Constipation – even if you’re drinking water and eating plenty of fiber – can creep up any time during pregnancy. This can be frustrating at best and painful and scary at worst. Why scary? Constipation during pregnancy can go hand-in-hand with hemorrhoids, which can cause bleeding. There’s nothing scarier for a pregnant woman to see when she goes to the bathroom than blood! To get to the bottom of all things constipation during pregnancy we turned to Dr. Dana Cohen, MD and Essentia Water‘s health and hydration advisor.
Momtastic: What are the common causes for constipation in pregnancy?
Dr. Dana Cohen: Half of all pregnant women experience constipation at some point during their pregnancy. One reason is because women’s progesterone hormones increase during pregnancy, causing the intestinal muscles to relax, which in turn causes food and waste to move more slowly through your system. Also, dehydration can contribute to constipation, so the need to hydrate with water increases during pregnancy, especially in late stage pregnancy.
Momtastic: What are the common treatments?
Dr. Dana Cohen: There are lots of little things you can do to help treat and prevent constipation during pregnancy, but the most important thing is hydration. You want to limit taking medicine while pregnant as much as possible, so before you reach for Metamucil or Colace, make sure you are properly hydrated. It’s amazing how many ailments hydration can relieve – not just constipation, but headaches, migraines, fatigue, brain fog, blood-sugar issues, and so much more. The best way to ensure you are well hydrated is to drink half your body weight in ounces. When you’re pregnant, you may need to drink up to 60-70% of your weight in ounces of water.
Another key factor is the type of water you’re drinking. Not all water is equal! We need to look more closely at what’s in our water – especially while pregnant. Tap water can flush you of electrolytes, which are vital during pregnancy because we are in a high metabolic demand of electrolytes. I prefer Essentia’s ionized alkaline water. It’s a high-quality water with a proprietary mineral blend that give it’s a pure, smooth taste, which makes staying hydrated all the more enjoyable.
In addition to proper hydration, eating a high-fiber diet will help bulk up your stools and make them easier to pass. The more fiber you eat, the more water you need to keep things moving along. Moderate activity each day will help the intestines work and stimulate your bowels.
Momtastic: How can someone know if they are constipated and at what point is it worth speaking with a doctor?
Dr. Dana Cohen: If your constipation during pregnancy lasts more than 1-2 weeks, or you notice blood in your stool, contact your doctor. However, with proper hydration, nutrition, and movement, hopefully you won’t get to that place.
Momtastic: What are hemorrhoids and why do they occur in pregnancy sometimes?
Dr. Dana Cohen: Hemorrhoids are swollen veins that develop around the anus. They can cause pain and bleeding. Anyone can develop hemorrhoids, but pregnant women are at higher risk, especially in the third trimester, due to the extra weight and pressure on the pelvis. They can also develop after giving birth from all the pushing and strain of labor and delivery. Generally, hemorrhoids are more of an annoyance than a serious issue, and they may gradually resolve by themselves after delivery. Proper hydration and a diet full of fiber-rich foods (fruits and veggies) can help prevent and alleviate hemorrhoids. The more fiber you eat, the more water you need to keep your stools soft and bowels regular. Also avoid straining on the toilet and sitting on the toilet for too long.
What are signs of hemorrhoids and how can they be treated?
Dr. Dana Cohen: There are internal and external hemorrhoids. Signs of external hemorrhoids include bleeding, painful bowel movements, itching, burning and swelling. You may have no symptoms with internal hemorrhoids. Treatment depends on how severe they are and how much discomfort they cause. There are some good over the counter treatments which may be enough. I recommend witch hazel pads used after every bowel movement to treat and prevent recurrence. But there are also prescription creams that contain steroids to lessen the inflammation.
Momtastic: When should a pregnant woman speak with her doctor about her hemorrhoids?
Dr. Dana Cohen: It’s a good idea to speak to your doctor if you notice new bleeding when you wipe or in your stool, especially since hemorrhoids are not the only cause of bleeding near your anus.