By Mediconsult's Nutrition Services
Q. What can I do about constipation?
A. Constipation, or the inability to have a bowel movement, can commonly occur during pregnancy. A major contributor to constipation during pregnancy is an increase in hormones that decrease bowel motility. As food residue moves more slowly through the intestines, this allows for more nutrients to be absorbed for the developing fetus. It also means, however, that more fluid will be absorbed from the food residue making the resulting stool dry and hard to pass. Other factors that influence constipation during pregnancy include changes in eating habits, abdominal pressure and displacement of the intestines due to the growing fetus, inactivity, and dehydration.
Being constipated can cause nausea and affect your ability to eat. Nutritional problems can certainly result. Anytime you are unable to eat well, nutrient deficiencies and dehydration can occur. These conditions can hinder normal fetal development and growth.
Below are some tips to help reduce your tendency to become constipated with diet. Medical treatment may also be necessary. It is important to always report constipation that lasts more than 2-3 days to your physician. Laxative use is not recommended during pregnancy and should always be supervised by your physician.
Dietary Treatment for Constipation
- Increase insoluble fiber food sources such as fresh vegetables, whole grains, dried beans and peas, and the skins of fruits. Use wheat bran cereals such as raisin bran, bran flakes or bran buds.
- Drink plenty of liquids, at least 8 cups of fluid each day. Apple juice or prune juice may also be helpful.
- Exercise a little each day, physical activity helps keep the gastrointestinal tract moving.
- Add 2 tablespoons of unprocessed wheat bran to your diet each day. Ideas include adding wheat bran to cereals, baked products, casseroles, or soups.