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Pregnancy tips: Nutritional strategies to combat constipation in each trimester

ByZarafshan Shiraz, New Delhi
Feb 02, 2024 12:33 PM IST

Expectant mothers must adopt these nutritional strategies to solve the common issue at each trimester of pregnancy.

During pregnancy, many mothers-to-be experience symptoms of constipation which include infrequent bowel movements, abdominal pain and hard stool. According to various reports, one out of four pregnant women will experience constipation and other bowel issues at some point during their pre-motherhood journey.

Pregnancy tips: Nutritional strategies to combat constipation in each trimester (Photo by Shutterstock)

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Helai Gupta, Senior Consultant at Rosewalk Healthcare, suggested that expectant mothers must adopt the following nutritional strategies to solve the common issue at each trimester of pregnancy -

  1. First Trimester: Many women consume prenatal vitamins, supplements that contain daily vitamins and minerals one needs before and during pregnancy. It is imperative to add food high in fiber to counteract this. Adding fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains to one’s meal is essential.
  2. Second trimester: As the baby grows in the womb, the pressure on the digestive system increases. Focus on maintaining a well-balanced diet and healthy lifestyle by adopting a few physical exercises recommended by your doctor which create happy hormones while balancing your mental health.
  3. Third Trimester: Constipation typically starts in the third trimester because of the hormonal fluctuations and growing uterus. Where expectant mothers feel more hungry and eat larger meals. To aid digestion and prevent constipation, moms-to-be should choose smaller and 5-6 meals instead of large ones.

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Dr Helai Gupta asserted, “Always take advice from your doctor before making any major dietary changes during your pregnancy. Therefore, throughout each trimester expectant mothers can prevent constipation and maintain overall health and well-being.”

Echoing that constipation is a common concern during pregnancy, affecting many expectant mothers across trimesters, Dr T Lakhmi Bharathi, M.Sc Clinical Nutritionist and Dietetics at Apollo Cradle and Children's Hospital in Bangalore's Koramangala, recommended that while hormonal changes and the expanding uterus play a role, implementing the following targeted nutritional strategies can alleviate this discomfort -

  1. First Trimester: During this phase, focus on fiber-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. These aid digestion and soften stools. Hydration is crucial; adequate water intake prevents dehydration, a common cause of constipation.
  2. Second Trimester: Incorporate probiotic-rich foods like yogurt or kefir to support gut health. Balanced meals with moderate portions and regular mealtimes help regulate bowel movements. Prenatal supplements with iron may contribute to constipation; consult your doctor for alternatives if needed.
  3. Third Trimester: Emphasize high-fiber foods and consider adding prunes, figs, or flaxseeds known for their natural laxative properties. Regular physical activity, even gentle exercises like walking, promotes bowel movements and relieves constipation.
  4. Throughout Pregnancy: Avoid highly processed foods and excessive intake of iron supplements. Small, frequent meals reduce the workload on the digestive system. Consulting a healthcare provider for guidance on safe, pregnancy-specific laxatives or supplements is advisable.

She concluded, “Remember, every pregnancy is unique. It's crucial to personalise dietary changes and seek professional advice to manage constipation effectively without compromising maternal or fetal health. By adopting these nutritional strategies across trimesters, expectant mothers can ease constipation and enhance overall well-being throughout their pregnancy journey.”

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