Constipation during pregnancy is very common. Progesterone can relax the muscles in your body and thus affect the efficiency of your bowels. As the smooth muscles in the bowel relax and are no longer contracting as much, gut motility is reduced, meaning transit times of food in your stomach are increased. As a consequence, you will not be opening your bowels as often and stools may become harder. You may also find you become constipated when breastfeeding, this could be due to being slightly dehydrated as water is taken from your body to manufacture breast milk for the baby.
Constipation can be treated with dietary advice – increase your fibre, fruit and vegetable intake and your consumption of water. If this does not help then you should definitely try taking Fybogel, Normacol or Regulan – these are all drug free solutions which contain the ispaghula husk, which is a type of bulk-forming laxative. You can buy these over the counter in your local chemist, or ask your doctor to prescribe them for you and you will be able to claim them for free if you have filled in your Maternity Exemption certificate.
Another tip is to eat a couple of Kiwi fruit! This will normally get things going within 24 hours.
If things have got so blocked up that you feel like you have a solid stool or poo blocking your back passage, you can buy some Glycerine Suppositories over the counter at the chemist and one of these will instantly get things moving again.
Haemorrhoids or Piles
One result of constipation, particularly as your pregnancy advances is the dreaded Haemorrhoids or Piles. Straining to do a poo with the added pressure of your uterus and the baby can force some of the blood vessels in your anal canal to pop out causing bleeding, discomfort and itching. You may feel small bumps or lumps around your bottom, and you may get some blood when you wipe after doing a poo. Itching can be another sign to look out for if you are not keen to look or feel down there!
You may also develop piles after giving birth. During the pushing stage you may push some blood vessels out of your bottom, but these should disappear in the weeks after your birth.
Some women can develop piles whilst breastfeeding if they are dehydrated and become constipated.
Here are some tips to deal with them
Warm baths to help with the itching
Gently push the haemorroids back during a shower or bath
Using moist toilet tissues after going to the loo
Ask your doctor to prescribe you some ointment or suppositories to shrink the piles and reduce itching. If you have your Maternity Exemption Certificate then you will be able to claim all these for free which will be a real saving as the chances are, this problem might plague you for a while!
If they are very painful and debilitating after the birth then you can get hold of a Valley Cushion through your local NCT branch or online. Valley Cushion.
If your piles do not get better after the birth of your baby and continue to be a nuisance then it is best to see your doctor who might suggest treating them with an injection to shrink them or perhaps even removing them in a quick and easy operation.