I am 5 weeks into this pregnancy. I have had lots of gas and constipation , it has caused a lot of cramps. What can I take that is safe for the baby?
Hi Melissa, thank you for your question and congratulations on your pregnancy. Sorry to hear of your discomfort!
Constipation is something that more than half of pregnant women suffer with, so you're not alone.
The reason why is because the pregnancy hormones racing around your body slow down you digestive system to allow your body to absorb as many nutrients as possible from your food to help your growing baby.
Because of this, more water is absorbed from the food you eat and stools become dryer and more difficult for your intestines to move along and out of your body.
Also, the hormones serve to cause your muscles to relax in preparation for your pelvis being able to move during labour. This relaxing of muscles includes your bowel muscles and makes your intestines less efficient at moving stools along.
Another factor can be the multivitamins taken by a lot of women during pregnancy that include iron supplements. Extra iron intake can contribute to your body becoming dehydrated during pregnancy and stools becoming harder and less easy for your body to dispel.
But what can you do to help this? As you said constipation can become very uncomfortable.
Here are a few suggestions:
1. Drink at least 6-8 glasses of water per day - Keeping your body well hydrated will help prevent your stools from becoming so dried out and difficult to pass.
2. Keep doing your pelvic floor exercises - If you are not sure where your pelvic floor muscle is or how to exercise it, practise stopping your urine mid-flow. When you do this you are using your pelvic floor and this is exactly the clenching exercise needed. Every day squeeze your pelvic floor muscles for 10 seconds and then release for 10 seconds. Repeat this as much as you can. Strengthening your pelvic floor will help your body to pass stools efficiently.
3. Include plenty of fibre in your diet - Foods rich in fibre are cereals, whole grains, fresh fruit and veg, pasta and bread. Two sorts of fibre, soluble and insoluble will help with constipation. Soluble fibre is converted by bacteria in the intestines into a kind of gel, which makes stools softer and easier to pass. Insoluble fibre cannot be digested by the human body and stays in the intestines giving stools bulk and enabling the muscles of the colon to squeeze against the stool and move it along.
4. Natural supplements can help ease constipation - Magnesium, vitamin C and prunes have been found to help with constipation during pregnancy, although it is probably best to consult a health professional to check how much to take. Be very careful with any laxatives, especially chemically derived ones as contractions in the colon can stimulate contractions in the uterus.
If, after trying these natural methods to ease constipation you are finding it to still be a problem, it is best that you see a doctor or talk to your midwife, as they will likely have more suggestions on how to ease the problem.
All the best with your pregnancy and I hope you get some relief from this problem soon.
Thank you once again for you question.
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