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How to Avoid Constipation During Pregnancy

Posted Jul 24 2013 12:00am

pregnancy constipation Hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause a number of uncomfortable side effects – unfortunately one of these side effects is constipation. During their pregnancy women often don’t drink enough water or eat enough fiber to deal with the increasing demands pregnancy puts on their bodies. 

An adequate intake of water and fiber will work hand-in-hand to prevent constipation during pregnancy.
In the past, pregnancy’s gastrointestinal (G.I.) problems were blamed on the proximity of the fetus to the G.I. system. Now we know that the cause is the high fluctuation of hormones: estrogen and progesterone levels are higher, while metilin (a hormone that propels feces through the colon) decreases. Aldosterone levels increase the amount of water absorbed in the colon.

With all these hormonal changes going on, women who aren’t drinking enough water and eating enough fiber will become constipated.

40% of the pregnant population experiences this problem.  The solution isn’t difficult. You just have to be aware of how much water and fiber you need, and be consistent with your intake.

Fiber

A diet that’s adequate in fiber helps fight constipation by: 

  • Increasing water absorption
  • Promoting the expansion of bacterial populations
  • Creating bulky stools

According to the USDA’s MyPlate nutrition guide , most women need about 28 grams of fiber per day.  Fiber is classified in a few different ways – the kind of fiber that’s helpful for fighting constipation is called insoluble fiber (non-starch polysaccharide). It can be found in a wide range of foods - so don’t worry, you won’t be stuck for choice.

Fiber is found in: bran, rye bread, brown rice, brown pasta, fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds.

Water
It’s recommended - for everyone - that we get around 0.5 ounces of water for every pound of body weight. Naturally, as your body weight increases during pregnancy, so should your water intake. Pregnant women, however, tend to consume significantly lower water than the recommended amount (especially during their first trimester).

Drinking less water than your body needs during pregnancy doesn’t just cause hardened stool and constipation. It also affects your baby - water restriction can cause the amniotic fluid (the fluid surrounding the fetus) to decrease by as much as 8 %. This reduction in fluid reduces the amount of protective cushioning that surrounds your baby.

The Food and Nutrition Board recommends that pregnant women drink at least 102 ounces or 12 glasses of water daily. Seems like a lot?  It is - but you need it. Don’t forget that you can get much of your daily water intake from milk, yogurts, soups, stew, fruits, vegetables and juices.

Also, avoid caffeinated drinks (if you can - pregnancy craving can be difficult). Coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and soft drinks all promote water excretion and can dehydrate you.

A good intake of water and fiber can help prevent or, at least, ease the discomfort of constipation during pregnancy. It reduces the amounts of laxatives you need to use, and lets your body run with its own rhythm.

A final note: some women experience extremely severe constipation during pregnancy, even when their intake of fiber and water is fairly high. If you’re experiencing extreme, unsolvable constipation, you should consult your doctor.  
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