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Let’s Talk About Constipation During Pregnancy

Constipation may be two to three times more common during and after pregnancy, Finnish researchers report.

The scientists studied 877 women having babies, comparing them with 201 nonpregnant controls of the same age. They rated the women on the Rome IV criteria for diagnosing constipation, which considers five symptoms, including the amount of straining at stool, sensations of incomplete defecation, the necessity of manual maneuvering required to defecate, the firmness of stool and the frequency of bowel movements. The study is in BJOG.

Based on these criteria, 21 percent of the controls had constipation, compared with 40 percent of pregnant women and 52 percent of postpartum women. About 44 percent of women had constipation in the second trimester, and 36 percent in the third trimester. Fifty-seven percent of women who gave birth by C-section and 47 percent of those who gave birth vaginally were constipated at least for a few days afterward, but at one month postpartum, rates differed little from controls.

“For pregnant women, I would suggest that they talk about this symptom frankly,” said the senior author, Dr. Merja Kokki, an anesthesiologist at the University of Eastern Finland. “It’s more common in pregnancy than nausea and vomiting, which are always openly discussed. It’s a big problem that can cause difficult symptoms later in life — pelvic floor problems, uterine prolapse, urinary problems. These are things that can impair the quality of life.”

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