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Why Can't You Take Senna When Pregnant?

author image Janet Renee, MS, RD
Janet Renee is a clinical dietitian with a special interest in weight management, sports dietetics, medical nutrition therapy and diet trends. She earned her Master of Science in nutrition from the University of Chicago and has contributed to health and wellness magazines, including Prevention, Self, Shape and Cooking Light.
Why Can't You Take Senna When Pregnant?
Why Can't You Take Senna When Pregnant?

Constipation is common during pregnancy. You may experience infrequent bowel movements or stools that are hard to pass and require straining. This can cause pain and discomfort. According to the American Pregnancy Association, 50 percent of women experience constipation at some point during their pregnancy. Laxatives can be effective, however, stimulant laxatives such as senna may be best avoided. Talk to your doctor before using any laxatives.

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Stimulant Laxatives

Senna is a plant with medicinal properties. The leaves are used for constipation. It is considered a stimulant laxative because it irritates your intestinal wall to stimulate bowel movement. Sennosides are the active substances responsible for its laxative effect.

FDA Category B

The U.S. Food and Drug administration assigns categories for drug safety during pregnancy. The FDA has classified senna as category C. This category is for substances that lack well-controlled human studies, but have demonstrated adverse health effects on the fetuses of pregnant animals. According to the FDA, the potential benefits of category C substances may warrant use if you are pregnant, despite potential risks.

Early Delivery

According to the APA, a normal pregnancy should last about 40 weeks. Taking senna while you are pregnant increases your risk of premature labor. Stimulant laxatives may cause uterine contractions, which can cause premature labor. Premature labor does not always result in premature delivery, according to APA. However, early labor can complicate your pregnancy.

Side Effects

Though senna is a plant, it still has the capacity to cause side effects. You may experience abdominal pain, cramping, discomfort and diarrhea. Diarrhea can cause electrolyte imbalance due to excess fluid loss. You may experience increased thirst due to dehydration.

Alternative Laxatives

Laxatives known as bulking agents and stool softeners draw water into your intestines to help soften and bulk your stool so that you can pass it easily. These are gentle on your intestinal tract and do not irritate your intestines. Bulking agents and stool softeners are safer to use if you are pregnant, than stimulant laxatives, according to If you are experiencing constipation, consult your obstetrician in order to decide the best option for you.

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