Ahh pregnancy...simultaneously the most magical and uncomfortable time in your life. As grateful as you are to be growing this new human; you can't help but be frustrated that you haven't pooped in days and your heartburn has now traveled up to your teeth! Around 40% of women experience constipation during pregnancy and as someone who suffered with this during my own pregnancies, I get you! No judgement!
So what’s the deal with this toilet trouble? During pregnancy, the placenta releases progesterone, an amazing hormone that supports uterine growth and creates a cushy lining for baby to grow but also slows down the smooth muscle in the GI tract to a snail's pace. To compound this, baby’s positioning can also get in the way of proper pooing, especially later on in pregnancy when baby is larger and sitting lower in the pelvis. Chronic constipation along with the increased pelvic pressure of a growing baby can not only be uncomfortable but also increase chances of bigger problems such as hemorrhoids or anal fissures.
Many women find themselves reaching for over-the-counter laxatives and stool softeners for relief but those can end up becoming addictive and ultimately damage the body’s ability to eliminate waste on its own. Before you reach for the ex-lax (I always think about that scene from Dumb and Dumber, anybody else?!), let me share my guide for solving your preggo poop problems.
1. HYDRATE, HYDRATE, HYDRATE
I can’t emphasis this one enough! The body needs water, especially when it’s creating another human. None of the other steps mentioned in this article will be very effective without adequate hydration. My first choice is plain water but if that’s not your jam, try a fruit or herb infused water, tea, or bone broth. Fluid needs vary from person to person and the easiest way to tell if you are drinking enough is to watch the color of your urine. Look for a clear or light-yellow color as a good indicator of hydration.
2. BUMP UP THE FIBER
Fiber is the structural part of plant cells that humans cannot break down for calories. High fiber foods ferment in the intestines (thus the bean song) and absorb water to become a gel that moves through the intestines smoothly. Now, back to step 1, if you aren’t well hydrated, extra fiber can actually do the exact opposite and cause a bowel blockage. No fun for anyone so drink your water ladies!
To boost fiber intake, get veggies at each meal and add in a serving or two of whole fruit throughout the day. When you eat grains, make sure they are whole and low-processed options such as quinoa, brown rice, or oats. Chia seeds and ground flaxseeds are also awesome sources of fiber and can be added to smoothies, salad, and drinks.
3. MAGNESIUM IS YOUR FRIEND
Magnesium is an osmotic laxative that pulls water into the intestines and relaxes muscles to move stool along. Nearly half of Americans don’t meet their recommended intake of this very important mineral. High mag foods include almonds, dark leafy greens, pumpkin seeds, and cashews but it can be challenging to meet daily needs through food alone. To alleviate constipation, I recommended a magnesium citrate supplement daily. Sensitivity to magnesium supplementation varies so remember, start low and go slow. See how you do with 150 mg and increase as needed until you get the recommended results. Bonus: magnesium also lowers blood pressure and calms stress response!
You can find magnesium citrate at most pharmacies but if you are lazy like me you can get it online here!
Daily exercise gets the blood moving and can promote GI regularity. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day. For the most benefit, get a mix of cardio such as walking, biking, or elliptical along with strength training.
5. SQUAT IT DOWN
Those 2 AM infomercials were right! Squatting to use the bathroom instead of sitting opens the pelvis and lines up the colon to allow easier bowel movements. Understandably, this is a difficult position for a pregnant woman to assume so a small step stool can be very helpful. Another bonus; this movement can help open up the hips in preparation for birth!
6. GOOD BACTERIA = HAPPY GUT
In today’s busy, sterile environment getting in good bacteria is a must! Antibiotic use, chronic stress, and illness are just a few things that impair our gut microbiome and change how we digest and absorb the nutrients in our food. Try to include fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, or kombucha tea daily for a boost of good bacteria. A probiotic supplement may be a good idea if you are experiencing severe GI discomfort or dislike the probiotic food options.
Garden of Life Primal Defense Ultra is a great all-around probiotic, I typically recommend 1-2 caps daily.
There you have it, your constipation cure! Not sure where to start? Here's my go-to smoothie to help get you moving in the right direction (pun intended :)
*Helpful tip: Speed up your mornings by making “smoothie bags” ahead of time. Put all the ingredients (except liquid) into storage bags or containers and keep a stash in the freezer. Then just add the liquid, blend, and you are good to go!
** Here are my favorite grass-fed collagen peptides