How To Avoid Constipation in Pregnancy?

Best foods for constipation

During pregnancy, a woman can sometimes face a common physical symptom known as constipation. Constipation in pregnancy is mainly caused by the increased level of the pregnancy hormone progesterone, but many other factors can cause constipation in pregnancy.

Other reasons for constipation in pregnancy can be the intake of supplements and medicines and the lack of fiber and water in your diet. Let’s discuss in detail the main symptoms and treatments for constipation in pregnancy. 

What Is Constipation?

Constipation is referred to as a condition in which a person feels uncomfortable while passing a stool. Basically, the leftover of your food hardens in the lower bowel instead of moving out of your body. The stool becomes dry, lumpy, and hard. In pregnancy, constipation is very common due to the hormonal changes that are happening.

Everybody’s bowel motion “timetable” is different, for some people “normal” can be considered 1-2 stools per day, while for others it may be normal to pass a stool every second day. Generally speaking however in pregnancy there is usually some altercation to your “normal” bowel motions, but constipation is usually defined as having less than 3 bowel motions per week. 

Symptoms of Constipation

You can feel physical symptoms of constipation in pregnancy. Some of the symptoms are;

  • You are not able to pass a bowel motion three times a week. 
  • Your stool is lumpy or hard and it’s painful to pass.
  • You have a sensation that the entire stool is not passed out. 
  • The stool is so dry that passing them is so painful.
  • Having abdominal pain.
  • Straining to have bowel movements and your belly feels swollen and gassy.

What Causes Constipation in Pregnancy?

  1. Hormones – your body produces more progesterone when pregnant. Progesterone works to relax your intestines and therefore they do not work as hard to eliminate your waste. 
  2. Change in daily habits – being pregnant can often result in less activity and if you have suffered nausea or morning sickness and your intake has changed this can result in less fibre being consumed which can in turn impact your bowels.
  3. Your baby – you are carrying extra weight in your uterus and this can put more pressure on your bowel and it all becomes a bit squashed, so it’s harder for waste to move through your system. Constipation can often get worse in the 2 and 3rd trimesters.
  4. Supplements – in particular, iron in supplement form can increase constipation.
  5. Not drinking enough water
foods for constipation

How To Treat Constipation?

Constipation is very common during pregnancy. However, you can just practice simple things to treat constipation in pregnancy.

  • Physical Activity

It is advised to keep yourself physically active and fit during pregnancy. It is recommended for pregnant ladies to exercise three times per week for twenty minutes. The actual physical act of being physical can help move your bowel motions through your gastrointestinal tract. Consult your doctor about what exercises are helpful and safe for you and your baby. 

  • More Fibre Intake

Fibre is a superfood, it has so many, many advantages and one of the big advantages is that it aids in digestion. So, it is recommended to add high-fibre foods to the diet. You can add various types of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans.

Fibre foods will additionally provide you with vitamins and antioxidants. See here for more information about fibre-containing foods. Fibre is the structural part of plant foods–such as fruits, vegetables, and grains that our bodies cannot digest or break down. There are two kinds of fibre: soluble and insoluble.

  • Small Portions Size

It is recommended to have five to six smaller meals in a day instead of having large meals. This will help to digest the food without overloading your stomach and allow it to pass through the gastrointestinal system smoothly.

  • Stay Hydrated 

It is recommended to double the amount of water intake during pregnancy. Drinking ten to twelve glasses of water a day will keep your bowel movement soft and comfortable throughout the digestive tract.

  • Avoid High intake of Iron in some Supplements

Though iron supplements are very important during pregnancy it may be recommended to take a stool softener with iron supplements as iron can also be a culprit behind constipation during pregnancy. Talk to your doctor if you have questions regarding your supplements and you are suffering constipation.

  • High Fibre Supplements

Sometimes fibre supplements can be very helpful, particularly if you can’t eat enough fibre-containing foods. Check with your doctor before starting any kind of fibre supplement and read the labels carefully. Make sure you are drinking lots of water. Some common fibre supplements are benefibre and metamucil, for example.

Best Foods for Constipation in Pregnancy

Every pregnant woman should take between 25 to 30 grams of fibre each day for healthy gut functioning. You can easily maintain your fibre content by adopting a well-rounded diet and avoiding processed carbohydrates. Just start a proper intake of fibre. You can measure the amount of fibre that is in foods by reading labels or using food monitoring apps. It is important when increasing your fibre however that you do it slowly over time and consume adequate water. Adding a small portion of fruits, vegetables, lentils, and whole wheat grains to your daily dietary intake will be very advantageous.

Here are some of the best foods for constipation you might love to know;

  • Bran cereals: A half cup of cereal almost contains 8.6 grams of fibre. Cereals are also considered good sources of iron, proteins, and potassium. 
  • Quinoa: These naturally gluten-free whole grains are a great source of fibre. Half a cup of Quinoa contains almost 5 grams of fibre. 
  • Oatmeal: You can add oatmeal to your diet either as a breakfast cereal, granola bar, or, bread. A half cup of oatmeal contains almost 4 grams of fibre.
  • Fruits and Vegetables
  • Avocado: Have a medium avocado and you will provide 17 grams of mixed digestible and indigestible fibres, fats, potassium, and vitamin C. 
  • Pears: Pears are a great source of fibre, potassium, and, antioxidants. Have a medium size pear and you will get 5 grams of fibre.
  • Sweet potatoes: Sweet potatoes are loved by everyone. Not only the sweet potato but its skin is also considered very healthy. A medium size sweet potato gives you 4.8 grams of fibre together with the carbs, vitamins A, B, C, and potassium.
  • Raspberries: Half a cup of little fresh raspberries gives you 4 grams of fibre. They are also a great source of vitamin C and manganese. 
  • Spinach: You can have spinach either raw, cooked, or make a fresh smoothie and it will provide you with fibres in all forms. Half a cup of spinach gives you around 4 grams of fibre.
  • Kidney Beans: Kidney beans are considered ideal for pregnant ladies as they contain both folate and fibre. Half a cup of kidney beans gives you around 8 grams of fibre. 
  • Black Beans: Black beans are the other favorite beans to be consumed during pregnancy. Half a cup of black beans contains around 8 grams of fibre. It also contains folate, thiamine, protein, magnesium, omega 3, and 6 fatty acids.

Foods That Cause Constipation in Pregnancy

Constipation in Pregnancy

In many cases, food is not the main source of constipation, but an imbalanced diet is a major cause of constipation. Pregnant women should avoid frequent use of the foods listed below that may be a source of constipation in pregnancy.

Refined grains: It is recommended to avoid using highly processed foods such as white pasta, rice, etc. They all are low-fibre foods and may lead to constipation during pregnancy. 

Bananas: It is advised to avoid eating unripe bananas during pregnancy. As unripe bananas contain a lot of starch that is difficult to digest. So, it is recommended to eat fully ripe bananas.

Fast food: During your pregnancy, you may crave fast food. But it is recommended to eat it in small portions and less often. Fast food is generally fried and contains alot of fat and a small amount of fibre. So, avoid eating fast food or fried food frequently.

Alcohol: Apart from alcohol toxicity, it is a major cause of dehydration in pregnant ladies. Alcohol can irritate the bowel and slow down digestion which can worsen constipation in pregnancy. So, it is just another reason why alcohol is not recommended during pregnancy.

What Is Safe to Take for Constipation in Pregnancy?

The first-line therapy for constipation is to increase the amount of fibre, and fluids in your diet. But if it isn’t working you can switch to laxatives with consultation with your doctor. There are a variety of laxatives such as stool softener, lubricant laxative, stimulant laxative, bulk-forming agents, and many more depending upon your condition, but you must speak with your doctor prior to commencing these supplements.

Their minimal systemic absorption has recognised them as safe to treat constipation but it is recommended to take osmotic and stimulant laxatives for a short duration of time. They may lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalance in pregnant ladies.

Pregnancy Constipation – when to worry?

You will need to reach out to your medical professional if your constipation in pregnancy has lasted longer than a few weeks. Make sure you tell your doctor what medication you may be on and what supplements you have been taking.

Constipation in pregnancy can be a common physical symptom of pregnancy, but it is very manageable and treatable. Constipation in pregnancy is mainly due to hormonal imbalances, generally a lack of fiber and inadequate fluid. Just balance your diet and add more healthy and fiber-rich options to your daily dietary intake, consume more water, exercise, and enjoy!


Bradley, Catherine S., et al. “Constipation in pregnancy: prevalence, symptoms, and risk factors.” Obstetrics & Gynecology 110.6 (2007): 1351-1357.

Jewell, David, and Gavin Young. “Interventions for treating constipation in pregnancy.” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2 (2001).

Trottier, Magan, Aida Erebara, and Pina Bozzo. “Treating constipation during pregnancy.” Canadian Family Physician 58.8 (2012): 836-838.

American Pregnancy Association

Getting Enough Iron in Pregnancy

iron in pregnancy

During pregnancy, a woman needs many vitamins and minerals for the health of the baby and her own health. One of the most important minerals is iron in pregnancy, both for the mother and the baby. Consuming the right amount of iron in pregnancy is crucial, read on to discover more about iron.

Iron Requirements in Pregnancy

Iron is one of the most important minerals for everybody, it is a mineral that everyone needs for growth and development. During pregnancy, however, iron is crucial, not only for the mother but also for your baby. Haemoglobin, which is a protein found in red blood cells that transports oxygen from your lungs to every part of your body, is made by your body using the iron. Iron in pregnancy is also necessary for myoglobin, a protein that provides oxygen to all your muscles.

Additionally, your body needs iron in pregnancy to produce several hormones (e.g., hepcidin). Whilst pregnant a mother’s body uses iron to increase blood production and provide oxygen to her baby as well. Your body will need around half of the iron in pregnancy you consume to just support your placenta and your growing baby. Iron in pregnancy is so incredibly important for you and your baby.

How Much Iron Do You Need?

USA Recommended dietary allowance suggests a person needs the following amount of iron each day (read table). Click here to jump to food sources of iron if you are in a hurry.

  • Males over 18 8mg daily
  • Females ages 19 to 50 18mg daily 
  • Women over 50 8mg daily 
  • A pregnant woman requires 27 milligrams of iron each day while pregnant and not more the 45 mg per day.

Low Iron Pregnancy Symptoms

Low iron levels in the body during pregnancy lead to anaemia. Anaemia,  which is when you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen around your body,  has the following signs and symptoms:

symptoms of anaemia in pregnancy
  • Fatigue \Weakness
  • Headache
  • Dizziness or faintness
  • Pale skin
  • Shortness of breath (breathing difficulty)
  • cold hands and feet

Severe anaemia symptoms might include:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Difficulty in paying attention (concentration)

Low Iron Effects on a Baby

A pregnant woman with severe anaemia is more likely to give birth to a premature baby (when delivery occurs before 37 weeks of pregnancy). Moreover, iron deficiency anaemia during pregnancy can also cause low birth weight and there has also been an association between low iron and postpartum depression in mothers. Various studies suggest an increased risk of neonatal death before or immediately after birth.  TIP: It is very important to have your Doctor monitor your iron levels throughout your pregnancy.

Tips to Avoid Low Iron Level in Pregnancy

As we have discussed, iron is necessary to form red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body. During pregnancy, your blood volume rises by roughly 50%. A deficiency of iron can result in anaemia, which stops the red blood cells from delivering enough oxygen throughout the body. If you are expecting twins or more children, you are more likely to be iron deficient.

Tips to manage iron in pregnancy;

  • Prenatal vitamins frequently include iron. Taking an iron-containing prenatal vitamin helps both prevent and cure pregnancy iron deficiency anaemia.
  • Your doctor might occasionally advise taking an additional iron supplement.
  • Iron deficiency anaemia during pregnancy can also be avoided by eating a healthy diet rich in iron (read on to discover more).

Iron Tablets During Pregnancy

Supplements can have iron present, in both supplements with only iron, and those with vitamins-minerals supplements.  The most typical types of iron found in dietary supplements are ferrous sulphate, ferrous gluconate, ferric citrate, or ferric sulphate. You should only take iron supplements when a blood test confirms that your levels are low. As you can see it is crucial to discuss which iron supplement is best for you with your doctor.

The most common side effect faced by iron supplements for mothers is constipation (hard dry stools with less than three bowel movements in a week). If you wish to avoid constipation try the following tips:

  • Increase your intake of whole, unprocessed plant foods including fruits and vegetables with skins, whole grains, and legumes
  • Drink more water
  • Move and exercise and be physically active
  • Take your iron supplement every other day (or as directed by your physician)

When Should a Pregnant Woman Start Taking Iron?

According to research, around the 12th week of pregnancy (the beginning of the second trimester), when iron requirements for pregnancy start to increase, is a suitable time to begin iron supplementation at a dose of 30 mg/day. Some doctors start iron supplements early in pregnancy as a preventative measure.

iron tablets during pregnancy

Which Trimester is Iron Most Important?

It is especially important that you must get enough iron during the final 10 weeks (3rd trimester) of pregnancy when your baby is starting to develop its iron reserves in preparation for the first six months of life. The iron stocks are used after birth by your baby up until 6 months of age, after which your baby starts consuming solid foods. How amazing.

Do I Need More Iron if I am Breastfeeding?

Once again iron is crucial for breastfeeding mothers as well. If you are younger than 18, you must consume 10 milligrams of iron daily. The daily allowance for anyone over 19 years old is 9 milligrams per day.

Food Rich in Iron in Pregnancy

Found just naturally in many foods iron can also be found in foods that have been fortified with iron. You can get recommended amounts of iron by eating a variety of foods, including the following:

  • Meat, seafood and poultry
  • Some breakfast cereals and breads that have been fortified with iron (check the labels)
  • Beans and lentils
  • Nuts and some dried fruits

Two forms of iron that may be found in food and they are:

  • Haem iron – from animal foods
  • Non-haem iron- which is present in plant foods and iron-fortified products

Haem iron-containing foods are in a format that our body can actually absorb around 10 times faster than non-haem iron foods.

Handy Tips for Iron in Pregnancy

  1. Foods containing iron eaten together can improve how your body absorbs iron. So try eating plant and meat iron sources together if you are able
  2. Consume some vitamin C-containing foods with your meal to help absorb the iron from your foods. Some vitamin C-containing foods are citrus fruits, tomatoes, strawberries, sweet peppers, and broccoli.
  3. The redder the meat – the more iron it contains!

Foods that Block Iron in Pregnancy

  • Tea, coffee, bran and some medications can block plant iron (non-haem iron) from being absorbed by your body.
    Drinks rich in calcium such as milk can block the absorption of iron in the gut.
  • Have your calcium and iron supplements at different times of the day and check with your doctor.

Iron Containing Foods

Beef, liver (cooked)3 ounces / 85g8
Oysters (cooked)3 ounces / 85g8
Turkey (cooked)3 ounces / 85g1
Spinach (cooked)1/2  cup3
Tofu1/2 cup2.4
Peaches½ cup3.2
Lentils (cooked)½  cup3.3
Peaches½ cup1.3
Fortified cereals (ready-to-eat)1 ounce / 28g1.8-19.2
Oatmeal1 cup3.6
Prune juice¾ cup2.3
Egg (hard boiled)11
Whole Wheat Bread2 slices1.4
Figs (dried)½ cup2.2
Tomato paste¼ cup2,.0
Raisins¼ cup0.8-1
Dates½ cup1.0
Cashew nuts1 ounce (18 nuts)2
Kidney Beans (cooked)1/2cup2
Soy Beans (cooked)½ cup2.4
Chickpeas (cooked)½  cup2.4
Potato1 (medium)1.9
Almonds½ cup2.6
Apricots½ cup3.0

Sample Meal Plan for Iron in Pregnancy

BREAKFASTwhole-grain or iron-fortified cereal with milk prunes or raisins
SNACKFruit or fruit juice (pomegranate, apple, peaches, plums etc.)/ wholegrain cracker with cheese and or tinned salmon
LUNCHRed meat cooked with iron-rich vegetables (spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, potatoes etc.) yogurt/Can of baked beans with toast
SNACKCashews 7-8/ 2 Eggs (boiled)/ yoghurt with muesli
DINNERLegumes like beans with brown rice Chicken steak or fried or baked fish 
BED TIMEMilk with 1 cookie / dried apricots


  • Institute of Medicine (US) Panel on Micronutrients. Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Arsenic, Boron, Chromium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silicon, Vanadium, and Zinc. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2001. 9, Iron. Available from:
  • USA Department of Health and Human Services,NIH,ODS, Iron factsheets for consumers
  • Health Queensland Government