The Uncomfortable Realities of Pregnancy: Constipation Edition

Posted By Author on July 10, 2024

Becoming a mother is one of the most pivotal moments a woman can experience. From feeling the first fluttery kicks to hearing the tiny heartbeat, pregnancy is a time of wonder. But while bringing a life into the world is incredibly rewarding, it is also a physically demanding task – one that often comes with unpleasant symptoms like diarrhea, swelling, and constipation. 

But are your clogged-up bowels cause for concern? When do symptoms cross from “typical” to “time to visit a GI doctor near you?” 

At Charleston GI, we strive to make our pregnant patients as comfortable as possible as you head into this new chapter. Keep reading to learn more about pregnancy constipation, and to find out how our gastroenterology specialists can help! 

Is It Normal to Be Constipated During Pregnancy?

Constipation occurs when food hardens in the lower part of your GI tract and can’t be moved out as stool. While anyone can experience constipation, it is even more common during pregnancy. In fact, an estimated 11% to 38% of pregnant women experience constipation, according to an  article published in the National Library of Medicine

Constipation can occur in all three trimesters, though you’re most likely to experience it during the third trimester as the growing baby puts the most pressure on your bowel. 

When Does Constipation Start in Pregnancy? 

You may start to experience constipation as early as the second or third month of pregnancy as your body begins to produce higher levels of progesterone, a hormone supporting pregnancy maintenance. 

Because higher levels of progesterone relax the lower intestines, digestion slows – and bowel movements do too. This may mean more time spent in the bathroom than reading up on potential baby names. 

Pregnancy Constipation: When to Worry 

Constipation is a common fixture in many pregnancies, but it’s important to note that it may indicate a more serious underlying issue. Schedule an appointment with one of the gastrointestinal doctors in your area if you experience the following constipation symptoms: 

  • Prolonged difficulty passing stool 
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Mucus or blood present in the stool 
  • Rectal bleeding 

Constipation can lead to, or even worsen, two other common pregnancy conditions: hemorrhoids and anal fissures (a tear in the lining of your anal canal). To rule out a more concerning condition, talk to your GI doctor in Charleston, SC. 

Finding Relief for Your Pregnancy Constipation Symptoms

There is no known “cure” for constipation, but certain lifestyle and diet changes can help ease uncomfortable symptoms. 

Eat a Fiber-Rich Diet

Eating 25 to 30 grams of fiber each day can help speed up your digestive system and soften stools, making them easier to pass. Consider adding more fruits, veggies, and whole grains to your diet.

Stay Hydrated 

Since water softens the waste in your bowel, it comes as no surprise that dehydration is a common cause of constipation. Water also helps to produce additional blood for your baby. Try to drink between 8 and 12 cups of water daily and incorporate more water-rich foods into your diet.

Keep Moving

Extra weight and the persistent drowsiness many pregnant women experience can make staying active a challenge. Talk to a gastroenterologist near you for pregnancy-safe exercises to add to your daily routine.

Is Constipation Cramping Your Style? Visit Charleston GI For Help! 

Preparing for the arrival of a new baby is exciting, but pregnancy can also leave you feeling exhausted and, at times, constipated. Talking about the uncomfortable side of pregnancy may seem embarrassing at first, but there’s no need to suffer in silence.

Choose from four convenient Charleston area locations, with offices in West Ashley, Mount Pleasant, Summerville, and Carnes Crossroads. Our Charleston GI doctors are here to help five days a week, proudly serving our friends and neighbors. There’s no referral needed, so schedule your appointment today!