Infrequent bowel movements. Abdominal pain. The passage of hard stools.

If you’re pregnant, you’ve probably experienced these three familiar signs of constipation. Hormonal changes, pressure on the womb, and the iron in prenatal vitamins are to blame.

Why Am I Constipated?

An increase in the progesterone hormone during pregnancy causes the relaxation of your body’s muscles. That includes your intestines. And slower moving intestines means slower digestion. This can lead to constipation.

Constipation is common during pregnancy. Almost three out of four pregnant women will experience constipation and other bowel issues at some point, according to a study published in Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica.

From over-the-counter pills to natural cures, there are a whole host of remedies available for relieving constipation.

But when pregnancy’s involved, the number of solutions shrinks.

These five remedies are pregnancy-safe.

eat more fiber

A diet high in fiber helps prevention constipation. It also supplies pregnant women with vitamins and antioxidants.

Pregnant women should try to consume 25 to 30 grams of dietary fiber each day to stay regular and healthy.

Good choices include fresh fruits, vegetables, beans, peas, lentils, bran cereals, prunes, and whole-grain bread.

Try cutting up some raspberries, apples, bananas, figs, and strawberries for a refreshing fruit salad. Or roast some sweet corn, Brussels sprouts, and carrots for a delightful side dish.

hydrate

It’s important to stay hydrated during pregnancy. That might mean doubling your water intake.

Pregnant women should drink at least eight 12-ounce glasses of water a day. This will help keep your bowels soft and moving smoothly through your digestive tract.

eat small meals

Try breaking up your daily food intake into five or six smaller meals to help with constipation relief. This will allow the stomach to digest food without having to work overtime, and allow it to transfer food to the intestine and colon smoothly.

Eating large meals can overload your stomach and make it harder for your digestive system to process what you’ve consumed.

exercise

Regular physical activity can help reduce constipation. Exercise stimulates your bowels. Pregnant women should try to exercise three times a week for 20 to 30 minutes each.

The options for exercise are endless. Try walking down your favorite hiking path, swimming at your local gym, or practicing prenatal yoga on a relaxing afternoon.

Check with your doctor about what exercises are safe for you and your baby.

stool softener

If other natural options have failed, doctors will sometimes prescribe stool softeners like Colace on a short-term basis to help pregnant women with constipation (long-term use can lead to dehydration or change your electrolyte balance).

Can I Take Laxatives?
Doctors typically do not recommend that pregnant women take laxatives for constipation relief. They can cause dehydration and stimulate uterine contractions.

Stool softeners help moisten your bowels so they are easier to pass. They are especially useful for pregnant women taking constipation-causing iron supplements. Doctors will often prescribe softeners along with iron pills.

Stool softeners are medications, so it’s best to check with your doctor if they are safe for you.

Takeaway

Constipation relief during pregnancy is common, and it can be remedied.

Just follow the steps above to help ease the discomfort of backed up bowels while you wait for your little one to arrive.