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Constipation in pregnancy

How to recognise the symptoms and causes of constipation and what you can do to get better.

Constipation is very common in pregnancy. It means that your bowel motions (poos) are very hard and may be painful to pass. You may also be doing a poo less often than usual.

There are things you can do to help deal with constipation and prevent it.

Symptoms of constipation

Symptoms include:

  • hard stool (poo)
  • less frequent bowel motions (pooing less)
  • pain on passing a bowel motion (when having a poo)
  • passing wind (farting)
  • cramp-like pains in your tummy

Causes of constipation

Constipation can be caused by:

  • not drinking enough water
  • not eating enough fibre
  • pregnancy hormones - these can make your poo move more slowly through your intestine
  • your growing baby and womb putting extra pressure on your intestines
  • taking iron supplements

How to ease constipation

You can ease constipation by:

  • drinking plenty of water - try to have 10 glasses of water a day, about 2.3 litres
  • eating foods that are high in fibre every day - vegetables, wholegrain breads, porridge, fruit, dried fruits, vegetables, beans and lentils
  • staying active - try walking, swimming, pregnancy yoga or pilates
  • going to the toilet when you first feel the urge to have a bowel motion (do a poo) - give yourself plenty of time and take some deep breaths to help relax the pelvic floor

Only take iron supplements if your GP or midwife has said you need them.

Related topic

Healthy eating during pregnancy

Your position on the toilet

Having a good position on the toilet can help when you are emptying your bowels.

  1. Use a small step or footstool under your feet. This helps you to get into the best position.
  2. Lean forward, as much as your bump allows. Put your elbows on your knees. Try and keep your back straight.
  3. Do not strain, and do not hold your breath. Taking long, slow, deep breaths through your mouth will help your tummy muscles relax.
Correct toilet position for pregnant women with constipation
Correct toilet position for pregnant women with constipation

When to get medical help

Talk to your GP, midwife or obstetrician if:

  • making diet and lifestyle changes does not work
  • you have blood in your stools (poo)
  • you have pains in your tummy
  • you are vomiting

They may prescribe a high fibre drink, or other types of laxative to help you have a bowel motion.

Page last reviewed: 27/03/2019
Next review due: 27/03/2022