Thanks to shifts in hormones and the added pressure a growing uterus places on the intestines, many women face constipation during pregnancy. Constipation is defined as having three or fewer bowel movements per week. It’s also marked by straining during bowel movements, trouble passing stools, and passing small stools.

If you have constipation, your doctor may suggest lifestyle changes or over-the-counter (OTC) products to help ease your symptoms. Colace is one OTC drug used to relieve occasional, short-term constipation. Learn about its safety during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

In general, Colace is considered safe to use during pregnancy or breastfeeding. However, if you have pregnancy-related constipation, talk to your doctor first before using medication. Your doctor may suggest lifestyle changes to help relieve constipation before you try an OTC product like Colace. Sometimes, changing your habits may bring you enough relief that you don’t need to take a drug to treat constipation.

Learn more: 5 safe remedies for constipation in pregnancy »

If you and your doctor decide that Colace is the right option for you during pregnancy, ask your doctor what the best dosage is for you. You should also ask them how long you should use Colace.

It’s also considered safe to use Colace while breastfeeding. When taken at usual doses, a significant amount of the drug does not pass into breast milk. Children who are breastfed do not experience any negative side effects if their mothers take Colace.

The active ingredient in Colace is docusate. It belongs to a class of laxatives called emollients, more commonly known as stool softeners. These drugs soften your stool to let it pass through your digestive system more smoothly. In turn, you have a bowel movement without as much straining or pain. After you take Colace, you should have a bowel movement within 12 to 72 hours.

The typical dosage for Colace for adults and children 12 years or older is 50-300 mg per day. You take it in one dose per day or divided doses.

Side effects

Like most drugs, Colace may cause some unwanted side effects. Most side effects are mild and go away as your body gets used to the medication. Some common side effects include:

  • stomach cramps
  • nausea
  • diarrhea

In rare cases, severe side effects can occur. If you have any of these side effects, call your doctor right away:

  • skin rash
  • trouble breathing
  • fever

Taking Colace at doses that are higher than recommended may cause other side effects. These can include:

  • weakness
  • sweating
  • muscle cramps
  • irregular heart rate

If you accidently take more Colace than recommended and have these side effects, call your doctor right away.

You shouldn’t use Colace if you’re also taking mineral oil. Colace can increase the amount of mineral oil that your body absorbs. This may cause unpleasant side effects, such as oil leakage from your anus. It’s best to use only one laxative at a time unless your doctor tells you otherwise.

If you’re dealing with constipation during pregnancy, tell your doctor. They may suggest making lifestyle changes to help you have more regular bowel movements. If dietary changes and exercise don’t help, then your doctor may suggest an OTC product that is safe for pregnant women, such as Colace.

If you take Colace, talk to your doctor about a few things, including:

  • all OTC and prescription drugs and supplements you use
  • if you need to use Colace for more than one week
  • if you don’t have a bowel movement within 72 hours after taking Colace
  • if you have bleeding from your rectum (may be a sign of a serious problem)