Science / Health

Constipation and Pregnancy – Does Constipation Hurt Your Baby

We are familiar with the phrase, what you think is that you become. People use this theory to help and motivate others, teachers find this theory to advise students. But this does not apply to the physical self. Coming to the human body or our physical self, the theory changes a bit. It may be said that what you eat is what you become physically. We are not equipped or able to make our own food in our bodies like plants. So, we take food items from the surroundings physically and get them digested and absorbed. In physiology, it is understood how our body transforms the food we eat into energy. Physical activities like chewing and chemicals like digestive enzymes cut and divide the food into small pieces and further smaller particles. With the chemical reactions happening from mouth to intestines, the nutrients in the food are absorbed into the circulatory system and blood carries them to target organs.

Energy is released in the needed sites and utilized by the cells for growth development and metabolism. The food is slowly and rhythmically pushed through the alimentary canal while this process of digestion and absorption takes place. This process of the rhythmic movement of the muscular walls of the gastrointestinal tract is known as peristalsis. It helps the food move slowly through the canal, ensuring the time needed for absorption. This makes the food get mixed with digestive enzymes and other acids. Secretions from organs like the liver and pancreas also take part in digestion, ensuring the proper administration of all stages of the process. By the end of the intestines, almost all the nutrients are absorbed into the blood leaving the waste materials as a solid mass forming the fecal matter, to be stored in the rectum and excreted through the anus from time to time. There are voluntary muscles and sphincters that help the excretory process. Intake of nutritious food, proper digestion and absorption of nutrients, and removing the waste products from the body is essential for healthy living.

Stools or fecal matter are passed once or twice daily. It is a soft mass with a well-defined shape, and it should not be very hard or very loose. Both these conditions are considered abnormal, called constipation and diarrhea respectively. Normal and satisfactory expulsion of fecal matter does not happen in some people due to various reasons and the condition is called constipation. The diagnosis is done mostly considering the discomforts like abdominal pain and distension when passing of stools is not satisfactory. It is different from person to person quantitatively. Having three or more bowel movements in the morning is considered constipation when it is not satisfactory.

Digestion starts in the womb and continues till death. In pregnancy, both mother’s and the baby’s physiology go hand in hand and deliver a new life. Though it is a natural process, pregnancy imparts a lot of pressure on the physical and emotional aspects of the mother. Many changes in the hormones cause deviations from the normal and so-called balanced state. This change is visible in the digestive process also.  The major system affected by pregnancy hormones in the first trimester is the digestive system. Mostly a woman realizes she is pregnant when she misses a period along with nausea and vomiting in the morning. This is quite normal but if the vomiting is severe, the condition is known as hyperemesis gravidarum and needs emergency medical care. Indigestion is also very common in pregnant women with gas trouble, heartburn, and constipation. The majority of women experience such discomforts in the first and last trimesters while the second trimester or middle part is comparatively better.

In the first trimester, pregnancy hormones cause such discomforts while in the last months, both the hormones and the large abdomen cause digestive tract issues. Many scholars of natural medicine like Ayurvedic medicines suggest that a tendency for mild constipation is a better option than induced diarrhea, as it helps to prevent bleeding, miscarriage, or premature labor. Due to the same reason, purgation in pregnancy is done only in emergency conditions. In pregnancy, the concern is always the baby for all mothers. Constipation can cause serious discomforts like indigestion, bloating, flatulence, pain in the abdomen & pelvis, etc for the pregnant woman. It is very scary and disturbing to her but the truth is that in most cases, constipation and straining by the mother does not hurt the baby or her movements inside the womb.

The only harm possible to the baby is by developing indigestion and loss of appetite for the mother. If the mother is not feeling good appetite, there are chances of less food intake and malnourishment. This will affect the growth of the baby and the health of the mother. But this happens only in rare cases with mere constipation. When the fetus or baby is not mostly affected directly by the mother’s constipation, it is not the case with the mother. Constipation in pregnancy along with straining of stools in a hard way continuously can cause the blood vessels to bulge, leading to piles or hemorrhoids. They are chronic serious bulged veins near the anus sometimes bulged out of it, which may cause rectal bleeding when burst. Management and treatment for constipation in pregnancy depends upon many things.

Age, other complications, other comorbid conditions like diabetes, body weight, etc should be considered along with the severity of constipation-related discomforts. Mild laxatives can be used along with dietary and lifestyle modifications. Safe and effective ways are chosen when a pregnant woman is managed. Ayurvedic medicines are well-trusted worldwide as it is the way of ancient natural medicine of India in such cases. Ayurveda explains constipation in pregnancy as one of the common conditions observed in pregnant women. It is also advised not to do therapeutic purgation in pregnancy. If needed, special therapeutic enemas named Kashayavasti and Snehavasti are advised to be done in the last stages of pregnancy. This should be done under the direct supervision of an expert Ayurveda physician. A diet rich in fiber, liquids, a moderate amount of ghee, etc is also advised as a preventive measure. If not otherwise prescribed, mild stretching exercises and walking should be done on a daily basis. Continuous sitting should be avoided to prevent constipation in pregnancy. Herbs like the fruits of draksha and Aamalaki are advised to be taken in moderate quantity as per expert advice by non-diabetic pregnant women.

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