Constipation is unlikely to cause your cervix to open; however, this is a common concern among pregnant women. Constipation may not affect your baby, but there are related conditions you should be aware of.
Becoming constipated during pregnancy is a valid concern among most pregnant women, and for a good reason.
The added pressure on your tummy can be painful, and the cramping often feels like contractions. About a third of pregnant women will develop constipation, mostly from hormone changes and lifestyle choices.
For many women, constipation is most common in the third trimester. You may believe that you are going into early labor at this time in your pregnancy.
Acting early to clear constipation will avoid unnecessary discomfort and the fears associated with early childbirth.
Making subtle lifestyle changes during pregnancy can significantly reduce your chances of constipation. In the process, you can bank beautiful memories of your pregnancy.
Let’s look closely at constipation during pregnancy and how it may affect your baby.
Constipation and your cervix
Constipation places pressure on your pelvic region, and an estimated 11% to 38% of pregnant women may experience constipation or infrequent bowel movement.
Your cervix is unaffected by intestinal or bowel movement. However, the added pressure can cause severe discomfort if left unchecked for too long.
Constipation is described as difficulty in emptying the bowels. Passing stools can be difficult or painful, and you may need to push or strain.
In pregnant women, the rise in progesterone hormone levels and reduced motilin hormone levels results in slower bowel movement and increased water absorption from the intestines, promoting dry stool.
Vitamins such as iron and calcium also contribute to constipation.
The cervix is the lower, narrow part of the uterus and a muscular organ forming a canal between the uterus and the vagina.
The cervix is often called the “neck of the uterus,” which allows fluids to pass between your uterus and vagina. The cervix is in the pelvic region and lies behind the bladder and near the front of the rectum.
The cervix will experience more pressure from constipation when you are pregnant, particularly in your last trimester when space becomes an issue.
The discomfort associated with constipation will not affect your baby since the pain occurs in your gut and bowels and is not passed on to your baby.
Having said this, it’s essential to speak with your doctor or healthcare provider if you have fewer than three bowel movements a week, which indicates that you could be constipated.
Causes of constipation
When you become pregnant, your body goes through a lot of changes.
Hormonal changes, as well as changes in your lifestyle, can increase your chances of developing constipation.
Common causes of constipation during pregnancy include:
1. Increased hormone production
Progesterone is a hormone that your body creates more of when you’re pregnant, which relaxes your intestines so that they don’t work hard to squeeze waste out of your body.
It also slows down your bowel movements, allowing your body more time to absorb nutrients and water from your diet.
This results in the waste being dried out and harder to pass.
2. Your baby
A growing baby in your womb becomes heavier on your pelvic region.
This extra weight places more pressure on your bowel, making it more difficult for the waste to move.
The iron in your prenatal vitamins and diet helps your body make the blood needed to circulate oxygen for you and your baby.
An excess of iron can make it harder for bacteria in your bowel to break down food.
Additionally, a lack of water to soften the stool exacerbates the issue, which causes you to become constipated.
Supplements like calcium and some multivitamins can also trigger constipation.
Your diet and exercise are important in whether you experience constipation and to what degree.
Most pregnant women do not eat enough fiber, drink enough water, or get enough exercise to help their digestive system function typically.
Some medications and supplements taken during pregnancy may lead to constipation.
Medicines prescribed for nausea and vomiting, antacids for heartburn, and some strong pain medicines can also induce constipation.
Some underlying medical conditions may increase your chance of constipation during pregnancy.
Worry and anxiety, coupled with a lack of exercise and a fiber-poor diet, all contribute to the onset of constipation.
Stress affects your appetite, and you may eat too much or too little.
Stress, anxiety, depression, and grief can trigger uncomfortable gastrointestinal problems like constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and painful cramps.
Symptoms of Constipation
Constipation during pregnancy can sometimes be a symptom of another problem.
If you have severe constipation accompanied by abdominal pain and alternates with diarrhea or pass mucus or blood, you should see your doctor urgently.
In addition, straining won’t harm your baby, but it can lead to hemorrhoids and anal fissures, which can be very painful and unpleasant.
In most cases, hemorrhoids will dissipate soon after your baby is born.
Some of the common symptoms of constipation among pregnant women include:
- Hard stool
- Less frequent bowel motions (pooing less than three times a week)
- Painful bowel movements
- Gassiness and passing wind.
- Straining to Pass Stool
At 38 weeks pregnant, you may lose your mucus plug that protects your cervix from infection and experience some of the symptoms below, but this does not mean you are going into labor.
- Heartburn, nausea, and indigestion
- Pelvic pressure
- Mild backache
- Frequent urination
- Braxton-Hick’s contractions
These symptoms are an indication that your body is preparing for labor.
Constipation is not a cause of preterm labor or false labor.
As your pregnancy progresses, the changes in your body will ultimately lead to some difficulty pooping but will not necessarily lead to constipation.
Treatment of constipation
Prevention is better than the cure should be your motto to try and keep constipation at bay.
Here are some tips to help you do so:
- Change your diet to include at least 30 grams of fiber-rich foods daily. Fiber helps to soften your stool and is loaded with vitamins and antioxidants. Begin measuring your food, if you must.
- Stay hydrated by drinking 8 to 12 cups of water per day. It would be best if you had more fluid than usual to support your pregnancy and soften your stools. Water is ideal, but other non-sugar drinks are fine too.
- You should get about 20 to 30 minutes of moderate exercise 3 times weekly. Sitting isn’t good for your bowel if you’re constipated. Exercise helps to trigger the muscles in your bowel.
- You could also try a prenatal vitamin with less iron. Your doctor will be able to recommend a good alternative suited to you.
- Medications like stool softeners are generally considered safe during pregnancy. Stool softeners like docusate sodium (Colace) and docusate calcium (Surfak) moisten the stool and make it easier to pass.
These products are unlikely to harm a developing baby as their active ingredient is only minimally absorbed by the body. Some laxatives are considered safe during pregnancy, but you should speak with your doctor first.
You should always discuss the best medication for you and your baby with your doctor. If you can avoid taking medication during pregnancy, do so.
But here again, have this discussion with your doctor and share your concerns openly.
Can constipation cause false labor?
Sometimes, constipation can cause cramping and shooting pain in the abdomen that mimics contractions, giving you the impression that you’re going into labor.
If other labor symptoms are absent, it is most likely related to constipation. But you should still call or see your doctor, especially late into your pregnancy.
Can constipation cause preterm labor?
Preterm labor occurs when regular contractions result in the opening of your cervix after week 20 and before week 37 of your pregnancy.
Constipation shares some symptoms of preterm labor, like cramping, but is not known to induce contractions.
What are the symptoms of false labor?
Prodromal labor or false labor contractions may occur during pregnancy.
These contractions are often mistaken for actual labor and can occur in the weeks leading up to your baby’s due date.
Symptoms of false labor include:
– Tightening of the front of your abdomen.
– Pain or cramping remains the same over time.
– Contractions that last up to about one minute each.
– Contractions that occur about five minutes apart but never get closer than that.
How can constipation be treated?
A high-fiber diet, drinking 8-12 glasses of water daily, and exercising at least three times a week.
Light yoga exercises will stimulate your bowel muscles.
Using a stool softener would be the quickest way to get relief, but you should discuss this and any other medication you intend to use with your doctor before use.