During the first trimester of pregnancy with my daughter, I felt like my GI system slowed down to a complete stop!
I thought I was showing just a few weeks in, but it was really just extreme bloating.
Constipation and GI issues are very common during pregnancy, affecting up to 40% of pregnant women (and probably more).
The first trimester packs a punch of progesterone, a hormone released during pregnancy that relaxes the gastrointestinal system, slowing down its processing of food.
The second and third trimester may bring on constipation issues for other reasons. As the baby grows, there is less space for the GI to move.
Also, many women tend to clench their pelvic floor muscles in order to stabilize closer to the third trimester. This can create tension in pelvic floor muscles that should be relaxing to allow bowel movements. It can also contribute to development of hemorrhoids and fissures in the third trimester.
Here are a few tips to keep your GI running smoothly throughout your pregnancy.
Lots of Fiber
Fiber will help to soften your stool and improve constipation.
You will want to get your fiber from natural sources as much as possible. I recommend leafy greens and crunchy vegetables as your primary source of fiber.
You can also get fiber from whole grains, lentils and beans.
I always recommend sourcing your fiber from whole foods and avoid relying on supplements or bars for fiber.
Sleep and Stress Management
Resting and managing stress levels as much as possible will help your body process food and move stool through your system.
There are many reasons for stress throughout pregnancy. Additional kids, financial concerns, fatigue, pregnancy nausea, and work stress are just a few for moms during pregnancy that can bring on anxiety and even insomnia.
Sleep is how your body restores itself and is vital during pregnancy, and your body is stressed to the max making another human.
Anxiety and sleep deprivation can put us into a chronic sympathetic state, or fight or flight state. Our GI only works under a parasympathetic state, or rest and digest state.
If we are stressed all the time, we will have more GI issues.
Prioritize your rest and mental health. Get a mental health provider on board if needed to make this happen.
Gentle exercise like walking, swimming or elliptical are great ways to stimulate GI movement. The GI recognizes gentle, bipedal movement as mechanical assistance for propelling stool throughout our system.
The more sedentary you are during pregnancy, the more constipation can become an issue!
Make sure you prioritize exercise during pregnancy to help manage stress, blood sugar levels, blood pressure levels, and constipation issues.
Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy
Pelvic floor PT plays a large role in managing constipation issues during pregnancy. Although constipation can be a frustrating part of pregnancy, a surprising amount of moms will have to see their providers for management of fecal impaction, fissures, and hemorrhoids.
These more severe issues are actually pelvic floor issues. Most of these moms have tight, spasming pelvic floors that are not allowing stool to empty.
If you are dealing with constipation related pelvic floor issues, you are likely frustrated with traditional advice such as eating fiber an exercising because that has never worked for you.
That's because your pelvic floor muscles are likely helping to stabilize your pelvis and are unable to relax to allow stool to empty.
This can result in straining to empty and micro-tearing (fissures) as a result.
Pelvic floor PT can help decrease tension in the pelvic floor and allow for improved bowel movements.
Constipation during pregnancy is very common. There are ways to manage constipation, such as diet and lifestyle changes.
However, many women will experience pelvic floor dysfunction during pregnancy that can lend itself to constipation and eventually hemorrhoids and fissures.
If you find yourself experiencing constipation during pregnancy and/or pain during bowel movements, pelvic floor PT can help.
Don't wait, book your session today!