Gut health is extremely important while pregnant. Mama’s-to-be go through so many changes internally that sometimes their digestive tract can’t keep up. Some of these changes can cause digestion problems, which can lead to constipation and hemorrhoids. Both are uncomfortable and can be painful. When I was pregnant with my first child, I experienced constipation like I’ve never experienced before. TMI but let’s be real, pregnancy has a lot of uncomfortable problems and knowing you are not alone helps. Knowing what I know now would have saved me weeks of pain and embarrassment when I had to break down and ask my doctor for help. I’m hoping this post will help my fellow mama’s-to-be!
Your gut has a variety of jobs that keeps the body working properly. The digestive tract breaks down food, absorb nutrients that support energy production, hormone balance, skin health, mental health and even toxin and waste elimination. When the balance of microorganisms in the gut is out of balance and “bad bacteria” increase, they produce toxins that can weaken your immune response and also interfere with proper absorption of nutrients. The balance can be tipped in favor of “bad bacteria” by various toxins, such as antibiotics and other drugs, food additives and preservatives, stimulants like coffee, and an overabundance of hard to digest foods.
How to manage proper gut health:
- Drink ALL the water. I feel like I’m starting to sound like a broken record but water really does play an incredibly important role in many aspects of keeping your body working properly. So grab a cute container and sip on water throughout the day!
- Limit or avoid sugar. I know, this one is hard but bad bacteria thrive on sugar. It is important to cut out refined sugars, like table sugar and high fructose corn syrup.
- Eat the right balance of omega-6 to omega-3 fats. Consuming too many omega-6 fatty acids can lead to inflammation and intensify digestive problems. Try eliminating seed-based yellow cooking oils (corn, soybean, vegetable, etc.) from your diet as much as possible. Also, eat foods rich in omega-3 fats like wild-caught seafood.
- Eat more fiber. I’m sure you’ve heard this before but fiber is important when trying to keep things running smoothly. There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. Both are used to soften stools and add bulk to help keep things moving and passing easy. Foods rich in soluble fiber are oatmeal, nuts, beans, apples, oranges, prunes, and peaches. Foods rich in insoluble fiber are skins of fruit, brown rice, wheat bran, and also popcorn.
- Take a probiotic supplement. If you are not big on supplements, I would at least consider just this one. I take a probiotic every day and it has changed my life… not to sound too dramatic or anything. Probiotics repopulate the gut with good bacteria and help the body maintain proper gut health.
- Lastly, eat more fermented foods. Examples of these types of foods are kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, kefir, kombucha, and yogurt. These foods contain live and active cultures that help keep your gut balanced.
Constipation will affect roughly half of all women at some point during their pregnancy. It is thought to occur due to hormones that relax the intestinal muscles and also the pressure of the expanding uterus on the intestines. The relaxing of intestinal muscles causes food to move slower through the digestive system. Increasing your fiber, magnesium, and probiotic intake can help prevent and or treat constipation.
- Fiber rich foods: prunes, beans, sun-dried tomatoes, broccoli, chia seeds, berries, oatmeal
- Magnesium rich foods: seeds, nuts, dark leafy greens, avocados, bananas, figs
- Foods that contain probiotics: yogurt, kefir, and kombucha
There are also over the counter medications that can help ease constipation, such as Colace and Metamucil. Speak with your doctor before trying any over the counter medicines because some are not recommended for use during pregnancy.
Hemorrhoids are swollen blood vessels in the rectal area. They can be uncomfortable and sometimes painful but will usually go away after pregnancy. The growing uterus and increase in hormones that cause constipation can also cause hemorrhoids. Straining during a hard to pass bowel movement can sometimes lead to hemorrhoids. Some ways to try and avoid getting hemorrhoids are:
- Avoid becoming constipated
- Don’t wait to go
- Don’t sit on the toilet longer than necessary
- Do kegel exercises daily
- Kegels increase circulation in the rectal area and strengthen the muscles around the anus, which reduce the chance of getting hemorrhoids. Also, they strengthen and tone the muscles around the vagina and urethra, which help your body recover after giving birth.
There are a couple of remedies to use to treat hemorrhoids if you do get them. Some of these include:
- Apply a cold compress to help reduce swelling and discomfort. Some women also find saturating a cold compress with witch hazel will help soothe the area as well.
- Soak in an Epsom salt bath. Add Epsom salt to warm bathwater and soak for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Ask your doctor about medications that can ease hemorrhoids
In the end, constipation and hemorrhoids while pregnant are the last things any mama-to-be wants to deal with but are unfortunately unavoidable sometimes. Eating a balanced diet that’s also rich in fiber will help prevent constipation. It is recommended to eat about 25 grams of fiber per day for women and about 30-38 grams per day for men. When it becomes unavoidable, knowing ways to ease you through the burden will help it go by smoothly.
|Foods Rich in Fiber||Serving Size||Total Fiber (grams)|
|Pear (with skin)||1 medium||5.5|
|Apple (with skin)||1 medium||4.4|
|Spaghetti (whole wheat)||1 cup||6.3|
|Oat bran muffin||1 medium||5.2|
|Oatmeal (instant)||1 cup||4.0|
|Popcorn (air-popped)||3 cups||3.6|
|Brown rice||1 cup||3.5|
|Bread (whole wheat)||1 slice||1.9|
|Split peas (boiled)||1 cup||16.3|
|Black beans (boiled)||1 cup||15|
|Baked beans (canned, vegetarian)||1 cup||10.4|
|Artichoke (boiled)||1 medium||10.3|
|Broccoli (boiled)||1 cup||5.1|
|Brussels Sprouts (boiled)||1 cup||4.1|
|Carrot (raw)||1 medium||1.7|