They’re not fun to talk about — the less pleasant aspects of pregnancy — but you deserve relief.
So we’re here to acknowledge that pregnancy can include uncomfortable experiences and side effects like nausea, exhaustion, hair where you don’t expect it, smell aversions, and, well… bathroom troubles.
About those bathroom troubles: With so much discussion about what you should or shouldn’t eat or take for relief, it’s hard to know what you can safely use to treat common ailments like constipation.
And this includes whether you can use over-the-counter (OTC) treatments like milk of magnesia.
The short answer is that you can, but there are a few things to keep in mind.
Pregnancy constipation is real and can be incredibly uncomfortable.
In one 2020 observational survey that included more than 800 women, 40 percent of pregnant women and 52 percent of postpartum women experienced constipation.
Constipation is described as a decrease in bowel movements and when stool can become difficult to pass. Common causes in people who aren’t pregnant are a change in diet or routine or not getting enough fiber.
In pregnancy, hormones are often to blame.
Specifically, an increase in the presence of progesterone causes your body’s muscles to relax. Unfortunately, this also includes critical muscles in your intestines, which can result in slower digestion.
Another cause of constipation is the added iron you get from prenatal vitamins. (You need extra iron during pregnancy, but it’s not without its side effects.)
Many people turn to milk of magnesia to relieve constipation. It can also be used to treat heartburn and indigestion — two other common concerns during pregnancy.
How milk of magnesia works
Milk of magnesia is a common OTC remedy designed to help get your body’s digestive system working smoothly.
The generic name is magnesium hydroxide, and it’s classified as a saline laxative. It works by helping your stool retain water.
This stool-softening action can make it easier to go, while the laxative properties of magnesium can help you go more often. However, milk of magnesia is meant to be a short-term solution for temporary constipation.
Limited studies have reviewed the safety of using milk of magnesia for pregnancy-related constipation. But it’s considered generally safe for temporary use.
However, it’s always a good idea to speak with your OB before taking any medication, even OTC ones.
If you rely too heavily on milk of magnesia, you may experience dehydration — which, in turn,
Some forms of milk of magnesia may contain similar ingredients to ingredients in foods that some people are allergic to.
Additionally, this common OTC treatment may interact negatively with some prescription medications or even dietary supplements. In some scenarios, it can reduce the potency (strength) of other medications or increase the risk of side effects.
All these are good reasons to check with your doctor before using milk of magnesia during pregnancy.
Milk of magnesia can be found in liquid, tablet, and chewable forms.
Unless otherwise directed by your physician, follow the recommended dosage on the packaging. Some versions are intended to be taken with food, while you can take others without it.
Additionally, because this medication works by drawing water to the stool to help make it easier to go, you’ll want to stay hydrated while taking it — even more important when you’re pregnant.
Note that milk of magnesia isn’t without side effects. While it can be effective at getting things moving again, some people may also experience:
- increased thirst
Does it affect baby?
Again, there isn’t a lot of research into OTC laxative use in pregnancy.
Before trying milk of magnesia, you may want to try other methods that are safe and don’t require taking medication. Targeting diet and hydration can be smart ways to ease constipation symptoms.
You should be getting roughly 25 grams of fiber per day. Consider increasing your fiber intake by eating fiber-rich foods such as:
- split peas
- whole wheat pasta
And classic choices like prunes, papayas, and pears can all help to keep you regular.
Also, drink more water to help keep things moving. Spread out your meals across the day rather than having three large meals per day. Remember that your digestive system is working more slowly when you’re pregnant. Give it time to work through your food!
Don’t forget to stay active. Along with boosting mood, regular physical activity can reduce constipation.
If you’re curious about other laxatives that are safe during pregnancy, prioritize bulk-producing laxatives that contain psyllium. They also draw water into your stool to make it softer and easier to pass.
No one wants to deal with the discomfort of constipation, especially when pregnant.
Milk of magnesia can be a helpful temporary solution for constipation if diet changes, increased water consumption, and exercise don’t seem to do the trick alone.
However, constipation that doesn’t subside after a few days means it’s time to talk with your doc.