Coping with constipation

Constipation is one of pregnancy’s earliest—and most vexing—side effects. Although it’s not a regular topic of conversation due to its embarrassment factor, you can rest assured it’s very common.

During pregnancy, increased progesterone levels cause food to pass more slowly through our intestines, leading to constipation. Multivitamins (their iron content, to be precise) can also contribute to the problem. (Multivitamins provide key nutrients however, so don’t stop taking them without your doctor’s advice.) The good news is you don’t have to suffer through constipation during your entire nine months. Manage it with these tips.

Eat plenty of fibre. Reach for high-fibre snack foods as you graze throughout the day. Add the following to your daily snack rotation: multigrain toast, bran cereal (try it dry as a crunchy chip alternative), Simply Food Good For Life High Fibre Oats and Chocolate Bars, popcorn, and sliced fruit like apples or bananas as well as veggies such as spinach or peppers.

Consider fibre supplements and stool softeners. Eating a high fibre diet is crucial in preventing constipation. Motherisk (a research program providing information on the safety of drugs and exposures during pregnancy and lactation, at the Hospital For Sick Children, in Toronto), deems psyllium supplements like Metamucil a safe way to bulk up on dietary fibre. You could also try Life Brand Clearly Fibre.

Stool softeners like docusate calcium (Surfak) and docusate sodium (Colace) are also safe choices, according to Motherisk.

Avoid chronic use of laxatives. According to Health Canada they can bring on labour contractions.

Got questions about choosing the right fibre supplement or stool softener? Ask your Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacist for advice.

Drink up with the 8-8 rule. Make eight 8-ounce glasses of water your minimum daily goal. Bored? Keep your palate intrigued with non-caffeinated beverages like herbal teas, milk and fruit “cocktails” of 50-50 water/juice.

Exercise. Gentle aerobic activities like daily walks and swimming can help treat or even prevent pregnancy-related constipation.