- Women's Health
Pesky Pregnancy-How to Deal with Pregnancy Constipation
Realities of Pregnancy, Including Constipation
It may be horrifying to hear about your Auntie Betty's 9 month hemorrhoid stretch with your cousin Lou, but it's nothing compared to the reality of the full stop on your digestive train that pregnancy, and pregnancy constipation can be. Not everyone experiences it, just like not all women hug the toilet every morning, but for those that do, the experience can be uncomfortable, frustrating, and even nauseating sometimes.
I never gave serious thought to the physical realities of early pregnancy (or pregnancy in general) beyond food cravings and aversions, morning sickness, and a big belly. Boy, was I in for a surprise! When a woman becomes host to new life her body starts to feel like it's no longer her own, and one of the toughest aspects of this for me has been pregnancy constipation and a general slow down (and sometimes full stop) on my digestive system. There is reason behind the traffic jam, including allowing our body more time to absorb nutrients, and lax muscles and ligaments which allow the baby room to grow. Still, no one likes to be stuck on the toilet straining like Grandpa Al while reading the paper for an hour. So, if you, dear reader, like myself, have been so bloated you feel like you may turn into a hot air balloon full of digestive gasses, let me share a few tips with you that have worked for me.
Get your Daily Dose of Fiber
Did you know that we human beings need 25 to 35 grams of fiber per day, but the vast majority of us don't even get half that? It's not surprising, seeing as how the market is flooded with processed food that provides little nutritional value. You may have gotten away with less fiber in the past, but you'll start to notice that during pregnancy, every gram counts.
If you need a little help and can't get every gram of fiber from natural sources, that's ok. There are many brands of fiber supplements, from pills to wafers to powders for your drink, fiber supplements can help get you to your daily dose. Also try breads with added fiber like Orowheat Double Fiber bread. I love the taste and texture and two slices packs whole 12 grams of fiber! It makes a great peanut butter and toast breakfast.
Both in terms of vegetables in and your choice of foods. Stay away from overly processed or chemically altered food, firstly you have no idea what those chemicals are doing to you or your baby, and secondly, processed food provide little nutrition. Try upping your intake of fruits and veggies, especially legumes and leafy greens like lettuce and spinach (which is also a great source of iron). These natural vegetable sources of fiber will help move your digestive train along on schedule, and keep you and your baby healthy.
Eat Whole Grains
Another natural source of fiber comes from whole grains, such as wheat, barley, oats, quinoa, etc. A great way to get whole grains into your diet is through whole grain breads, but be sure they are labeled "whole grain" not just "wheat" or "whole wheat". Grains also make a great ingredient in soup (such as beef and barley). Or you could try my favorite and most trusted fiber standby: oatmeal. Oatmeal may seem mushy and gross, but add some berries or peach and some cream and you have a very tasty and nutritious breakfast. Or, you could heat up a pan with some melted butter and fry a dollop of oatmeal until crisp, which is an absolute treat and a great way to use up leftover oatmeal.
Adopt Worldy Eating Practices
My parents are world travels and insist on a method of eating gleaned from several continents which keeps them regular. They'll eat a normal dinner, followed by a green salad (salad last is a European habit), and a bowl of berries last (a practice picked up in China). They swear up and down by this method, and while I'm not an adherent, I sure could think of far less pleasant ways to wrap up a meal.
Ultimately staying regular while pregnant is about listening to your body and investing in your health. The good news is that after you give birth your digestion should go back to normal, and for those who are breastfeeding, burn almost 500 more calories a day. Something to look forward to indeed!