8 Tips for Mild-Moderate Constipation During Pregnancy

Your bundle of joy may also be causing you pain and sadness; welcome to constipation in pregnancy!

Progesterone slows down bowel movements. We can prevent it!

If you are already quite constipated and have not gone to the washroom at all in several days, reach out to your OB/​GYN or midwife or MD as you may need additional supports, and you want to be sure they are safe! Here are some tips to help you prevent or move things along…

8 Tips for Mild-​Moderate Constipation During Pregnancy

  1. Water, water, water
    Gone are the days of dehydration ladies. Get a 1 L bottle container, and fill it up and drink it twice daily. You’ll need it (although your bladder may not love this!)
  2. Soluble and insoluble fibre
    • Chia seeds: 2 tablespoons in cereal, or soaked with prunes (see Aviva Romm’s Natural Pregnancy book) daily for fibre or you could do a daily Chia Seed Pudding (see Oh She Glows by Angela Liddon cookbook)
    • Prunes: 4 – 5 day, or 1÷21 cup of prune juice
    • Oats and oatmeal
    • Hemp hearts
    • Metamucil
    • Nuts — Fibrous, but don’t forget the water
  3. Veggies!
    Notice I’m not saying fruit? Fruit, while it does have a lot of natural fibre, can be overemphasized in the diet, and it’s much higher in sugar. One exception is 12 an apple daily as the skins are very fibrous, but apples can also contribute to heartburn…so not the best choice either! To keep things simple, eat really decent amounts of the following veggies (12 servings a day MINIMUM).
    **I also realize how unrealistic this is as a comment if you are nauseous or just turned off from certain foods. Please pick the ones you can stomach, and even if it’s 12 cup daily, it’s definitely better than nothing!**
    • Kale
    • Collard Greens
    • Carrots
    • Celery (organic please)
    • Cucumbers (skin on)
    • Broccoli and cauliflower (don’t go too crazy here, as they do create a lot of gas, which may cause additional pressure if you are already having gas pains)
  4. Magnesium
    Ahh magnesium, the saviour of the constipated colon. Aim for approximately 300 – 400 mg/​night for hard stools. Magnesium citrate and Magnesium oxide will be better choices than glycinate, however magnesium glycinate is very calming for busy minds and anxiety, or restless legs. Good old Milk of Magnesia is safe in pregnancy (see motherisk.org)
  5. Probiotics and/​or yogurt
    There are some great pregnancy probiotics on the market like HMF Maternity (Seroyal) but any good bacterial combination with a mix of good bacteria (see the companies New Roots, Metagenics, Innovite, NFH where possible). If you don’t feel comfortable taking a pill, yogurt (plain) with good cultures like Liberte is a good idea.
  6. Tummy rubs
    You or a loved one can do this easy little trick!
    1. Lie down, and find your pubic bone.
    2. Move your fingers to the right and make little circles going from your pubic bone to your hip bone along your stomach, up to your ribcage, along the ribcage, and down the other side to your left hip bone and pelvis.
      If you feel tenderness, it’s probably poo. I know, gross, but better out than in! This gently stimulates the bowels to contract. You may even pass a little gas; burping or otherwise!
  7. Exercise
    Walking, especially after a meal, can relieve gas, burping, and gently massages the colon. You can even do light tummy rubs while you walk around the block! Squats also move the bowels, as does yoga. Check out this link for good visual ideas for poses to release your bowels!
  8. Actual laxatives
    There are times where every good woman must get some true pharmaceutical help, and if you are seriously constipated, it is worth considering to relieve yourself.
    motherisk.org has a list of the following (please see the below, reference from The Hospital for Sick Children) and the risk/​benefit associated with each support. A majority are safe, but of course, check with your health professional first (this is a blog, and ideas, not direct health support).
Drug Type of Study Details Outcomes
Psyllium Surveillance 100 > N < 199
during first trimester
No increased risk of malformations7
Docusate sodium Prospective N = 116
anytime during pregnancy
No increased risk of malformations8
Surveillance N = 473
during first trimester
No increased risk of malformations (1÷473 = 0.2%)7
Surveillance N = 319
during first trimester
No increased risk of malformations (3÷319 = 0.9%)9
Surveillance N = 232
during first trimester
No increased risk of malformations (9÷232 = 3.9%)10
Lactulose Pharmacokinetics N = 6 adults
given lactulose
Systemic bioavailability < 3%11
Polyethylene glycol Pharmacokinetics N = 11 adults
given polyethylene glycol
Not absorbed12
Bisacodyl Pharmacokinetics N = 12 adults
given oral and rectal bisacodyl
Minimal absorption13
Pharmacokinetics N = 16 adults
given bisacodyl suppository
Systemic bioavilability < 5%14
Senna Case Control N = 506 cases
(260 during first trimester)
No increased risk of malformations (OR 0.8; 95% CI 0.41.4) or adverse pregnancy outcomes15
Pharmacokinetics N = 937 control
(500 during first trimester);
N = 10 adults
given senna
Systemic bioavilability < 5%16

OR-​Odds ratio

Data from Jick et al,7 Heinonen et al,8 Aselton et al,9 Briggs et al,10 Carulli et al,11 Wilkinson,12 Roth and Beschke,13 Flig et al,14 Acs et al,15 and Krumbiegnel and Shultz16

Above all ladies, just don’t suffer in silence. Get help from your health care professionals, so you can be comfortable for you, and your baby.

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