Constipation During Pregnancy

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

If you are experiencing constipation during pregnancy, it can be one of the most uncomfortable situations, in addition to all the other physical changes and stress you may be feeling. Fortunately, if you understand what causes constipation during pregnancy, as well as the symptoms and potential treatments, you may be able to avoid this condition entirely.

Constipation during pregnancy is not much different than constipation at any other time of your life. However, when it occurs during pregnancy, it can make the exhausting and frustrating time in the bathroom even more difficult. This can be an acute problem for some women, but a chronic one for others, resulting in many unpleasant side effects that can make your pregnancy more difficult. [1]

What Causes Constipation During Pregnancy?

Constipation during pregnancy is caused by a number of factors, including your body’s changing hormones, the internal pressure in your uterus, nutritional imbalance, dehydration, and a lack of physical activity.

A pregnant woman holding her stomach while sitting

Constipation may cause severe pain in pregnant women. Photo Credit: Shutterstock


When you are pregnant, your body’s hormonal levels can fluctuate dramatically, particularly the levels of progesterone. Research has linked a higher level of progesterone with a relaxation of the muscles in the body, including those muscles in the bowels. When there is no muscle activity, a peristaltic motion is more difficult, which can lead to constipation. [2]

Enlarged Uterus

As you progress through your pregnancy, your uterus will continue to expand with the growing fetus. This is not the natural balance of the body, and this growing uterus can put pressure on the bowels, causing difficulties with the feces moving through the intestinal tract, thus leading to constipation and the unpleasant symptoms of this conditions. [3]

Nutrient Balance

Watching what you eat and monitoring your supplement intake is crucial when you are pregnant. To ensure you have proper blood circulation, and that the baby is developing properly, iron supplements are often recommended. However, if your levels of iron are too high, this can quickly lead to the symptoms of constipation. It is safe to speak with your doctor about your mineral levels before making any major changes. [4]


Stress and worry may seem normal during pregnancy, but these can have serious effects on your overall health. An excess of stress hormones can lead to inflammation throughout the body, including in the digestive tracts, essentially tying your stomach “in knots” and making it more difficult to have normal pain-free bowel movements. Reducing stress through aromatherapy, meditation, yoga and other lifestyle practices can help relieve the tension in your gut. [5]

Water Intake

Staying hydrated is important for everyone, but when you are pregnant, dehydration can happen much quicker. This can lead to dryness in the bowels as well, and a reduction in the production of gastric juices. This makes it more difficult for the fecal matter to move through the digestive tract, leading to painful constipation during pregnancy. [6]

Sedentary Lifestyle

If you want to get your gastrointestinal tract moving again, one of the best things to do is to get moving. Physical activity is highly recommended during your pregnancy, at least 30 minutes per day. This will stimulate the secretion of gastric juices and help your bowel movements return to normal. [7]


The symptoms of constipation during pregnancy include bloating and cramping, rectal bleeding, impacted stool and less of an appetite.

Bloating & Cramping

The most common symptoms of constipation during pregnancy is the feeling of being bloated and suffering from uncomfortable cramps. This could be caused by the physical presence of food and fecal matter in your gut, or the build up of gases in your intestines, which can put pressure on your already squeezed gut. [8]

Rectal Bleeding

If you feel that you are pushing too hard or forcing bowel movements, it can cause small tears or ruptures in the tissues of the rectal cavity. This is also a common symptom of hemorrhoids, which is something that many pregnant women develop over the course of their term. If there is a significant amount of bleeding, it is essential that you speak with a doctor. [9]

Impacted Stool

While trying to relieve yourself, constipation during pregnancy can cause the sensation of impacted stool, as though it has hardened or is difficult to pass. This can make you feel as though you always need to go to the washroom, even though you cannot successfully complete a bowel movement. [10]

Decreased Appetite

The feeling of fullness, bloating and cramping that often accompanies constipation during pregnancy can lead to a decrease in appetite. This is dangerous because you require normal nutrient intake to ensure a healthy pregnancy. If you feel that your appetite is consistently decreasing, see a doctor for formal treatment.


Given how common this condition is, affecting roughly 50% of pregnant women, there are quite a few formal treatments to eliminate constipation during pregnancy, including stool softeners, altering your nutrient supplements and using enemas.

Nutrient Supplements

Adjusting your nutrient supplements is one of the fastest ways to reduce constipation, particularly if your doctor determines that your iron levels are too high. This can alleviate the symptoms of constipation within a few days.

Stool Softeners

Taking stool softeners is a much safer approach than using a laxative, as the latter can further dehydrate you. Stool softeners come in many forms and strengths and can help stimulate the release of gastric juice and peristaltic motion to move your bowels smoothly. [11]


Enemas are often seen as a last result for constipation during pregnancy and consist of injecting liquid or gas into the rectum to stimulate the release of impacted or constipated bowels. There is some debate on the safety of this during pregnancy, so speak with a doctor before using this treatment. [12]

Home Remedies for Constipation During Pregnancy

For people who want to avoid doctors and pharmaceutical solutions for constipation during pregnancy, some of the best home remedies include drinking more water, adding roughage to your diet, exercising, adding probiotics to the diet, and plan ahead for bathroom breaks.

Dietary Shift

You should increase your intake of roughage and high-fiber foods, as this can help move the bowels along more normally, and improve symptoms of inflammation in the gut that could be causing constipation.

Consumption of Probiotics

Food that is high in probiotics, such as cheese and yogurt, should be consumed if you think the bacterial balance in your gut is off for some reason. This can improve digestive efficiency and speed up the process, helping to normalize your bowel movements. [13]

Bathroom Breaks

Feeling rushed or panicked about your inability to defecate can be stressful, and may cause excess forcing or pushing, which can lead to hemorrhoids and more discomfort. Schedule 15-20 minutes a few hours after each meal when you can have an undisturbed and a low-stress bathroom break.


It is critical to stay active while you are pregnant, both to keep your metabolism moving and to keep your bowel movements normalized. Physical movement, such as walking, swimming or using a stationary bike can increase your digestive speed and eliminate the painful symptoms of constipation during pregnancy. [14] Protection Status
About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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