CONSTIPATION IN PREGNANT WOMEN AND CHILDREN
Constipation is one of the most common side effects of pregnancy, next to morning sickness and hypersensitivity to smells. In the vast majority of cases, there is nothing to worry about: the causes of constipation during pregnancy are completely natural and not serious. Nonetheless, this digestive disorder remains unpleasant...
What explains constipation in pregnant women?
Around one in two pregnant women suffer from constipation. It often occurs from the first trimester onwards, even in women who usually have no intestinal transit problems. Strange? Not really, when you consider that pregnancy is a time of significant physiological and hormonal changes. Some of them help the embryo and then the foetus develop correctly. Others prepare the body for childbirth...
Among all these changes, increased progesterone levels can cause constipation during early pregnancy. This hormone can reduce (or even prevent) the contractions of smooth muscles, such as the muscles of the digestive tract or uterus, which are beyond our control. Progesterone plays a key role because, by preventing uterine contractions, it reduces the risk of miscarriage and premature birth. The only problem is that it also affects the smooth muscles of the colon. Hence a slowing of intestinal transit during pregnancy...
In addition to this hormonal factor, the foetus develops, taking up more and more space in the body. In the third trimester, it can compress the colon to the point that constipation is often more notable during late pregnancy.
What are the effects of constipation during pregnancy?
Don’t worry, functional constipation neither impacts your baby’s development nor endangers your health. Nonetheless, it can entail various discomforts, such as bloating, gas and lack of appetite. Constipation can also cause abdominal pain during pregnancy and contribute to the development of haemorrhoids.
In short, it’s really not pleasant. The temptation to take laxatives may be great under such circumstances, but you should try to avoid self-medication as many laxatives are not recommended for pregnant women. It’s better to discuss your bowel problems with your doctor and get practical advice and/or treatment for constipation that is suitable for pregnancy. Natural remedies can also be considered.
CONSTIPATION IN PREGNANT WOMEN: WHAT TO DO?
Do you suffer from constipation, as does one in two pregnant women? Don’t worry, there are many solutions compatible with pregnancy that can help relieve transit disorders. Changing your diet is often enough to notice an improvement.
Constipation and pregnancy: What medical treatments can be used?
For safety, you should avoid self-medication throughout your pregnancy. As such, avoid directly resorting to laxatives as several are not recommended for pregnant women. Stimulant laxatives in particular can cause abdominal cramps, addiction and even irritable bowel syndrome… It’s best to check with your doctor. If necessary, your doctor will be able to prescribe a mild laxative that has been shown to be safe (for both you and your baby).
Constipation and pregnancy: What natural remedies can be used?
Essential oils, herbal teas... There are many natural remedies available on the market. However, bear in mind that “natural” does not necessarily mean “without risk”. In reality, many plants and essential oils are not recommended throughout pregnancy or during parts of it. For example, in general, pregnant women can drink artichoke herbal tea to regulate their bowel movements. It’s all the more beneficial given that artichokes are a good source of vitamin B9, which is essential to the baby’s development. By contrast, buckthorn and rhubarb infusions should be avoided.
When in doubt, consult a doctor or pharmacist.
Constipation during pregnancy: What to do from a dietary point of view?
To relieve and prevent constipation during pregnancy, you should:
• Drink plenty of water (at least 1.5 litres per day)
• Eat a balanced, varied and high-fibre diet.
To get enough fibre, which is good for your intestinal transit, prioritise fresh fruit, dried fruit, greens, legumes (e.g. lentils) and whole grains in your diet. Prunes in particular are among the best laxative foods.
You can also use plant-based laxatives, such as OptiFibre®. It is composed of partially hydrolysed guar gum that helps supplement your fibre intake. Tasteless and odourless, it goes unnoticed in yoghurt, soups and smoothies.
Moreover, it is safe to consume during pregnancy and breastfeeding. However, be sure to follow the product’s directions for use and your doctor’s recommendations.
Extra tip: In addition to dietary changes, do prenatal yoga, sophrology exercises or a “gentle” sport (e.g. swimming) to stimulate bowel movements.
CAUSES OF CONSTIPATION IN CHILDREN
As with adults, constipation in children is usually not serious and is described as functional constipation, which has no medical reason. It is particularly common in children between 3 and 4 years old, but can occur at any age. That said, it is extremely rare in infants under 2 months old.
Constipation in children: Dietary causes
Constipation in children aged 3 years or more is often linked to their diet. Usually, it means that they do not eat enough high-fibre foods, hence a slower intestinal transit. It is also possible that they eat too many constipating foods such as rice, bananas or cooked carrots. Tip: try to find out what your child ate in the school cafeteria so that you can adapt his or her dinner accordingly. To help your children eat enough fibre, you can give them fresh fruit with the skin left on (e.g. apples), greens, whole grains or legumes (e.g. dried beans, lentils).
Constipation in children: Are they drinking enough water?
Did you know that stool is mainly made up of water? It is logical, therefore, that your child’s stool is dry and difficult to pass if he or she does not drink enough water. To relieve constipation in children between 3 and 6 years old, try making them drink at least 800 ml of fluids per day (water, juice diluted with water, broth, herbal teas). Avoid fizzy drinks that are rich in sugars or sweetened drinks that make children used to the taste of sugar, which in turn leads to them refusing pure water as a beverage. Be sure to offer your children glasses of water without waiting for them to show or say that they are thirsty. When they are between 6 and 12 years old, aim for 1 litre of water per day. Children over 12 should drink at least 1.5 litres of water every day, just like adults!
Constipation in children: Other possible causes
Tiredness, stress and anxiety can also lead to digestive disorders in children. For example, constipation in a 4-year-old child may well be caused by stress linked to starting school or moving.
A habit of holding it in for as long as possible—for fear of pain (bad memories of an episode of constipation), due to embarrassment (e.g. not daring to ask for permission to leave the classroom to go to the bathroom) or even because of the poor condition of the school toilets—is a common cause for chronic constipation in children. If needed, you can bring the issue up with your child’s teacher.
Taking medications (antitussives, antispasmodics) or food additives (thickeners, antiregurgitants) can also cause bowel movements to slow down.
Lastly, though in much rarer cases, a disease can also be the underlying cause of constipation. If in doubt, it’s best to consult a paediatrician to be safe—all the more so if your child complains of pain.
SOLUTIONS FOR CONSTIPATION IN CHILDREN: MEDICIATIONS, REMEDIES...
Constipation is one of the most common digestive disorders in children. In most cases, an underlying disease is not the cause. Rather, the constipation is linked to a dietary imbalance or a prolonged period of tiredness. Nevertheless, the child’s condition must be relieved as symptoms of constipation can be painful.
Constipated children: What to do?
The first thing to do is to identify constipation so that you can relieve it quickly. One sign is a decrease in the frequency of passing of stool. As a guideline, you should know that, on average:
• infants pass stool at least once per day;
• slightly older children pass stool around 3 times per week.
That said, the frequency of passing stool can vary greatly from one baby (or young child) to another. Moreover, the spacing between stools naturally becomes longer with time, which makes sense given that the baby’s digestive tract grows.
As such, as long as your child is not suffering from abdominal pain, has no difficulties passing stool and the latter looks normal (neither dry nor too big/small), he or she is probably not constipated.
However, if your child is showing clear signs of constipation, you should ask a paediatrician for recommendations or a suitable treatment.
What treatment is available for constipation in children?
Children can be given laxatives, but not the same ones as those taken by adults. It is best to consult a paediatrician who, if necessary, will prescribe a laxative suppository suitable for your child’s age. At the same time, make sure to:
• make your child drink plenty of water (dehydration is a possible cause of constipation)
• change your child’s diet by increasing fibre intake (e.g. whole grains, prunes and other “laxative foods”). Limit, but do not completely do away with, constipating foods such as sweets, rice and bananas. As for babies, your paediatrician can prescribe a different milk.
Constipation in children: Natural remedies?
When it comes to constipation in children, medications are not necessarily a must. You can try alternative solutions, such as homoeopathic remedies or herbal tea. Plant-based dietary supplements that are rich in fibre can also be used.
OptiFibre®, made up of guar gum that has been partially hydrolysed to make it easier to consume, helps supplement fibre intake in children over 3 years old. Recommended fibre intake varies with age, which means that it is important to follow the instructions on the packet or consult a doctor to adjust the daily dose of fibre to be consumed.
Regardless of the remedy envisaged, make sure that it is suitable for your child’s age and administer the correct dosage. If in doubt, consult a pharmacist.
More from the blog
What are the types of diarrhea?
Diarrhea is a common issue. Most often acute, it may happen that it persists o... Mehr erfahren
How to manage diarrhea?
Diarrhea is a common issue. However, it can be treated quite easily, even if t... Mehr erfahren
What are the common symptoms of diarrhea?
In addition to loose, watery stools, diarrhea is accompanied with symptoms tha... Mehr erfahren