Is Constipation a Sign of Pregnancy?

I had constipation before my missed period, is it an early sign of pregnancy? Symptoms of pregnancy in the first week may be a little weird and unusual. Constipation, bloating and diarrhea are sometimes the earliest signs of conception before you miss your period.

A missed period is usually a trademark of pregnancy for most women. However, this happens after four weeks of conception. Constipation is one of the earliest pregnancy signs that is often ignored by many women. Studies show that around 20-50% of women will either experience constipation early in their pregnancy or later in their last trimester.

Is constipation an early sign of pregnancy
Is constipation an early sign of pregnancy?

Constipation is a mere symptom that can be easily managed at home. It is often a result of another condition such as illness, pregnancy and sedentary lifestyle. Hormonal changes right after conception is the primary cause of constipation from the first week of pregnancy.

What is constipation?

Constipation refers to the difficulties in passing stool. The longer the poo sits in the large intestines, the more water is reabsorbed back into the body. Large intestines absorb water back into the body, in the case of pregnant women the stool remains the large intestine for long due to the decreased movement, the water is then leeched back to the body leaving the poo almost dry. The dry poo causes a lot of pain during bowel movements. Here are the symptoms of constipation:

  • Feces are hard, making them hard to pass which in some cases leads to bleeding from the rectal area.
  • Four or five days between each bowel movement.
  • A general feeling of retained feces in the rectum, causing you to have discomfort.
  • Mild to moderate lower abdominal pain accompanied by bloating and a general sense of tiredness.

What are the causes of constipation right after conception?

In most cases women relate constipation before missed period to decreased water intake. However, it is good to note that your body undergoes a lot of changes to sustain the pregnancy. Constipation in early pregnancy is as a result of

  1. Hormonal changes: After conception, even before a missed period your body starts to prepare itself to carry the pregnancy. Progesterone, a hormone which plays a significant role in softening the muscles in readiness for childbirth increases in level, this hormone causes relaxation of the smooth muscles throughout the body.

Decreased muscle activity leads to a slow movement of materials in your digestive tract and less water absorption thus hard stools afterward.

  1. Perinatal iron supplements: Ironically the iron supplements that you have been taking can be the source of constipation in early pregnancy! Having to stop taking your supplements because of constipation is not a good idea. Simply visit your doctor and let them know what know about your situation and they will urgently provide a solution.
  2. Changes in dietary intake: Right after conception, most women develop cravings, sugary refined foods are usually what most women opt for. It is this sudden change in diet from a high fiber diet to a highly processed one often leads to acute constipation.

Is constipation an early sign of pregnancy or period?

How does pregnancy cause constipation? Is constipation and bloating a sign of pregnancy or period? Early pregnancy signs are almost similar to the premenstrual symptoms. It is not easy for many women to tell the difference.

Increase in progesterone hormone during ovulation and pregnancy leads to muscle relaxation. Thus the bowel tends to produce more gas and the wind during pregnancy or even before a period.

Constipation itself is a cause of bloating and gas in many cases, especially during early pregnancy. You are advised to stay away from gas-producing foods such as beans and onions. Always find alternative foods to help you stay healthy right from the start of your pregnancy. While there are other signs of pregnancy and period, constipation should never be ignored.

Home remedies for constipation

In most cases, constipation as an early sign of pregnancy occurs due to a combined action of hormonal and mechanical changes that slow down the proper functioning of the digestive system.

First signs of pregnancy before missed period constipation
First signs of pregnancy before missed period: constipation

Making a few lifestyle changes from early pregnancy can prove to be of great help in preventing constipation throughout gestation. Here are the tips to ease and prevent constipation when you are pregnant

  1. Drink plenty of water: Consuming 2-3 liters of water daily will always go a long way in preventing constipation. Drink at least one glass of warm water especially in the morning to help kick start your digestion.
  2. Increase your fiber and fruit intake: Cereals, legumes, whole grains and vegetables are an excellent source of fiber for your everyday meals. Fiber also promotes and improves the movement of materials through your digestive system. It also increases stool bulk. This helps get rid of constipation sign early in pregnancy.
  3. Do gentle exercises: Gentle exercises such as rope skipping and walking help stimulate the bowel and help in digestion.
  4. Get yourself a natural laxative: In severe cases of constipation in the first week of pregnancy, you are advised to seek medical advice. In such incidences your doctor might prescribe drugs to help your stool soften.

However, you should be aware that commercial laxatives have side effects. Alternatively, you can eat natural laxatives such as senna and banana to ease this earliest sign of pregnancy.

  1. Try Cabbage Juice: Fresh cabbage juice has a history in relieving constipation for many years now. Consuming about a glass of fresh cabbage juice three times a day is likely to greatly help your digestion, apart from easing constipation you will also develop a healthier gut.
  2. Increase your Probiotics intake: Adding a live bacteria into your gut is known to speed up your digestion process. Natural yogurt and fresh milk are a great source of probiotics for you.
  3. Try lemon juice: Citric acid contained in lemon when taken in warm water acts as a stimulant for your digestive system; it can also help flush out toxins and undigested substances that cause constipation. One cup of hot water together with one lemon is enough to get you started.
  4. Get some Flaxseed: Flaxseed is a miracle cure for constipation.it can coat itself against the walls of the colon hence increase in bowel movement.
  5. Baking soda: This versatile home remedy works well for constipation since its carbonate which pretty enables air to come out thus relieving your bloating, it alkalizes your stomach and helps substances pass through your gut easily.

What else can help with constipation?

Some habits such as below have been found useful in helping deal with constipation especially for pregnant women

  • -Make time to sit undisturbed on the toilet each day. After meals, you can play music that you like or take a book to read specifically in the toilet. Doing this in such an environment has been found to be relaxing helping your body to increase the urge to poo.
  • -Do not strain for a longer period. Sitting on the toilet for longer periods only compresses the rectum making bowel movements impossible, squatting while leaning forward with your elbow on the knee is likely to help you poo better.
  • -Reduce or simply avoid intake of caffeine.Cofee or any related beverage has a dehydrating effect. Opt for fresh juices and pure water.
  • -Always heed cues to visit the toilet. If stools sit for longer in the rectum, water is reabsorbed back into the body; this means that the next time you visit the toilet, you will experience major difficulties in passing your stools.
  • -Do not take un- prescribed medications; always check out with your pharmacists about any drugs that you intend to take. Some drugs especially those of calcium-based will only cause you more constipation.
  • -Do not take large meals; instead have your meals in small servings, throughout the day.
  • -Avoid carbonated drinks that are full of gas
  • -Always sit upright during meal time, lying down reduced your digestion speed which is not good for your digestion
  • -Always wear clothes that are not tight around your waist, right from early pregnancy until childbirth.
  • -Avoid smoking, Smoking not only leads to many health problems, but it also increases stomach acidity leading to bloating, gas and finally constipation.
  • -Chew your food well; this helps the food to get digested properly.
  • -Monitor starches that you take, certain starch such as corn and potatoes has been found to cause constipation. It is wise to avoid such foods during pregnancy and find alternatives.
  • Pay attention to your body; your bowels are active right after meals, it is important to use the bathroom when an urge arises rather than putting off until later.

Complications of constipation in pregnancy

 Rectal prolapse-In severe cases constipation can lead to the weakening of the lower abdominal muscles leading to prolapse of the rectum.

Laxative dependency-Constipation can be annoying, in most cases, women tend to abuse laxatives causing dependency. An overuse of laxatives for a period of time has shown to lead to a sluggish bowel.

Hernia-Hernia is a protrusion of a part of a body through a weak point in the abdominal wall. A hernia can be as a result of overstraining during bowel movement.

Hemorrhoids-These are swollen small anal veins. Often the veins are visible due to the straining and irritation caused by the hard stools. When the hemorrhoids rupture, bleeding occurs which can be fatal if no corrective action is taken.

Remember

Constipation not only occurs early in pregnancy as one of the first symptoms of conception, but it is a common problem experienced by pregnant women until childbirth. In severe cases, it is always wise to seek medical advice. Always choose a diet that works for you and at the same time one that is highly nutritious. Your lifestyle choice plays a significant role in your overall health and that of the unborn baby.

Sources and references

  1. News in color, (June 2015), Early pregnancy symptom: constipation: http://www.kidspot.com.au/birth/pregnancy/signs-and-symptoms/early-pregnancy-symptom-constipation
  2. Mayo Clinic staff (October 2016) Constipation: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/constipation/symptoms-causes/dxc-20252715
  3. How stuff works health (January 2007)15 home remedies for constipation: http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/natural-medicine/home-remedies/home-remedies-for-4.constipation.htm
  4. Home remedies for you (July 2015) Constipation: http://www.home-remedies-for-you.com/remedy/Constipation.html

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