Home Women Postnatal care Constipation


Remember that normal bowel function varies from person to person. In terms of constipation, which can be common in pregnancy, it is better to prevent constipation than to treat it. Even though women will find constipation uncomfortable it will have no negative effect on the baby.

In pregnancy hormonal changes may lead to constipation as progesterone can slow down the digestive system. Some supplements like iron can sometimes cause constipation as well. Talking to the midwife about constipation issues is a good idea as there may be a different supplement that could be recommended that is less likely to cause a problem.

After birth there are a number of reasons why passing bowel motions can be difficult. Pain at the site of an episiotomy, or the site of stitches in the perineum, can lead to reluctance to open the bowels – which can lead to constipation. Haemorrhoids are also not that uncommon in pregnancy, and these can make constipation worse as well as increasing pain in the area. Haemorrhoids may also persist after the birth. It is not uncommon to have constipation for a few days after having a caesarean birth. Strong pain relief given after the birth can also cause constipation.

There are some relatively simple lifestyle changes that can help prevent constipation. Drinking plenty of water, eating vegetables and increasing the fibre in the diet are important during pregnancy, and after birth.  Good toilet habits can help – like not putting off going to the toilet, making sure breakfast is not skipped as that early morning meal can stimulate an urge to go to the toilet. During pregnancy it can be helpful to use a footstool when sitting on the toilet. Exercise is also important – in pregnancy, and after the birth – walking, swimming and yoga are good activities both in pregnancy and in the postnatal period. Taking oral laxatives is generally not recommended while pregnant or breastfeeding.