There are many causes of pregnancy constipation. The digestive tract of a pregnant woman slows down so that she can extract all the nutrition from her food, explain Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel in their book "What To Expect When You're Expecting." Furthermore, prenatal vitamins often contain high doses of iron, which also slow digestion and lead to constipation. Finally, morning sickness may cause women to avoid vegetables, which have high fiber content. There are several foods to help alleviate constipation.
Fruits and Vegetables
One of the best ways to improve symptoms of constipation, explains Dr. Raymond Poliakin in his book, "What You Didn't Think To Ask Your Obstetrician," is to eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Produce contains lots of fiber and lots of water, both of which speed digestion and help move foods through the digestive tract more efficiently. If you eat plenty of produce, you also benefit from the high vitamin and mineral content of fruits and vegetables -- and expose your unborn baby to the flavors of these foods in utero, which might increase the chances that your child will have a preference for those flavors later on.
For many women, it's hard to get enough fruit and vegetables in their diets to prevent constipation, simply because they generally need to bring these foods to work from home as they typically aren't available at popular lunch restaurants or in vending machines. However, it's possible to get fiber in other ways. For example, eating whole grains -- including whole-grain breads and cereals as well as brown rice -- is a good way to increase your daily fiber intake. Compared to refined flours and grains, such as white rice and baked goods make with white flour, whole grains have the bran, or fiber-containing portion of the grain, intact. Whole-grain foods can also help regulate digestion.
Aside from fiber, water also helps relieve constipation. One of the reasons that many women end up constipated during pregnancy is that their guts move so slowly, they pull all the water out of digested food material as it progresses through the intestine. This causes stickiness, and slows the rate of progress. Plenty of water helps speed digestion. Keep in mind that it's possible to get water in food as well as to drink it straight, explain Drs. Michael Roizen and Mehmet Oz in their book "You: Having A Baby." Broth-based soups and fruit juices contain water -- and help relieve symptoms of constipation.
- What to Expect When You’re Expecting: Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel
- What You Didn’t Think to Ask Your Obstetrician: Raymond Poliakin, M.D.
- You: Having A Baby: Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.