Picture this. I was pregnant with my third child and having a hell of a time during the first 15 weeks.
I was working full time, exhausted, eating poorly, vomiting often and to top it off I hadn’t pooped for 5 days.
Pregnancy constipation is defined as having fewer than three bowel movements a week. To some, this might not sound like a big deal but to the ones who are of the every-morning-pooping-variety, like myself, this is pure torture.
I remained optimistic and hoped for the best while I took stool softeners and prune juice but alas, nothing! As more time passed I became nervous and extremely uncomfortable. I mean, it was greatly impacting my day. Pun intended?
At the time I worked at a skilled nursing facility so I went to one of my nurse friends and gave her the low down. “Help me!” was the gist of it. And help me, she did.
She sent me home with a “concoction” to try and if all else failed, a suppository. I went home that day feeling powerful.
This is it! Today is the day I will feel better! Until…..
Things started to change. The concoction was definitely doing something but I was still constipated. I was feeling sick, cramping and sweating.
Oh my god, what have I done?
I started to panic and I had to put an end to this, so in went the suppository. I then called my husband and the conversation went something like this:
“Where are you? You can’t come home! The nurse gave me something and I think I am going to be making a lot of noise in here. I don’t know! I cannot pick up our son today. Please pick him up for me and do not come home for a while. Maybe take him out for fast food. OMG, I am so sick. JUST DON’T COME HOME!!! I’ll call you back”. Click.
Within minutes of hanging up the phone, I arose from my bed, put on my game face and waddled my way to the bathroom. When I tell you I went to primal mama bear land with my breathing and noises, I mean it. I can’t help but wonder if my poor elderly neighbor thought I was birthing a child on the toilet that day. Needless to say, shortly after making the initial “stay away” call, my work there was done and I was able to text my husband and clear him and our son to return home.
Now that you have gotten a great visual of my once nightmare (now hilarious) constipation situation – let’s talk a bit more about what may have caused it.
Constipation is a pretty common complaint in pregnancy and there are several potential causes.
Your hormones are fluctuating for starters. Your organs are literally moving and being pressed in various ways. You may be taking in less fluids because you are sick, leading to some level of dehydration. You may be exercising less because you are tired and nauseous. Your prenatal vitamins and general anxiety are other possible causes. And one of the biggest things that some people don’t realize causes pregnancy constipation is anti-nausea medication. Yes, Zofran may be making your GI issues worse.
Clearly, as I look back, I made some mistakes during that pregnancy and I would like for you to learn from them, know better and do better. I had the “this is my last pregnancy, I will eat and drink what I want” mentality and I learned the hard way.
So, how can we prevent you from howling to the moon in your bathroom after not having a bowel movement for a week?
- Stay hydrated: this can be challenging but do everything in your power to keep fluids going through your body. Peeing a lot, although frustrating, is better than never pooping.
- Eat nutritious foods: veggies, fruits, leafy greens, beans and other foods full of fiber should be added multiple times a day to your diet.
- Have smaller meals: five to six smaller meals rather than three bigger meals will be easier on your bowels for digestion.
- Try to exercise daily: prenatal yoga is a gentle option and worth looking into locally. You can also find multiple choices on YouTube to do at home. It can be hard to stick to an exercise routine when you’re tired or not feeling well but even a small walk can make a big difference.
- Avoid the anti-nausea medication if possible: I found that I would rather vomit a few times a day than go through the constipation experience above again. So I stopped taking the anti-nausea medication. Others may not be like me, and absolutely need the medication to make it through the day. Discuss this option with your care provider before making any changes and do what is best for you. If you must take the medication, be sure to implement the other healthy routines listed here to ensure your best chance at avoiding pregnancy constipation.
In the event you still find yourself to be behind schedule after sticking to these remedies, do not go to your nurse friend for a “concoction”. I would instead encourage you to speak with your care provider about how to get some relief. Wishing you a smooth pregnancy!
By: Cara Call, Certified Birth Doula, Postpartum Doula & Childbirth Educator