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Constipation in Adults (cont.)

Constipation and Pregnancy

Constipation is common symptom during pregnancy and may be due to several factors. Some of the following conditions produce severe pain on defecation, which may trigger a reflex spasm of the anal sphincter muscle. The spasm may delay bowel movement and decrease the desire for bowel opening in order to avoid the anal pain.

  • Mechanical pressure on the bowel by the heavy womb
  • Hormonal changes during pregnancy slow intestinal movement
  • Changes in food and fluid intake
  • Anal fissure (cracks in the lining of the anus)
  • Painful hemorrhoids
  • Iron in prenatal vitamins

Treatment for constipation during pregnancy is similar to non-pregnancy related constipation. Drink plenty of fluids (maybe add some prune juice as it is also a mild laxative), eat a high fiber diet, and gentle exercise. Severe constipation might require a visit to your doctor to discuss which fiber supplements or laxatives are appropriate for you.

Other Causes of Constipation

Connective tissue diseases: Conditions such as scleroderma and lupus

Poor-functioning of the thyroid gland: Reduced production of thyroxin, a hormone produced by the thyroid gland, can lead to hypothyroidism, and therefore can cause constipation.

Lead poisoning and other metabolic disorders

Age: Older adults are more likely to have constipation for the following reasons:

  • Poor diet and insufficient intake of fluids
  • Lack of exercise
  • Side effects of prescription drugs used to treat other conditions
  • Poor bowel habits
  • Prolonged bed rest, for example after an accident or during an illness
  • Habitual use of enemas and laxatives

It should be noted that although that this is a long list of possibly worrisome causes of constipation, most chronic constipation is simply from inadequate intake of dietary fiber and water, and can be managed by substantially increasing the intake of both.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/30/2015

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