Why constipation is so common after pregnancy – naturopathic specialist portal

Link between constipation and pregnancy?

After pregnancy and immediately after childbirth, women are two to three times more likely to develop constipation than in the rest of their lives.

The risk of constipation appears to be significantly increased after pregnancy, according to the result of the new study with the participation of researchers from the University of Eastern Finland. The study was published in the English-language journal “International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology” (BJOG).

Constipation affects women more often

Constipation is generally common. The risk of constipation is also increased by a diet low in fiber. They are more common with age, and women are more likely to develop constipation than men.

More than 1000 women have been examined

The study looked at the incidence of constipation and other gastrointestinal problems in more than 1,000 women of childbearing age. Researchers focused on the incidence of constipation in the second and third trimesters as well as immediately after a vaginal birth or cesarean section. There was also a control group of 200 non-pregnant women.

Constipation is particularly common in the second trimester

The study found that 44% of women experience constipation in the second trimester and 36% in the third trimester. The incidence of constipation after vaginal childbirth has increased to 47 percent, and up to 57 percent of women who have had a cesarean have reported gastrointestinal problems and constipation. However, problems with constipation seem to go away surprisingly quickly after childbirth, according to the researchers in a press release from the University of Eastern Finland.

These women are particularly at risk

Constipation during pregnancy is more common in women who suffered from it before or during a previous pregnancy, experts say.

Health risks associated with constipation

According to the team, the percentages are surprisingly high, and since gastrointestinal issues affect both physical and mental well-being, their prevention should be discussed at antenatal clinics during early pregnancy. In addition, severe constipation increases the risk of hemorrhoids, urinary and fecal incontinence, and pelvic organ prolapse.

How to avoid constipation?

Daily exercise, a balanced diet rich in fiber, and adequate hydration are the most important ways to prevent constipation. The research group reports that if lifestyle changes aren’t enough to reduce constipation, laxatives may be needed.

Why do constipation occur during pregnancy?

During pregnancy, placental hormones slow down bowel movements, and the growth of the uterus can make it difficult to pass stool normally. In addition, pregnancy changes the way fluid is absorbed from the intestines, the team reports.

Constipation is most often reported immediately after birth. This can be caused by too long a sedentary time and insufficient fluid intake after childbirth. In addition, lesions of the pelvic floor muscles during a vaginal birth can lead to problems with bowel function, as can pain in the surgical wound after a cesarean section, experts explain.

Especially after pregnancy, women often suffer from constipation. (Image: Goffkein / Stock.Adobe.com)

What to look for after pregnancy

Pain that occurs in the first few days after childbirth should be managed so that the new mother can move as quickly as possible, whether the child was delivered vaginally or by cesarean section, the researchers say. The pain should not interfere with normal bowel movements and the pain relievers used should slow bowel movements as little as possible, the team adds.

Normal bowel function is quickly restored

An important finding of the study is that normal bowel function is quickly restored after childbirth. Women who had given birth vaginally or by Caesarean section were asked about their symptoms one month after giving birth. Other gastrointestinal issues such as gas and abdominal pain were also revealed, which up to 82% of women reported.

Counseling and prevention must be improved

There is very little research on the incidence of constipation during pregnancy and immediately after childbirth. The results show that constipation and other gastrointestinal problems are very common. That’s why it’s important to invest in the prevention and treatment of these conditions both during pregnancy and after childbirth, the researchers add. (as)

Author and source information

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This text complies with the requirements of specialized medical literature, medical directives and ongoing studies and has been verified by healthcare professionals.


Moona Kuronen, Sari Hantunen, Leena Alanne, Hannu Kokki, Cesarina Saukko et al .: Pregnancy, puerperium and perinatal constipation – an observational hybrid survey on Gynecology (published October 8, 2020), BJOG University of Eastern Finland: Over 40% of women suffer from constipation during pregnancy and immediately after childbirth (published October 9, 2020), University of Eastern Finland

Important note:
This article is provided for informational purposes only and should not be used for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. It cannot replace a visit to the doctor.