The popular kid’s book says it all, Everyone Poops. However, bowel movements during pregnancy can change from what women are normally used to experiencing. We know it’s not a pretty topic, but it’s one many expectant moms will question during and right after their nine months of pregnancy. OB/GYN Amy Bingaman, M.D., UnityPoint Health opens up to give advice on five often embarrassing but common bowel issues associated with pregnancy.
- Hemorrhoids during and after Pregnancy
Hemorrhoids are varicosities, or swollen veins, in the anal canal that are enlarged due to local pressure. When the veins are enlarged, they can become irritated when you have a bowel movement. They can be itchy and mildly uncomfortable or downright painful. Dr. Bingaman says hemorrhoids impact about 30 to 40 percent of pregnant and postpartum patients. During pregnancy, it’s most common in the third trimester (28-40 weeks). The onset of hemorrhoids happens due to changes to the body as baby grows. It’s not uncommon for women to experience hemorrhoids for the first time during pregnancy and right after delivery.
Expectant moms will recognize hemorrhoids from itching, discomfort and bleeding. They typically improve with time, and most patients respond to conservative therapy, like dietary changes, including adding more water and fiber to a diet. Doctors can also give advice on over-the-counter anti-inflammatory and anti-itch medication or a prescription suppository, both of which are safe during pregnancy. If women experience symptoms, it’s important for them to talk to their providers for recommendations and reassurance.
- Constipation during Pregnancy
Constipation intensifies symptoms of hemorrhoids, so unfortunately expectant moms might experience both at the same time. Dr. Bingaman says constipation is very common in pregnancy, impacting 16 to 39 percent of women in each trimester of pregnancy, as well as the postpartum period (six to 12 weeks after delivery). Outside of pregnancy, only seven percent of people experience constipation.
“Like with hemorrhoids, dietary changes can make a difference with constipation,” Dr. Bingaman says. “Increasing water and fiber intake can help. Fruit and vegetables make great sources of fiber, as well as bran cereals. Over-the-counter supplements are also available. Milk of magnesia, Miralax and stool softeners are safe to use in pregnancy.”
- Diarrhea during Pregnancy
Diarrhea is not as common in pregnancy. If women experience this, along with nausea and vomiting, you should see your primary care provider. The biggest concern is to make sure expectant moms remain hydrated.
- Bowel Movements during Delivery
Dr. Bingaman says it’s fairly common to have a bowel movement during delivery. She says it actually tells the medical staff in the room that you are pushing correctly. Getting rid of that waste also makes more room for the baby.
“We are prepared for this, and we do our best to make you unaware of it,” Dr. Bingaman says. “It is normal to worry about it, and we know that and are good at helping women through it. Plus, we know what happens in Labor and Delivery, stays in Labor and Delivery.”
- The First Bowel Movement after Delivery
Many new moms are apprehensive about using the bathroom for a bowel movement after delivery.
“I think it’s scary because you’ve just had a baby and you possibly have stiches in the vagina. It is normal to be nervous for your first bowel movement after delivery. Some women are on narcotic pain medication, which can make constipation worse. I would recommend increasing water and fiber intake as well as starting a bowel regimen, like stool softener or milk of magnesia, until the first bowel movement.”
If you have questions about these five bowel movements or others, make sure to ask your UnityPoint Health OB/GYN or primary care provider.
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