At 21-24 weeks of pregnancy the uterus begins to get bigger as your baby is growing. A fine soft hair known as lanugo covers the baby's skin at this time; it is not known why this happens but is thought to regulate temperature. Due to fluctuations in hormone levels at this stage, constipation is a common problem.
What causes constipation during pregnancy?
Production of the  hormone progesterone is increased during pregnancy which is important for the healthy development of the baby. Progesterone causes relaxation of some of the bowel muscles which makes it harder for food and bodily waste to move through the gut, thus slowing down the intestinal movements, sometimes causing constipation.

Taking iron supplements during pregnancy can also cause constipation so it is a good idea to make sure that you are eating plenty of iron-rich foods to avoid the need to take supplements.


What are the signs of constipation?

  • Greater than 4 days between each bowel movement
  • Hard stools which are difficult to pass and may cause bleeding of the rectum
  • Lower abdominal pain
  • The feeling that not all faeces have been excreted


How to treat and prevent constipation
There are ways of treating constipation without the use of medical treatment, below are some top tips on how to treat and prevent constipation without having to get a prescription from your doctor.

Fibre

Fibre is vital in helping to prevent constipation as it helps food pass through the digestive system more easily; the guideline daily amount (GDA) for fibre is 24g (or 18g if using a different measure of fibre). Foods which are high in fibre include:

  • fruits and vegetables
  • high fibre starchy carbohydrates (e.g. foods which contain wholewheat, wholegrain wholemeal in the title)
  • seeds
  • nuts
  • oats

Below is an example of how to achieve the GDA for fibre

Meal or snack
Type of food  
Fibre content (g)
Breakfast

Porridge made with 45g oats

Medium banana

4.1

1.1

Morning snack  
Apple 1.8
Lunch

Egg and cress sandwich on multiseed bread

1 medium carrot (sliced)

1 medium pepper (sliced)

5.4

1.9

1.9

Afternoon snack  
2 slices of fruit loaf
2.8
Evening meal
Chili con carne with rice
8.1
TOTAL FIBRE INTAKE FOR THE DAY 27.1g

 

Fluids

In order to help prevent constipation you should aim to keep up with your fluid intake, the recommended intake for fluids is about 6-8 glasses a day, but more is needed during pregnancy. The amount needed will vary from person to person, but is likely to be at least one or two extra glasses a day and you will need more if the weather is hot and when you are physically active. Thirst is your body’s way of telling you that you need water and you are already a little dehydrated when thirst kicks in, so make sure you drink if you are thirsty. Click here for more information on healthy hydration.

 

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