Constipation occurs in about half of all pregnant women, according to the American Pregnancy Association. The causes are less physical activity, hormones and taking iron tablets. Whatever the reason, there are steps you can take to help prevent constipation. Although some over-the-counter remedies work to relieve constipation, talk to your doctor first to find out if a specific over-the-counter medication, such as Milk of Magnesia, is safe for you to take during your pregnancy.
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Milk of Magnesia is generally used to treat heartburn, indigestion and constipation. This over-the-counter medication works by neutralizing acids in the stomach and stimulating bowel movements. As with other laxatives, the use of Milk of Magnesia to treat constipation should be short-term only. Other remedies for treating or preventing constipation during pregnancy include increasing your daily activity level, and increasing your fluid intake and the amount of fiber in your diet. These methods are safer, as the use of laxatives during pregnancy increases the risk of dehydration and uterine contractions, as reported in the July/August 2007 issue of the nursing journal LPN2007.
Common symptoms of constipation include headache, fatigue, decrease in appetite, bloating and abdominal pain. Nausea, vomiting, straining during a bowel movement and hard, dry stool are other symptoms. Chronic constipation can lead to hemorrhoids, bowel obstruction and electrolyte imbalance – all factors that can complicate a pregnancy. Constipation often occurs during pregnancy because of higher levels of hormones that relax intestinal muscles, slowing the movement of food and waste through the digestive system.
Before using Milk of Magnesia for constipation, tell your doctor if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant. Although Milk of Magnesia is generally considered safe to use to treat constipation during pregnancy, your doctor will tell you if it is safe for you to use. Tell your doctor if you are sensitive to certain foods, as you may be allergic to an ingredient in the medicine. Your healthcare provider may not recommend the use of Milk of Magnesia, as it can interact with other prescription or nonprescription drugs or dietary supplements you are taking. Milk of Magnesia can decrease the effectiveness of some medications or increase the risk of experiencing side effects.
Your doctor will instruct you on how to take Milk of Magnesia. You can take the laxative with or without food. Always drink a full glass of water after taking the recommended dose. Since it is not known for sure whether Milk of Magnesia can cause harm to a developing fetus, your doctor will discuss both the benefits and risks associated with taking it as a laxative. If constipation does not improve within a week or worsens, discontinue use and contact your doctor. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience side effects such as hives, difficulty breathing, swollen tongue or lips, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting or muscle weakness, as these may be signs of an allergic reaction.