease (a gluten allergy) that affects how you poop, constipation might already be a frustrating part of your life.5B Chronic conditions don’t take maternity leave – they may cause symptoms even while you’re pregnant.

Can Constipation During Pregnancy be Serious?

Constipation can impact your quality of life and can sometimes point to a condition that needs a doctor’s attention. 6 7B

If you’re constipated, you may push harder during poops, which can cause hemorrhoids and bleeding in your rectum.7C

It’s a good idea to speak to a doctor if you notice the following symptoms while pregnant and constipated:3L

  • Your stool has blood in it
  • You’re losing weight unintentionally.
  • Your bowel movements are extremely painful.
  • You’ve had constipation for longer than usual.

What Can I Do About Constipation During Pregnancy?

Managing constipation that pregnancy throws your way is about making lifestyle changes. And that process starts with prevention.7D

There’s no pregnancy-specific plan for reducing constipation, but you can start with alterations to your dietary habits to see if they make a difference.7E

Get a healthcare professionals’ advice on pregnancy-safe options that could help to get things moving smoothly again until that all important birth date.13B

Relieving constipation involves adjusting what you eat, how much water you drink, and the amount of physical activity you do every day.7F

High-Fiber Diet

Making sure you get enough fiber through your diet is a vital part of keeping constipation at bay.7G

You can boost your fiber intake by including more of the following in your diet:8B

  • fruit and vegetables8C
  • whole-grain foods8E
  • legumes8F

Boost your fiber intake gradually, so your body can adjust to the increased quantity. Adding too much extra fiber to your diet too quickly can lead to excess gas and bloating alongside constipation.9A

Bloating & Gas And Constipation: Cause, Symptoms, Prevention, Relief

Drink Plenty of Fluids

During pregnancy, your blood supply increases, meaning your body needs more water.7G An adequate fluid intake is needed as part of a healthy lifestyle.

Try Moderate Physical Activity

Exercise is a fun, accessible way to reduce your risk of constipation.7K While it’s important to avoid overheating while pregnant, pregnancy needn’t stand in the way of an active lifestyle.10A

In fact, along with helping relieve constipation during pregnancy, regular movement can support your health in many aspects of pregnancy.10D

Go When You Have To Go

Pooping at the same time each day can keep your bowel movements regular.11A Try to set aside a solid chunk of time every day for bathroom time, and listen to your body when it’s telling you that it’s time to go.11B

Non-prescription medications

If all else fails, there are non-prescription medicines, such as Dulcolax stool softeners available to help you.

If you are pregnant or breast-feeding, you must discuss any use of medication with a doctor.

We advise seeing a doctor if you are pregnant or breast-feeding and constipated as a general rule, before taking on any decisions on how to relieve your constipation.

Dulcolax has a range of products available, including stool softener Dulcosoft.

When Can I Expect Constipation to End While I'm Pregnant?

The duration of constipation depends upon the cause. It usually occurs sporadically, and in bouts, until after your baby is born.13A

Pregnancy constipation can be uncomfortable and demotivating, but you can manage symptoms at home. That said, we advise discussing your options with a healthcare professional, so that you can work together to get things moving smoothly. 13B

Everything you need to know

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