When your pregnancy symptoms include the discomforts of constipation, relief is likely high on your priority list. Hard stools are one symptom of constipation, which is a common symptom of pregnancy, affecting about 50 percent of all pregnant women, according to the American Pregnancy Association. You can alleviate or reduce the occurrence of hard stools to feel more comfortable during your pregnancy.
Reasons for Constipation
Hormones shift during pregnancy, which often contributes to relaxation of intestinal muscles, states the American Pregnancy Association. As this relaxation occurs, food and waste typically move through the intestines at a slower pace. This sluggish system can be to blame for constipation and hard stools. As the pregnancy progresses, the growing uterus also places pressure on the intestines, creating cramped quarters that cause constipation symptoms. Women with low iron levels may need to take iron supplements, which can also lead to constipation, according to the University of California San Francisco Medical Center.
A few minor adjustments to your diet might improve your digestive issues. Increase the amount of fiber you eat to soften your stool and increase bowel activity, suggests the University of California San Francisco Medical Center. Eating more fresh and dried fruits, raw vegetables, whole grains and nuts can help. Prunes and figs are natural laxatives, which may also improve constipation symptoms. Additionally, drinking extra fluids, such as water, fruit and vegetable juices, and clear soups, can help keep things moving by making the extra fiber you’re eating more efficient in your system, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website.
Consider increasing your physical activity to help resolve constipation symptoms. Brisk walking is not only safe for healthy pregnant women, but it is encouraged by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate activity each week, advises the CDC. Check with your physician first if you have underlying medical conditions or other concerns; otherwise, it is perfectly safe for pregnant women to engage in most kinds of physical activity.
Although you might feel tempted to reach for laxatives to resolve your constipation, this may not be wise, warns the American Pregnancy Association. Laxatives could cause contractions and dehydration. Don’t self-treat with mineral oils, either, because this could interfere with how your body absorbs nutrients and vitamins, warns the Mayo Clinic website. A fiber supplement might be effective for softening stools, but always ask your physician before taking any supplements or if efforts to alleviate constipation aren't working.