Oh the joys of pregnancy! While you might not have expected to discuss any ‘toilet talk’ other than your baby’s nappies, constipation is an issue for many women during pregnancy, and often an embarrassing one to bring up. But why does it happen? Well, there are a few reasons, some of which you have zero control over (like hormones & the growing weight of your baby). But it’s not all bad news as there are lots of things you can do to ‘relieve’ yourself (you get me?).
A yogurt a day keeps the toilet away…
Okay, not exactly, but a lot of people think that eating yogurt a day alone will keep you regular. The truth is, that’s just the advertising trick to make you buy more of that yogurt. Natural yogurt does have live bacteria that can be beneficial to your gut, but that does not replace fibre. Dairy products actually do not contain any fibre. A question I ask all of you ladies that I see during your pregnancy that have constipation; do you eat enough fibre (or fiber in the US)? Sometimes the answers to this surprise me (like- “what is fibre?” or “I have a glass of milk a day”), but more often than not most of you say yes. But really, that’s generally not true.
So, really, what is fibre?
Good question! Fibre is the material in our food that is non-digestible, as in; our guts cannot break it down. But that doesn’t mean it’s not beneficial. Fibre becomes bulky and absorbs water in our gut, helping the muscles push the waste along our digestive tract and out. Without fibre, the undigested waste just sits there for days waiting to move along, building up and moving at a snail’s pace.
So why do we have trouble getting enough fibre? Because we a) love to remove it from our foods (white bread, white pasta, white rice…), and b) love to eat foods without fibre (meat, dairy, sugar, processed foods). Because of this, it seems like we are getting, on average, about half the amount of fibre per day than we are supposed to. Add a baby and some hormones to that and your bathroom magazine collection might get quite extensive!
In this case it’s easy; eat more fresh fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains! Don’t peel the skins off of fruits such as apples and pears, as this is where most of the fibre is. Swap to wholegrain bread/rice/pasta- I know it’s more of an acquired taste but you’ll get there. If you were brought up on white flour products, it takes longer to adjust. But this isn’t something to do just during pregnancy- you’ll benefit from better health if you eat more whole grains instead of white flour products throughout your life (such as lower risk of diabetes, colon cancer, lower cholesterol, etc).
Other important factors to consider are things like exercising. As you move your body it naturally massages your organs a little and helps to ‘manually’ get the waste in the gut to move along.
Hydrate. Again this is another one that most people think they get enough of, but generally not true. Your blood volume increases by up to 50% during pregnancy! How crazy is that! But this means you need more water to ensure the blood can be filtered regularly, wastes removed and to keep your cells nice and hydrated. Your body will prioritise your organs and remove more water from the gut, resulting in dry/hard stools if you aren’t well hydrated.
Finally some tips to help things move along:
- Drink a full glass of prune juice
- Take a heaped tablespoon of linseeds (or flaxseeds) and place in a glass of water and soak overnight. In the morning gulp the whole thing down, followed by a glass of water.
- Mix a tablespoon of olive oil with some lemon juice and consume on an empty stomach
- Make a smoothie with lots of berries, oats and kale
- Or simply have two large glasses of water, and get exercising!
And remember, as with most things in pregnancy, this too shall pass… (all puns intended).