Check out the common bowel issues during pregnancy and some tips on how to alleviate them.

Check out the common bowel issues during pregnancy and some tips on how to alleviate them.

Many women experience changes in bowel movements during pregnancy. We know that pooping and pregnancy might not be a pretty topic, but it is a common concern. Pregnant moms might experience loose bowel movements, hard poop, constipation or even blood in the stool. Here's what you need to know:

Causes of Changes in Bowel Movements in Pregnancy

According to Andrea Maxim, a naturopathic doctor from southern Ontario, "It is not uncommon to experience changes to bowel movements during pregnancy." During early pregnancy and throughout the first trimester, a combination of hormonal fluctuations, nervousness about the new pregnancy and a change in eating habits can all contribute to either constipation or diarrhea – or a combination of both.

According to Maxim, constipation only gets worse during pregnancy and usually peaks during the second and third trimesters. "The iron in prenatal vitamins can contribute to constipation, but it's also privy to skeletal changes to allow room for the growing uterus," says Maxim. The intestinal tract becomes squished as the baby grows, causing slow transit of bowel contents through the intestines.

Progesterone also plays a part in constipation. It relaxes your muscles and slows down the digestive tract.

Hemorrhoids are also very common and can cause your stools to become bloody. Hemorrhoids in pregnancy are caused by increased blood flow, along with the fact that your growing uterus puts pressure on your pelvic floor. Constipation can also cause or aggravate hemorrhoids due to straining when having a hard bowel movement.

What to Do About Bowel Changes During Pregnancy

To help combat constipation (and the possible resulting hemorrhoids), increase your fiber intake and drink at least eight to twelve cups of fluids per day. In addition, make sure you're eating a healthy, balanced diet packed with vitamins and minerals to keep your digestive tract moving.

According to Maxim, one of the best ways to avoid constipation is magnesium citrate or bisglycinate taken every day, which can also help prevent pre-eclampsia as well. Talk with your doctor to get you started on a good magnesium supplement. You can also ask your doctor about stool softeners, which are safe during pregnancy. Gentle exercise can also help move bowel movements along.

To help relieve discomfort caused by hemorrhoids during pregnancy, apply a cold compress saturated with witch hazel to the affected area several times a day. You can also soak your bottom in a tub of warm water for 10 to 15 minutes a few times each day. If you don't have a bathtub, you can use a sitz bath, available at the drugstore. Sometimes, alternating between cold and warm treatments is extra soothing. Keep the area clean after each bowel movement.

If constipation, diarrhea or hemorrhoids continue despite appropriate treatment, it's time to see your doctor.

Changes to your bowel movements are common during pregnancy, but that doesn't mean you can't take steps to combat those issues. Talk to your doctor about pooping and pregnancy to make sure you stay in the know, should these issues crop up.
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