Pregnant women are faced with monthly physical changes. Plenty of these are unpleasant because they cause discomfort and sometimes, further complications. Constipation is a common problem throughout the 9 months of expectancy.

Pregnancy constipation is brought about by a number of reasons. As progesterone hormone levels rise, the intestinal muscles relax, slowing down bowel activity. Later on, as the uterus grows bigger with the baby, abdominal organs get cramped causing sluggishness in bowel movement.

You may not have control over fetal growth and hormone levels, but physical activity, diet and daily habits also affect bowel health. Easy elimination is possible with a minor lifestyle change. Here are some ways to deal with stubborn stool.

1.    Agua quota. Drinking plenty of fluids helps keep solid waste soft and moving smoothly. Do your best to reach the daily minimum of 8 glasses of water. Try adding lemon or cucumber on the water if you want a twist of flavor. Fruit juices such as prune juice or orange juice (with pulp) also help in constipation relief, but they should not replace water intake.

Drink only purified or bottled water to prevent ingestion of contaminants that may harm you and your baby. Some contaminants may cause diarrhea; it will do the job of eliminating stool but it will make you dehydrated in the process. Stay away from caffeinated drinks because they have a diuretic (frequent urination) effect – causing dehydration as well.

2.    Fill up with fiber. A natural way to sweep out intestinal bulk is by incorporating more fiber into your diet. Not only will it aid in passage, it will also help prevent the occurrence of hemorrhoids. Pile up on fruits and vegetables rich in fiber such as papaya, pear, beans, yam, broccoli and leafy veggies. Snack on dried prunes, raisins and nuts (check for allergies first). Bran, granary bread and cereals are also top fiber sources.

Fiber in the digestive system absorbs water making the stool moist and soft. So, once you increase fiber intake, you must also up your water intake to make the fiber useful. Too much fiber in one go may cause bloating though, so take fiber servings a little at a time until your body gets used to it.

3.    Effort to exercise. It’s hard to move around with swollen ankles, let alone a full belly. But physical activity is important during pregnancy. Exercise helps increase blood circulation, thus stimulating the intestines to do a better job.

Pregnant-friendly exercises are light and not too straining. These include walking, yoga, swimming and other water exercises. A 10-30 minute daily exercise routine is enough to bring relief.

4.    Eye on the iron (and calcium). Excess iron, usually from prenatal supplements, is known to cause constipation because it slows down food digestion. Find out if you really need iron supplementation. If you do, ask your doctor about alternative sources of iron, like liquid or slow-release supplements.

Sometimes, eating foods rich in iron like soybeans, oatmeal and red meat may be enough. Take vitamin C-rich food like orange together with your iron intake for better iron absorption, therefore less iron to excrete.

Calcium in the form of calcium carbonate in some supplements can harden stool. Calcium is important for your baby’s bone formation, so you definitely need additional supply. As with iron, ask your doctor if there are other means of obtaining calcium – in other brands of supplement or in food.

5.    Choose food wisely. A conscious effort when buying food items is good for a constipation-free pregnancy. Exclude fatty and non-fiber food from your shopping list such as cheese, chocolates and candy. Also try to keep away from food items made with refined sugar of white flour as these take longer to break down.

6.    Check your habits. Simple everyday habits can help the intestines pick up the pace. Eat small frequent meals throughout the day. Small food portions are easier to process than full meals.

The best sleeping position for a pregnant woman is lying on the left side. Studies show that this position maximizes blood flow. Also, lying on the side takes off the baby’s weight (less gravitational pressure) on the intestines, allowing better bowel movement.

7.    Supplemental help.  For a fast fiber fix, you may consider taking supplements that contain husks. Check product labels for any pregnancy contradictions and always go for natural ingredients. They come in sachets (powder ready to be diluted in water), tablets or other forms.

If you want to look into herbal constipation remedies, particularly teas, make sure you check with your practitioner first. Some herbal formulations may be harmful to your carriage.

8.    Medical rescue. Solid waste may be harmful if not excreted for 3 days. If you are uncomfortable from constantly feeling clogged up or if you haven’t had a pass for 3 days, ask your doctor for proper medication. Natural remedies are always best but sometimes medical intervention is necessary to avoid further complications. Only get doctor-approved laxatives since some over-the-counter ones may trigger uterine contractions or cause dehydration.