First and foremost, it is worth remembering that pregnancy constipation is a very common problem. However, through making some simple nutritional changes to your diet, this issue can be resolved within a matter of days.
Why am I suffering from pregnancy constipation?
Constipation is partly down to your hormones – yes, so much can be blamed on hormones! An increased level of progesterone in your system relaxes the smooth muscle in your intestines. Intestinal contractions are responsible for moving food waste through our bowels, so when the muscles relax everything slows down.
Furthermore, as a pregnant woman, it is possible that you have been prescribed iron supplements, which can cause some digestive discomfort. Finally, in the later months of your pregnancy, your uterus rests on your rectum and can make the colon and bowel work more slowly.
During pregnancy, it is really important that you poo regularly, ideally once or twice a day. If you do not, the waste that your liver has worked hard to remove from your body will be reabsorbed into your blood stream leading to nausea, sluggishness and headaches etc.
Waiting too long can make you feel uncomfortable, and the next time you need to poo, it will be much harder to go. If left untreated, constipation can lead to varicose veins, which are deeply unpleasant.
The good news is that this common pregnancy problem is easy to resolve! Just follow these simple steps, and you can expect relief within a few days without resorting to over-the-counter medications (unless prescribed by your GP).
During pregnancy, you need to drink more water as growing a baby is a water-intensive exercise. If you are not drinking enough fluids, then your colon will desperately try to absorb all water from your digestive tract leaving hard, dry stools that are difficult to pass.
To prevent this, try to increase your water intake by two glasses per day in the form of pure water or herbal tea.
Get some bulk
Increase dietary fibre by eating fruits, raw vegetables and gel-forming fibres, such as:
- Brown rice
- Oat bran
- Oat porridge
- Psyllium husks
These provide bulk in the digestive tract to help get rid of the toxins in the bile from your system.
Pulses and legumes, such as beans and lentils, are rich in fibre, minerals and proteins. Why not add them to casseroles and soups, or eat them with cold pressed oils (extra virgin olive oil or rapeseed oil, for example) as an alternative to salads.
If you do not currently have a lot of fibre in your diet, then it is important to introduce it gradually. In large quantities, fibre can cause bloating, which may make you more uncomfortable.
Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables
The government’s five-a-day recommendation did not develop from the belief that it is the ideal quantity of fruit and vegetables one should consume each day. On the contrary, it was chosen because it is a more realistic goal for individuals to achieve.
Do you manage to get your five-a-day?
If not, start trying to hit this target.
If you do, why not try to increase to seven-a-day? You will feel much better for it, and it is not even that hard to do:
- A green juice is 3 portions
- Eat fruit with your breakfast, such as a handful of blueberries on your cereal
- Eat fruit and vegetables for snacks, for instance hummus and carrot sticks
- Include at least one portion of vegetables with lunch and dinner
- Have a side salad, which equates to 1-2 portions
Some good snack choices are apples, any dried fruit and bananas. If you can, try to choose organic.
Oil yourself up
Cooking oils help to lubricate the intestines and relieve constipation. It is important to choose oils that do not oxidise quickly if you are cooking, as heat can turn a healthy oil into a toxic one.
Use coconut oil for cooking at high temperatures, such as stir fries, as it is highly resistant to heat and retains its powerful health benefits.
Extra virgin olive oil and red palm oil are also good options for cooking, just ensure that you do not let the pan get smoking hot.
For salad dressings, it might be an option to use flaxseed, hempseed or extra virgin olive oil. You can increase your usual consumption of any of these oils by around 2 tablespoons a day without worrying about the calories.
Read more about the healthy oils and which to cook with here.
When we are active, so are our bowels!
Drink more prune juice
You do not have to wait until things get bad to use this tip, but be warned, prune juice is very effective at relieving constipation quickly – so be careful!
One cup in the morning after a large glass of water should get things moving. If this trick does not work on the first day, then drink one cup in the morning and one after lunch on day two.