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Symptoms and Relief of Constipation During Pregnancy

Constipation Relief

Constipation can be very common in pregnant women, and unfortunately can sometimes be chronic and prove to be very uncomfortable. On the whole, this is generally because the whole digestive system is influenced by hormonal changes during pregnancy. During pregnancy, the body produces more of the female hormone progesterone than usual which is perfectly normal and part of the natural state of a woman's body whilst carrying a child. The effect of this however, is that sometimes the progesterone causes relaxation of the muscle wall of the bowel which is then less able to move food and bodily waste along. This slowing of the woman's intestinal movements often brings about the state of being constipated.

The main signs of constipation during pregnancy are:

Faeces are hard, making them difficult to pass. This can sometimes cause bleeding from the rectum in severe cases
Three or four days between each bowel movement
A general feeling that not all the faeces are being passed - this can cause some discomfort
Constipation can also be a cause of lower abdominal pain.
In extreme, but rare, circumstances, constipation can result in difficulties giving birth

In some cases, though they rare, these symptoms can be indicative of other more serious conditions and so you should always consult your doctor if you are concerned.

Some precautions and remedies include:

It is quite important for pregnant women to look after their diet and maintain regular bowel habits to avoid unnecessary discomfort and possible complications.
Eat plenty of fibre since this stimulates the intestines to work harder and also absorbs liquid, which helps ensure that the faeces do not dry out, but remain soft.
Include a range of the following in your diet: fruit (especially prunes), vegetables, wholemeal bread, breakfast cereals
Drink plenty of water - at least six tumblers of fluid per day. This will help ensure that the intestine works as well as possible and keep the faeces soft
Take gentle exercise to gently stimulate the bowel and help digestion. Walking or swimming for about 20 to 30 minutes per day, three times a week will help digestion
Potential complications of constipation?

In extreme cases, excess straining and weakening of the muscles in the lower abdominal area can contribute to a prolapse of the womb or rectum, although this is generally rare
Dependency on laxatives has been known to be an issue in people with chronic constipation. The bowel in someone who has overused laxatives for a long period of time may often become sluggish and dependent on their use
A Hernia, where there occurs bulging of the abdominal contents through a weak point in the abdominal wall can in some cases be caused by too much straining when trying to get rid of hard, persistent stools.
Hemorrhoids - these are swollen veins at the site of the anus, and are caused by straining over a long period of time. If they are large enough they can often be visible from the outside, and are generally painful and can cause local bleeding.

You can read more about the causes and symptoms of constipation during pregnancy at SearchMedica where John contributes