Constipation During Pregnancy
What is constipation during pregnancy?
Often, difficulty passing stools or constipation is an accepted part of pregnancy. Bowel movements become sluggish due to hormones such as progesterone and estrogen that soften and relax the digestive tract’s smooth muscle. Many women may also experience nausea during early pregnancy, which makes it challenging to maintain a healthy high-fiber diet. Urinary frequency is common due to the effect of the hormones on the smooth muscle of the bladder, so women are often reluctant to increase their fluid intake. Adequate intake of fluids is essential during this time to help minimize constipation.
In later pregnancy, constipation can arise due to the pressure placed on the bowel from the enlarging uterus.
Certain forms of iron, despite their importance during pregnancy, can cause constipation as a side-effect.
HOW CAN CHINESE MEDICINE HELP?
- Regular acupuncture sessions during pregnancy can lessen or eliminate the need for stool softeners.
- Your practitioner can help identify the underlying pattern, such as an imbalance in moisture or temperature within the body, that together with pregnancy-induced changes result in constipation.
- Acupuncture & Chinese herbal medicine can decrease or eliminate the symptoms associated with constipation, such as pain, bloating, fatigue, low mood, and reduced appetite.
Often, constipation during pregnancy can be treated with just a few needles during the first session. This is usually enough to give relief either that day or the day after treatment.
Additional points can be added in the future if there is a clear underlying pattern, such as an imbalance in moisture or temperature.
Treatment at first may consist of weekly acupuncture visits with possible herbal recommendations. Visits may continue bi-monthly, monthly, and then as needed.
Ear press needles are a safe, easy, and practical option for “take-home” acupressure. The acupuncturist will provide the woman with specific instructions based on her particular needs.
Contact your midwife or doctor if there is no improvement.
From a traditional Chinese point of view, certain foods can create heat or cold in the body. Therefore, it is important to limit excessive consumption of cold substances, such as ice water or milk, which can contribute to too much dampness and cold in the body. It is also essential to monitor heating foods, such as ginger tea which can contribute to too much heat in the body.
Nausea and heartburn may need to be addressed first as they are often predisposing factors to a less than perfect diet.
The following are simple self-help measures women can try to improve their constipation:
- Increase fruit intake, including dried fruit such as apricots, figs, prunes, and raisins. Eating a banana first thing in the morning on an empty stomach may also be helpful.
- Incorporate sunflower seeds, nuts, and linseeds into their diet. These can be sprinkled over cereals, salads, and pasta to add a nutty taste or carried as little snack packs.
- Aim for a daily fluid intake that includes six to eight glasses of warm or room temperature water, which will soften the stools.
- Drink a cup of hot prune juice or lemon juice in hot water half an hour before meals.
Exercise also plays an important role. Although regular exercise routines are often disrupted by pregnancy, a gentle half-hour walk most days will be helpful.