Feeling a little backed up? Try adding some fiber to your diet and make sure you're getting enough exercise. This simple tips can help.

Though it may be embarrassing to talk about, having trouble moving your bowels is a common problem throughout pregnancy. Infrequent stools or hard, dry stools occur for two reasons: Pregnancy hormones slow the movement of food in the digestive system, and the iron in your prenatal vitamin can cause constipation. Do your best to address constipation because too much pushing can cause hemorrhoids or exacerbate any you already have.

Preventing constipation is one more good reason to get out and walk: Exercise often helps move things along. Occasionally prenatal vitamins will cause diarrhea, but constipation occurs far more frequently. Don't stop taking your prenatal vitamin; you and your baby need the nutrients it provides. If iron is causing constipation that doesn't improve with changes in diet and exercise, your doctor may want to prescribe vitamins with less iron.

To alleviate and prevent constipation, drink up! Aim for eight to ten glasses of water a day and eat plenty of high-fiber foods. Here are some ways to be sure you're getting the recommended 25-35 grams of fiber each day:

  • Start the day with a whole grain cereal that contains at least 5 grams of fiber per serving. Top your cereal with wheat germ, raisins, banana slices, or strawberries, all of which are good sources of fiber.
  • Eat raw vegetables. Cooking vegetables can reduce fiber content by breaking down some fiber into its carbohydrate components. When you do cook vegetables, microwave or steam them until they are tender, not mushy.
  • Go easy on fruit and vegetable juices. They provide far less fiber than whole fruits and vegetables.
  • Leave the peels on. Much of a fruit or vegetable's fiber is in its skin, so if you peel it, you're throwing fiber away. Always wash unpeeled fruits and vegetables with warm water to remove dirt and bacteria.
  • Use beans instead of -- or in addition to -- meat. Fiber-rich beans and lentils are a tasty addition to soups, stews, and salads. If you don't like the way they feel in your mouth, mash them up.

Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.

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