A provider examining a pregnant person's abdomen
By Lisa Bishop, CNM

5 Tips to Relieve Pregnancy Constipation

Getting constipated—having fewer than three bowel movements a week—is common during pregnancy. According to the American Pregnancy Association (APA), about half of pregnant women have constipation at some point during their pregnancy. Common symptoms of constipation may include:

  • Difficult to pass stools (poop)
  • Hard, lumpy and small stools
  • Irregular or infrequent bowel movements
  • Light cramping
  • Lower belly pain
  • Passing gas (farting)
  • Uncomfortable, bloated, or sluggish feeling

Increasing levels of the pregnancy hormone progesterone can affect digestion and slow bowel movements during the first and second trimesters. You’re most likely to become constipated during the third trimester. Your uterus becomes heavier, increasing the pressure on your bowels.

Straining during bowel movements and prolonged time on the toilet can increase your risk for hemorrhoids, which are uncomfortable, swollen veins in and around the anus.

Constipation is uncomfortable for you, but it won’t harm your baby. However, call your doctor right away if you experience severe abdominal pain or if you pass blood or mucus—that could be a sign of an infection, which will need treatment.

If constipation is cramping your style, talk with your doctor. Here’s a quick list of five ways to help prevent and treat pregnancy constipation, get those bowels moving and help you find relief.

1. Add Fiber to Your Diet

Healthy eating speeds up your digestive system and can help you remain regular. Try to eat 25-30 grams of fiber each day while you are pregnant. Consider these nutritious, fiber-rich foods to supplement your diet.

Serving Size Grams of Fiber
Apple 1 medium 4.4 g
Avocados 1 medium 10 g
Bananas 1 medium 3.1 g
Bran 1 cup 14 g
Brussel sprouts 1 cup 3.3 g
Carrots 1 cup 3.4 g
Chickpeas 1 tbsp 2.2 g
Edamame 1 cup 8 g
Potato 1 medium 4.7 g
Prunes 1 cup pitted 12 g
Quinoa 1 cup 5 g
Strawberries 1 cup 2.9 g
Sugar snap peas 1 cup 1.6 g
Sweet corn 1 medium ear 2.4 g
Sweet potatoes 1 cup 4 g
Whole grain bread 1 slice 3 g
Whole wheat couscous 1 cup 3 g
Whole wheat pasta 1½ cups, cooked 7 g


Large meals may overload your digestive system. Try eating five or six smaller meals throughout the day to ease the strain on your digestive tract.

2. Drink Plenty of Water

Dehydration is one of the most common causes of constipation. During pregnancy, your body needs more water to produce additional blood for your baby.

Try to drink 8-12 cups of water per day. Water softens the waste in your bowels, making it easier to go.

If your stomach feels upset or you want a change from plain water, try adding glass of sparkling water to your hydration routine. Plain seltzer is as hydrating as water. You could also try to infuse your diet with water-rich foods such as:

  • Carrots: 86-95% water.
  • Celery: 95% water.
  • Lettuce: Up to 96% water.
  • Melons: Up to 90% water.
  • Oranges: 86% water.
  • Strawberries: 92% water.

3. Get Active with Regular Exercise

Consistent exercise during pregnancy can help relieve constipation. Cardio exercise helps food move through the large intestine faster, speeding up digesting and helping you poop more regularly.

Try to get 30 minutes of moderate activity most days. When pregnant, choose activities with a low risk of falling or injury, such as a brisk walk, bike ride or swim. In general, avoid a lot of jumping or bouncing, including high-impact activities or contact sports.

Prenatal yoga and stretching are safe but avoid hot yoga with temperatures 100 degree or higher as these high temperatures are not safe.

Patients with certain health conditions or pregnancy complications should talk with a doctor or your midwife before starting a new activity. Your doctor will talk with you about the types and intensity of activity that are safe for your current pregnancy.

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4. Talk With Your Doctor or Midwife About Supplements

Iron is a crucial nutrient for a healthy pregnancy. During pregnancy, you need extra iron – 27 mg per day or more. But that extra iron can cause constipation. If you take iron supplements and are constipated, tell the doctor during your next prenatal appointment.

Your doctor may have you reduce the amount of the iron supplement and increase your intake of iron-rich foods (such as beans, green or root vegetables, or lean meat). Your doctor may also ask you to spread your iron intake throughout the day.

Probiotics could help you poop more often. These supplements contain beneficial bacteria such as Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium that can help food move faster through the body. It also naturally softens stools, making them easier to pass.

Try adding a serving of live cultural yogurt or a live yogurt drink to your morning routine. If you’re craving something salty, fermented pickles are an excellent source of probiotics. Your doctor may prescribe an oral probiotic supplement. The number of live and active micro-organisms in one serving of the supplement typically ranges between 1-10 billion CFUs (colony forming units).

Talk with your doctor before adjusting the type or amount of the supplements you take.

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5. Ask Your Doctor or Midwife About Over-the-Counter (OTC) Medications

The American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) considers certain OTC constipation medications generally safe to use during pregnancy. Examples of these OTC medications include:

  • Fibercon (calcium polycarbophil): Bulk-forming laxative.
  • Metamucil (psyllium): Bulk-forming laxative.
  • Milk of Magnesia (magnesium hydroxide): Antacid and laxative.
  • MiraLAX® (polyethylene glycol): Osmotic-type laxative (pulls water from nearby tissues to soften the stool).

Important note:

  • Avoid stimulant laxatives: These pills can dehydrate you or stimulate contractions. Examples include bisacodyl (Dulcolax) and senna (Ex-Lax).
  • Avoid mineral oils: Cod liver oils and other mineral oils reduce nutrient absorption.

Talk with your doctor or Midwife before you begin to take any OTC medication.

We are here to help you feel as comfortable as possible throughout every stage of your pregnancy. Reach out to us with questions or if you’d like additional help treating your constipation.

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Categories: Women's Health