Pregnancy takes your body through a lot of changes, so at times you won’t feel like yourself. But while some pregnancy issues are expected — a growing bump, morning sickness, and moodiness — changes in your bowel activity might come as a surprise.
Granted, pregnancy poop isn’t the most exciting topic to talk about. But knowing what to expect can remove the element of surprise and settle worries when the unexpected does occur.
First thing about pregnancy poop: There may be times when it doesn’t seem to be happening at all. Constipation is having fewer than three bowel movements a week. To be fair, irregularity can happen anytime, whether you’re pregnant or not. But it’s a complaint that affects a lot of pregnant people.
Different factors contribute to constipation, such as too little fiber, inactivity, or eating foods that don’t agree with you. When it occurs during pregnancy, though, it’s often due to an increase in the hormone progesterone.
This hormone slows muscle contractions in the intestines. And when muscle contractions slow down, your bowels don’t flow as freely or as easily.
Symptoms of constipation include hard, dry stools, bloating, and straining. You may also have gas or stomach pain, which is probably the last thing you want to deal with when pregnant.
The good news is that constipation can be an easy fix. Drink plenty of fluids, especially water, to help soften stools so that they’re easier to pass. In addition, add more fiber to your diet. This includes eating more vegetables and fruits.
A stool softener might help severe constipation, but be sure to talk with your doctor first.
Blood on the tissue after wiping can send you into a state of panic. But don’t think the worst.
Seeing some blood in your stool or on the toilet paper is another common pregnancy occurrence, especially if you’ve been dealing with constipation.
Constipation isn’t only physically uncomfortable, it can also lead to straining. This can cause small rectal tears (fissures) or swollen veins (hemorrhoids). Both can cause bleeding from the rectum — usually a small amount of blood that appears pink or bright red.
Hemorrhoids and anal fissures can heal on their own. But to prevent the occurrence of new ones, take steps to avoid constipation and don’t strain.
Even though fissures and hemorrhoids are common, you should always notify your doctor of bleeding during bowel movements. Bleeding is sometimes due to other issues in the digestive tract — more so when blood appears black or tarry.
Be mindful that eating certain foods can also change the color of your stools, making them appear red. This can happen after eating beets or foods that contain red or black food coloring.
Fluctuating hormones during pregnancy can also cause loose or watery stools. Diarrhea occurs as your body produces the hormone relaxin. This hormone is only released during pregnancy.
It prepares your body for labor and delivery by loosening your joints and ligaments. The problem, though, is that relaxin can also loosen the joints around your rectum, causing bouts of diarrhea.
For the most part, mild diarrhea isn’t serious, but it’s important to stay hydrated and drink plenty of fluids.
Contact your doctor if you have more than three loose stools a day, or if you have other symptoms such as:
- blood or mucus in your stools
- weight loss
- stomach pain
Speak with your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medications to treat loose stools.
Interestingly, the color of your stools can also change during pregnancy. Normal stools are usually light to dark brown, but during pregnancy, your poop could turn green.
Again, don’t be alarmed. A lot of times this is triggered by an increase in fiber intake, or more specifically, eating more vegetables and leafy greens. Good for you if you’ve increased your healthy food intake during pregnancy!
If you’re taking prenatal vitamins or an iron supplement, both have also been known to change the color of poop from brown to green. You may even have green bowel movements if you take a prescribed antibiotic while pregnant.
Your stools will return to a normal color after you stop taking certain vitamins and medications.
But although green poop is normal and doesn’t usually indicate a problem, talk with your doctor if you have any concerns. Sometimes, green poop is due to an infection, gallstones, food poisoning, and irritable bowel syndrome.
Very dark stools can also occur during pregnancy. Notify your doctor if you notice black or tarry poop. Again, although food dyes can turn stools dark, a dark color can also signal bleeding in your digestive tract.
When you tell friends and family that you’re expecting, some will see this as an invitation to share their own pregnancy story — the good, the bad, and the ugly.
And when it comes to actually having the baby, you may feel it doesn’t get any uglier than losing your bowels during delivery. In fact, this might be your greatest fear.
But the truth is that pooping during delivery is common, and it’s nothing to be ashamed or worried about. (It doesn’t happen to everyone, so you might be worrying about nothing.)
The muscles you use to bring life into the world are the same muscles you use during a bowel movement. So yes, it can happen. Just know that you wouldn’t be the first mother to poop during delivery, and you won’t be the last.
If it makes you feel any better, the hospital prepares for this possibility. A nurse will swiftly clean it up — as if it never happened.
But if you’re still concerned about this, you can try and relieve yourself before you’re ready to push. Ask your nurse or doctor if it’s safe to take a suppository. These often trigger a bowel movement within minutes.
After a vaginal delivery, it’s only normal to be a little anxious about the first bowel movement after giving birth.
You might worry about additional soreness down below or irritating stitches if you had some tearing. Of course, this is only if you’re able to go. Pain medication you receive during and after labor can make your muscles a bit sluggish, initially causing constipation.
When you’re ready to go, taking a stool softener and drinking plenty of water and juice can make your first poop after delivery easier.
It also helps to have a pain reliever on hand, and maybe witch hazel cleansing pads, to reduce burning and inflammation. The important thing to remember is don’t strain.
Let things flow naturally to avoid hemorrhoids and anal fissures, which can cause more pain and discomfort.
Pregnancy poop may not be something you want to talk about, but it’s something you need to think about.
Pregnancy can affect every part of your body, so expect your bowels to go through some changes, too. Keep in mind that every pregnancy is different. The key is knowing what to expect, so when changes do occur, you’re not caught completely off guard.
If you have any concerns, talk to your doctor. They’ll be able to help figure out the cause.