Pregnancy Constipation: Are Laxatives Safe?

can I take a laxative at 35 weeks pregnant

Constipation is a common issue during pregnancy, with 11% to 38% of pregnant women experiencing it. It can be caused by hormonal changes, such as increased progesterone levels and reduced motilin hormone, as well as increased vitamin supplementation and a growing uterus putting pressure on the bowel. While natural remedies like increasing fibre and fluid intake and exercising are recommended as the first line of treatment, they may not always be effective. In such cases, the use of laxatives during pregnancy is generally considered safe, but it is important to consult a doctor before taking any medication.

Characteristics Values
Should I take laxatives during pregnancy? Talk to your healthcare provider before making any changes to your medication.
What are laxatives? Medications used to treat constipation.
Types of laxatives Osmotics, fiber or bulk, stool softeners, stimulants, and lubricants.
Osmotics Laxatives that work by pulling water into the intestines.
Osmotics examples Salts (magnesium hydroxide, sodium bisphosphate), sugars (lactulose, polyethylene glycol).
Fiber or bulk laxatives examples Psyllium, methylcellulose.
Stool softeners examples Docusate sodium, glycerin.
Stimulants examples Senna, bisacodyl, castor oil.
Lubricants Mineral oil.
Laxatives side effects May cause stomach cramps, which can be severe.
Can laxatives cause pregnancy complications? Using more than the recommended amount of laxatives can cause nutritional problems, affect the absorption of other medications, and lower the levels of needed salts in the blood.
Natural remedies for constipation Drinking more water, eating high-fibre foods, and exercising regularly.

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What are some natural ways to relieve constipation during pregnancy?

Constipation is a common issue during pregnancy, with almost three out of four pregnant women experiencing it at some point. While laxatives are available to help relieve constipation, there are also natural ways to ease the discomfort of constipation.

Eat more fibre-rich foods

Eating 25 to 34 grams of fibre each day can help soften stools, making them easier to pass. Fibre-rich foods include fruits, vegetables, beans, peas, lentils, bran cereals, prunes, and whole-grain bread.

Drink more water

Staying hydrated is important for keeping stools soft. Pregnant women should drink at least eight 12-ounce glasses of water per day. If you find plain water unappealing, try other drinks like low-fat milk, smoothies, tea, or juices with no added sugar.

Exercise regularly

Regular physical activity stimulates your bowels. Aim for 20 to 30 minutes of moderate exercise, such as walking, swimming, or prenatal yoga, three times a week. Be sure to consult your doctor about which exercises are safe for you and your baby.

Try a different prenatal vitamin

The iron in prenatal vitamins can sometimes contribute to constipation. Talk to your healthcare provider about switching to a prenatal vitamin with less iron.

Break up meals

Instead of eating large meals, try breaking up your daily food intake into five or six smaller meals. This will help your stomach digest food more efficiently and transfer it smoothly to the intestine and colon.

Probiotics

Probiotics can help repopulate the gut with healthy bacteria, encouraging normal and regular bowel movements. Yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi are good sources of probiotics.

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What are some over-the-counter laxatives considered safe during pregnancy?

Constipation is a common issue during pregnancy, and laxatives are often used to treat it. While it is always best to try natural methods of relieving constipation, such as increasing fibre and fluid intake and exercising regularly, mild laxatives are considered safe to take during pregnancy. It is important to consult a doctor before taking any medication, including laxatives, during pregnancy.

Bulk-Forming Agents/Fiber Laxatives

These laxatives contain fibre, such as psyllium (Metamucil) and methylcellulose (Citrucel), which help to add material to the stool and make it softer and easier to pass. They are not absorbed into the bloodstream, so they are considered safe during pregnancy. However, they may cause some cramping or discomfort, so it is recommended to start with a low dosage and ensure adequate water intake.

Stool Softeners

Stool softeners, such as docusate sodium (Colace) and glycerin, add water to the stool to help make it softer and more comfortable to pass. They are commonly recommended by doctors for pregnant women.

Lubricant Laxatives

Lubricant laxatives, such as mineral oil, coat the stool or the intestinal tract to aid in the passage of stool. They enter the bloodstream in small amounts, so there may be minimal exposure to the pregnancy. However, they may cause stomach cramps, which can be severe.

Osmotic Laxatives

Osmotic laxatives, such as magnesium hydroxide (Milk of Magnesia) and polyethylene glycol (Miralax), work by pulling water into the intestines. They are not well absorbed by the intestine, so exposure to the pregnancy is expected to be small. However, they may cause side effects such as flatulence and bloating.

Stimulant Laxatives

Stimulant laxatives, such as senna (Senokot) and bisacodyl (Correctol), are generally safe to use during pregnancy when used in recommended doses. However, they may cause unpleasant side effects such as abdominal cramps.

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What are the risks of taking laxatives during pregnancy?

While laxatives are generally considered safe to use during pregnancy, there are some risks to be aware of. It is always best to consult a doctor before taking any medication, especially during pregnancy.

First of all, it is important to try natural methods of relieving constipation before opting for laxatives. Eating high-fibre foods, drinking plenty of water, and exercising regularly can help prevent constipation. Probiotics can also be beneficial as they promote healthy gut bacteria and encourage regular bowel movements.

If natural remedies are ineffective, a doctor may suggest taking a mild laxative. Bulk-forming agents like psyllium (Metamucil) and methylcellulose (Citrucel) are generally considered safe during pregnancy. Stool softeners containing docusate (Colace) are also an option. These types of laxatives can cause some cramping or discomfort, so it's important to start with the lowest dosage and ensure adequate fluid intake.

It is recommended to avoid stimulant laxatives as they can induce uterine contractions. Castor oil, a stimulant laxative, has been used to try to bring on labour at the end of pregnancy, but it is not effective if the body is not ready for labour.

Overuse of laxatives can lead to diarrhoea, fluid loss, and a dependence on them. Additionally, laxatives can speed up the movement of food through the intestines, reducing nutrient absorption. Prolonged use of certain types of laxatives may also cause electrolyte or fluid imbalances.

In summary, while laxatives can be a safe and effective treatment for constipation during pregnancy, it is important to consult a doctor, start with mild options, and use them sparingly to minimise potential risks.

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What are some stronger medications for constipation during pregnancy?

It is important to consult a doctor before taking any medication during pregnancy, including laxatives or other constipation remedies. Doctors will be able to advise on the types of laxatives to take, how often to take them, and for how long.

When home remedies such as increasing fibre and fluid intake, as well as physical activity, fail to relieve constipation, laxatives are the next course of action. Laxatives are medications that treat constipation by making it easier and more comfortable to go to the bathroom.

  • Bulk-forming agents: These laxatives add material to the stool, helping it absorb more water. This makes the stool larger, softer, and easier to pass. Examples include psyllium, methylcellulose, and polycarbophil. However, they can cause some cramping or discomfort, so it is recommended to start with a low dosage and ensure adequate water intake.
  • Osmotic laxatives: These laxatives pull water into the intestines, increasing the amount of water in the stool, which makes it softer and easier to pass. Examples include magnesium hydroxide (Milk of Magnesia) and polyethylene glycol (Miralax). They are not well absorbed by the intestine, so there is minimal exposure to the pregnancy.
  • Stool softeners: These laxatives add water to the stool, making it softer and more comfortable to pass. Docusate (Colace) is the most commonly recommended stool softener for pregnant women. It decreases the surface tension of the bowel's liquid contents, allowing more liquid to remain in the stool and facilitating its passage.
  • Lubricant laxatives: These laxatives add a slippery coating to the stool or the intestinal tract, aiding the passage of the stool out of the body. Glycerin suppositories are an example of a lubricant laxative. However, it is important to consult a healthcare professional before using suppositories during pregnancy.
  • Stimulant laxatives: These laxatives stimulate colonic motility and decrease water absorption from the large intestine. Examples include senna, bisacodyl, and castor oil. However, they can cause stomach cramps, which may be severe, so they should be used with caution.
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What are some natural ways to prevent constipation during pregnancy?

Constipation is a common issue during pregnancy, affecting almost three out of four pregnant women. It is caused by hormonal changes, pressure on the uterus, and iron in prenatal vitamins. Fortunately, there are several natural ways to prevent and relieve constipation during pregnancy. Here are some tips to help you find relief:

Increase Your Fibre Intake:

Eat 25 to 30 grams of fibre each day. Include nutritious, fibre-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, peas, and lentils in your diet. Whole wheat couscous is an excellent option. Try to have smaller meals more frequently to ease the strain on your digestive tract.

Stay Hydrated:

Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration, one of the most common causes of constipation. Aim for 8 to 12 cups of water per day. If plain water gets boring, try sparkling water or infused water with carrots, lettuce, melons, or strawberries.

Exercise Regularly:

Consistent exercise helps relieve constipation. Aim for 20 to 30 minutes of moderate activity, three times a week. Walking, swimming, prenatal yoga, and bike riding are excellent low-impact options. Always consult your doctor or midwife before starting a new exercise routine during pregnancy.

Probiotics:

Probiotics can aid in digestion and soften stools. Include probiotic-rich foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi in your diet. Your doctor may also recommend an oral probiotic supplement.

Adjust Your Iron Intake:

While iron is crucial during pregnancy, too much can contribute to constipation. Talk to your doctor about adjusting your iron supplement dosage or increasing your intake of iron-rich foods such as beans, green or root vegetables, and lean meat.

Over-the-Counter (OTC) Medications:

If natural remedies are ineffective, consult your doctor about safe OTC medications. Bulk-forming laxatives like Fibercon (calcium polycarbophil) and Metamucil (psyllium) are generally considered safe during pregnancy.

Remember, it is important to consult your healthcare provider before making any significant changes to your diet, exercise routine, or medication. They can provide personalized advice and recommendations based on your individual needs.

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Frequently asked questions

It is best to consult your doctor before taking any medication, including laxatives. Laxatives are generally considered safe during pregnancy, but it is important to opt for gentle laxatives and avoid stimulant laxatives, which can induce uterine contractions.

Home remedies such as drinking enough water, increasing your fibre intake, and getting regular exercise can help relieve constipation during pregnancy.

Bulk-forming agents like psyllium, methylcellulose, and polycarbophil, as well as stool softeners like docusate (Colace), are generally considered safe during pregnancy.

Overuse of laxatives can lead to diarrhoea, fluid loss, and a higher likelihood of relying on them in the future. It is important to consult your doctor to determine the safest course of action.

If constipation lasts for more than a week, or if you experience rectal bleeding or no relief after using a laxative, it is recommended to consult a doctor for further advice and treatment options.

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