Pregnancy and Pooping

Pregnant woman in bathroom.jpg

Bowel movements during pregnancy can change from what women experience normally. We know it’s not a pretty topic, but it’s one that many expectant moms will question during and right after their nine months of pregnancy. OB-GYN Amy Bingaman, MD, UnityPoint Health offers advice on five often embarrassing, but common, bowel issues associated with pregnancy.

1. Hemorrhoids During & 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 sometimes downright painful. Dr. Bingaman says hemorrhoids impact about 30 to 40 percent of pregnant and postpartum patients. During pregnancy, they're most common in the third trimester (28-40 weeks). The onset of hemorrhoids in pregnant women happens due to changes to the body as the baby grows. It’s not uncommon to experience hemorrhoids for the first time during pregnancy and right after delivery.

Expectant moms will recognize symptoms of hemorrhoids as itching, discomfort and bleeding. They typically improve with time, and most patients respond to conservative therapy, like dietary changes - such as 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 to offer some relief from hemorrhoids, both of which are safe during pregnancy. If you experience symptoms, it’s important to talk to your doctor for recommendations and reassurance.

2. Constipation During Pregnancy

Constipation intensifies symptoms of hemorrhoids, so unfortunately expectant moms can 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 during the postpartum period (six to 12 weeks after delivery). 

“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.”

3. Diarrhea During Pregnancy

Diarrhea is not as common of a symptom during or after pregnancy. If you experience this, along with nausea and vomiting, see your primary care provider. The biggest concern with diarrhea is making sure expectant moms remain hydrated.

4. Bowel Movements During Delivery

Dr. Bingaman says pooping during labor is fairly common. She says it actually tells the medical staff in the room you are pushing correctly. Getting rid of 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.”

5. The First Bowel Movement after Delivery

Dr. Bingaman finds 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 stitches 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.