How to Manage Pregnancy Constipation

Here's how to prevent constipation and other feminine-related problems.

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Constipation

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Constipation

Feeling bloated and constipated is more than uncomfortable. It can also cause hemorrhoids. On its own, pregnancy increases your risk of swollen veins around your rectum. "But if your stool is uncomfortable to pass and you're straining to do so, it can make hemorrhoids worse," says Dr. Brasner, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in New York City, and author of Advice from a Pregnant Obstetrician (Hyperion. "This is serious, because they can be with you for life."

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What Causes Constipation?

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What Causes Constipation?

An estimated 20 to 50 percent of pregnant women experience constipation, partly because of high levels of progesterone. "This hormone causes the muscles in the wall of the bowel to relax so they're not making the contractions needed to help move things along," says Dr. Rabin, associate professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology and women's health at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, in New York City. "Plus, as your pregnancy progresses, your uterus enlarges and presses down on your bowels, which can slow their ability to empty." Yet another culprit may be the iron in your prenatal vitamin or the iron supplement you may be taking because of anemia. Lastly, giving up caffeine, which naturally keeps the bowels moving, can be another cause of constipation.

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Fill Up on Fiber

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Fill Up on Fiber

A diet loaded with fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, and bran cereal will help keep your digestive tract working well. Just make sure to add fiber to your diet gradually; consuming a lot of it suddenly can make you gassy. To get your body used to it, eat fiber-rich foods throughout the day.

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Drink, Drink, Drink!

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Drink, Drink, Drink!

Dehydration can cause your stool to be hard, which makes it difficult to pass through your GI tract. You also need more water when you boost your fiber intake. Aim for the recommended eight 8-ounce glasses a day.

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Get Physical

Lara Robby

Get Physical

You don't have to do any major sweating here; a brisk walk can promote movement in your bowels.

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Talk to Your Doctor

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Talk to Your Doctor

If you're taking an iron supplement for pregnancy-induced anemia, ask your physician about taking a stool softener as well.

Originally published in the October 2007 issue of American Baby magazine.

All content on this Web site, including medical opinion and any other health-related information, is for informational purposes only and should not be considered to be a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this site and the information contained herein does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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For More Information

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For More Information

To find additional help and ideas for combating and managing pregnancy constipation, be sure to read the following: