Pregnancy – the time that your body decides to slow down the digestion process and back everything up. As if there weren’t enough aches and pains associated with pregnancy, let’s add gas and constipation pains to the mix.
Your digestive track literally slows down significantly due to the increase of progesterone. Progesterone relaxes the smooth muscles which is what the digestive track uses to move food through the intestines. The slowing down of the process also causes more of the liquid to be absorbed throughout the intestines and thus creates constipation by the time it gets to the bottom of the tract.
Pregnancy is a pain – a real bad pain—sometimes. Not only can constipation cause pain but it can also cause lack of appetite, hemorrhoids, and bloating. Constipation stinks…. Okay so it doesn’t physically stink, but it is no fun!
So what can you do to avoid constipation or when you are constipated?
As said by the fine Charlie Berens of Manitowoc Minute, Keep ‘er Moving! You need to stay active. Exercise keeps the blood flowing and it is the best way to keep your digestive track on track. Whether you are out there walking around the block a couple of times a day or doing water aerobics, moving is a great way to keep things moving and also its great for you and the baby!
Fiber up your diet. You can get this from gross Metamucil drinks that turn into gelatinous materials. Or you can eat fiber rich foods that taste good like blueberries, raspberries, apples, Brussel sprouts and bean soups. I will never forget when I was pregnant with my third and it had almost been a week since the Browns went to the Superbowl (incidentally it felt like it was as long since the real Browns went to their last Superbowl). I was desperate. A friend suggested I eat blueberry pie filling. I waddled through the aisle of the grocery store to purchase a single can of pie filling. I came home, stood in the kitchen and ate that pie filling from the can with a spoon. I am happy to report that between the sugar and the fiber filled blueberries, it certainly got things moving in a big way.
Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate. This is good solid (no pun intended!) advice for any season of life. If you aren’t well hydrated, your systems don’t work well. If you find yourself constantly constipated, increase your water intake to help saturate your entire digestive system!
Coffee. There is a reason old men wake up early in the morning and read their papers while drinking their cup of joe. The coffee makes things move before they need to leave the house. Waking up early enough and consuming that cup of coffee is part of their daily habit. If your OB allows you to have some caffeine, consider a cup of coffee in the morning if you need an extra boost in the bathroom. But fret none – even if you don’t like to consume caffeinated beverages while pregnant, decaf coffee is also known to have laxative effects!
I bring this blog to you from a place of current experience. I know your pain. I understand it well. Somewhere in the middle of the second trimester, the constipation has packed a punch on me and I am back to resorting to doing these things myself. Since this is my 5th pregnancy, I am well versed in what moves (and doesn’t move) things along in my system. I have always said that constipation prepares you by teaching you the appropriate way to push during labor. When the nurse says, “You need to feel it in your bottom when you push like you are trying to have a bowel movement,” my response in my head is “Lady, I got this, I know exactly what it feels like to push like I am trying to have a bowel movement – I have had months of extensive practice!”
If all else fails, call your provider. Sometimes there are other reasons for constipation aside from a slow moving digestive track or sometimes it has been too long since you have had a bowel movement and your provider should know. They can recommend both over the counter and prescription meds if the constipation is a constant issue!
Keep ‘er Moving and I hope everything comes out okay!
Written by: Melanie Binversie, Owner and Lead Doula of Stars and Stripes Doulas of Washington DC