Real talk: I haven't had a normal bowel movement in five months. Don't be alarmed, I've had bowel movements. They are just infrequent, abnormal and uncomfortable. Such is the life of a pregnant woman anyone in my position will tell you that constipation is the king of all pregnancy symptoms. No one is immune.
Okay, let's pause for a second here. If you're asking yourself, “Dear Lord, is she going to spend an entire blog talking about poop?” then this article probably isn't for you. The human body is a remarkably disgusting place and I have no qualms talking about it. If, as a society, we can find childbirth beautiful with all its mucous and vomit and vaginal tearing surely we can muster the courage to have a mature conversation about pooping for a few minutes.
So, as my brother would say, let's go on a learning safari! Here are a few of the fun and fascinating reasons why I can't seem to have a normal bowel movement:
Ever since your (or my) last period, your body has been producing large amounts of progesterone first to prepare the uterus to receive and nourish the egg, then to ready the breast tissue for lactation and prevent tearing and infection during childbirth. It's a very important and necessary hormone, but it has a dark side. One of its jobs is to act as a sort of muscle relaxant, preventing the contractions that during a normal menstrual cycle would cause your body to reject an egg and trigger your period. A very important function during pregnancy, wouldn't you agree? But that muscle-relaxing property isn't limited to the uterus, so the progesterone can inadvertently prevent the contractions that move food and waste through the bowels. No contractions, no poop. Now isn't that way more interesting than high school health class?
I've said it before and I'll say it again: the process of growing a baby is very, very dehydrating. You need water to produce extra blood, to form the placenta, to develop amniotic fluid and breast milk. But guess what other biological process requires lots of water? Defecation. Your body needs fluid to complete the waste disposal process; when you're dehydrated, your colon draws this water from the food you eat. The result is essentially dehydrated stool it can be small, hard and difficult to pass. That's why most experts recommend upping your fluid intake when pregnant to accommodate your body's new demands. Your OB provider can tell you how much water is right for someone of your size and activity level.
All the hullabaloo about prenatal vitamins isn't without reason. These supplements contain folic acid, which can help prevent fetal brain and spinal cord abnormalities, as well as added calcium, iodine and vitamin B6. All that sounds great, right? Well, the constipation comes into the picture when we talk about iron. It's another fundamental reason for taking prenatal vitamins pregnant women need a lot of iron to help their red blood cells carry oxygen to the baby. But iron doesn't absorb into the bloodstream particularly well, so it's often left behind gumming up the works of your intestinal tract. If you're concerned, you might bring your prenatal vitamins to your next OB appointment and get a professional opinion on the quantity of iron in your supplements.
Your Darling Child
I really hope this isn't shocking information but when a humanoid creature the size of an eggplant is doing jumping jacks 24-7 on your rectum, it can make pooping a little tricky. Just thought I'd share that in case someone was under the impression babies are made of unicorn giggles, which everyone knows are weightless.
So, what can you do about prenatal constipation? Eat lots of green things, drink lots of water and get plenty of exercise. And, of course, if you're experiencing abdominal pain or going prolonged amounts of time without a bowel movement, talk to your OB provider. Maybe it's something, maybe it's nothing, but when it comes to babies, it's better to be on the safe (and regular) side.