Is It Normal to Be Constipated in the First Trimester?

Reviewed on 5/27/2021

Constipation is a common pregnancy symptom. Constipation can even begin as early as the first trimester of pregnancy, when levels of progesterone start to rise, making bowel movements difficult.
Constipation is a common pregnancy symptom. Constipation can even begin as early as the first trimester of pregnancy, when levels of progesterone start to rise, making bowel movements difficult.

During the first trimester of pregnancy (the first three months) women experience many side effects from both hormonal changes and the growing baby.

Constipation is a common problem during pregnancy in which women have bowel movements that may be infrequent, too hard, or difficult to pass.

Constipation during the first trimester is normal and it is a symptom that affects nearly half of all pregnant women at some point in their pregnancy.

Constipation during pregnancy usually starts in the first trimester, around the second to third month as progesterone levels rise, and may worsen as pregnancy progresses. 

What Are Symptoms of Constipation During Pregnancy?

Symptoms of constipation during pregnancy are the same as symptoms of constipation any other time and may include: 

  • Fewer than three bowel movements per week
  • Hard, dry, or lumpy stools
  • Stools that are difficult or painful to pass
  • Feeling not all stool has passed following a bowel movement

Constipation during pregnancy is not usually serious, but it may be a symptom of another problem. See a doctor if constipation: 

  • Is severe
  • Is accompanied by passing mucus or blood
  • Is accompanied by abdominal pain
  • Alternates with diarrhea

What Causes Constipation During Pregnancy?

There are many causes of constipation in general, including:

Constipation during pregnancy is also due to: 

  • An increase in the hormone progesterone, which causes the muscles in the intestines to relax, which causes food to transit through the digestive system more slowly
    • The reason for this increase in progesterone and slowed digestion is so that there is additional time for nutrients to be absorbed by the mother to be passed on to the baby
  • Iron supplements or prenatal vitamins which may be high in iron are often prescribed to pregnant women and may worsen constipation
  • The growing baby takes up space in the abdomen which may affect normal bowel activity

How Is Constipation During Pregnancy Diagnosed?

Constipation during pregnancy is usually diagnosed with a patient history and physical examination, which may include a digital rectal exam, in which a doctor inserts a gloved finger into the rectum. 

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What Is the Treatment for Constipation During Pregnancy?

Treatment of constipation during pregnancy may include some of the following tips in the table below.

Treatment & Remedies for Pregnancy Constipation Chart
Remedy Tips
Consuming a high fiber diet of 25 to 30 grams per day of dietary fiber
  • Eat more fruits, vegetables, high fiber cereals, whole-grain bread, prunes, and bran
  • Avoid refined grains such as white bread, white rice, refined cereals, and pasta which are low in fiber and can cause constipation
Eating several smaller meals
  • Smaller meals are easier on the digestive system
Drinking plenty of fluids
  • Aim for 8 to 12 cups per day 
  • Water, vegetable or fruit juice, and low sodium broth helps makes stool soft and easier to pass
  • Prune juice is a mild laxative and may also help with constipation
  • If you live in a hot, humid climate, sweat a lot, or exercise you may need more
Exercising regularly
  • Moderate exercise such as walking and swimming and can help stimulate the bowels
  • Aim for at least 20 to 30 minutes, three times per week
Over-the-counter remedies
  • Metamucil can help soften bowel movements and reduce constipation
  • Talk to your doctor before using over-the-counter medications
Probiotics
  • Acidophilus, a probiotic found in yogurt with active cultures, stimulates intestinal bacteria to break down food better 
  • Or, ask your doctor about probiotic supplements
Reducing or eliminating iron supplements
  • Taking smaller doses throughout the day rather than all at once may help
  • Talk to your doctor about recommendations to manage iron intake during pregnancy

If you experience constipation during pregnancy, avoid: 

  • Laxatives, which may stimulate uterine contractions and cause dehydration
  • Mineral oils, which can reduce nutrient absorption

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Reviewed on 5/27/2021
References
https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/pregnancy-health-wellness/constipation-during-pregnancy-964/

https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/constipation

https://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/symptoms-and-solutions/constipation.aspx