When you become pregnant, your body undergoes a number of changes. Morning sickness is not the only symptom of early pregnancy.
Many people suffer from constipation symptoms such as “hard stools” and gas in the intestines. If constipation becomes chronic, it can lead to hemorrhoids and warts.
In this article, we will explain the causes of constipation in early pregnancy, how to relieve it, and what medications can be taken during pregnancy.
Why does constipation occur in early pregnancy?
Some people who have always had good bowel movements may become constipated after pregnancy, while others who have always been constipated may suffer from even worse symptoms.
Let’s take a look at the specific causes of constipation during pregnancy.
Constipation, a symptom of early pregnancy, is said to be caused by the action of progesterone (progestin), which is secreted during pregnancy. Progesterone is a hormone that is essential for maintaining pregnancy.
But at the same time, it relaxes the smooth muscles of the digestive organs. Therefore, it slows down the movement of the stomach and intestines, causing constipation.
In addition, progesterone has the effect of storing water in the body, which in turn absorbs water in the intestines, making the stool hard and difficult to defecate, which is also a cause of constipation.
Nutritional imbalance due to morning sickness
The first trimester of pregnancy is a time when morning sickness tends to imbalance one’s diet. If the morning sickness is severe, you may not be able to swallow any food at all.
This often leads to an imbalance in nutrition, such as not being able to consume enough dietary fiber, which helps with bowel movements. If the lack of fiber continues, the stool will become hard, leading to constipation.
Lack of water
Hydration is important in early pregnancy because you need to compensate for the reduced water content in your stool due to hormonal changes. Drinking enough water will help soften the stool and make it easier to defecate.
Lack of exercise
Pregnancy tends to cause a lack of daily exercise. Lack of exercise not only decreases bowel movement but also causes stress and autonomic nervous system disturbance.
Changes in the uterus and posture
As the fetus grows, your belly gets bigger and bigger, and your intestinal tract gets squeezed by the uterus, which can cause constipation.
How to relieve constipation (Food)
Morning sickness is a common thing in early pregnancy, although the severity of the symptoms may vary. When you have morning sickness, your body tends to accept only certain foods, and your diet tends to be unbalanced.
Some women with severe morning sickness may not be able to swallow any food at all. Therefore, it may be difficult to eat a balanced diet at every meal.
Nevertheless, eating is important to relieve constipation. What kind of diet can help alleviate the symptoms of constipation? Here are some specific tips on how to relieve constipation in early pregnancy.
Hydration (hot water or herbal tea is recommended)
Make sure to drink water or decaffeinated tea frequently. However, it is best to avoid drinking beverages that are too cold, as they will cool you down.
The best way to relieve constipation in early pregnancy is to drink a glass of white water when you wake up in the morning. This will not only make up for the amount of sweat you have lost while sleeping but also stimulate your stomach and intestines to defecate.
Herbal teas are also recommended to relieve constipation during pregnancy. There are many caffeine-free herbal teas that are safe for pregnant women, such as rooibos, chamomile, rosehip, hibiscus, ginger, and dandelion coffee. Some types of herbal teas not only help relieve constipation but also have a calming effect on your mood. Please give them a try.
However, among herbal teas, be careful of those that have uterine contraction effects, such as a raspberry leaf.
Dietary fiber intake (root vegetables, mushrooms, seaweed, etc.)
One of the most common foods to relieve constipation in early pregnancy is foods rich in dietary fiber. Dietary fiber promotes defecation and removes harmful substances from the intestines. It is important to consciously eat foods that are high in fiber.
There are two types of dietary fiber, insoluble fiber, and soluble fiber, and the key to improving constipation is to take both types of fiber in good balance.
Foods rich in insoluble dietary fiber
- Potatoes and root vegetables
- Legumes such as beans, peas, and adzuki beans
- Grains such as corn, brown rice, and rye
Foods rich in soluble dietary fiber
- Seaweeds such as kelp
- Legumes such as natto and soybeans
- Fruits such as apples and dried prunes
Consumption of lactic acid bacteria (yogurt, miso, soy sauce, etc.)
During pregnancy, bad bacteria proliferate due to stress and dietary changes, and the intestinal environment is often disturbed, which tends to cause constipation.
In order to regain a healthy intestinal environment, it is necessary to actively introduce lactobacilli, which are good bacteria. Lactobacillus can be obtained from supplements and fermented foods such as yogurt, miso, and soy sauce.
How to relieve constipation (Lifestyle)
To relieve constipation, a regular lifestyle and moderate exercise are essential. Easy walking, maternity yoga, stretching, and other light physical activities will help you feel refreshed.
Get a good night’s sleep
A regular lifestyle will help normalize the movement of the intestines and relieve constipation. Try to wake up early in the morning and go to bed early in the evening. The parasympathetic nervous system, which improves bowel function, is most active in the evening and at night, so try to stay up late and get plenty of good sleep.
Stretching and yoga to improve blood circulation
Stretching and maternity yoga is also effective in relieving constipation in early pregnancy. An easy exercise, such as stretching and yoga, is effective in relieving constipation because it improves blood circulation and activates the function of the intestines.
In particular, it is recommended to regularly stretch your abdominal muscles. While lightly straining your abdominal muscles, shake and stretch your waist to promote blood circulation.
Keep your body warm
A cold body is the worst thing for a pregnant woman. It not only causes constipation but also swelling and back pain. During pregnancy, the secretion of progesterone becomes more active in order to continue the pregnancy, and the body temperature becomes higher than normal. As a result, you may feel as if your body is hot, but it is important not to be too concerned about cooling your body too much with air conditioning.
Alternating constipation and diarrhea
Pregnancy can cause the annoying symptoms of alternating constipation and diarrhea. Although constipation and diarrhea are two extreme symptoms, there is no need to worry too much because both can be caused by deterioration of the intestinal environment, hormonal balance, or autonomic nervous system.
Is it okay to take laxatives?
Prolonged constipation can cause skin irritation and headaches, so it is best to get rid of it as soon as possible. If you are experiencing persistent constipation that does not improve even after taking care of your diet and lifestyle, you should consult your doctor and ask for a prescription for medication that can be taken during pregnancy.
Do not use over-the-counter laxatives on your own. Easy medication can affect not only the mother but also the baby.
To relieve constipation, it is important to live a regular life with a balanced diet, good sleep, early to bed and early wake-up, and light exercise. However, in the early stages of pregnancy, morning sickness may make it difficult for you to eat and sleep.
If this is the case, don’t push yourself too hard; your first priority should be to get over the morning sickness.
By staying hydrated and reviewing your diet, you should first aim to have a good bowel movement without relying on medication.