Don’t Be Freaked Out If You Get Super Constipated When You’re Pregnant

You’ve heard all about morning sickness and tender boobs as early signs of pregnancy, but what about your uh…bathroom habits? Whether you’re newly pregnant or wondering if you could be, there are some digestive changes that come along with pregnancy that you should know about, particularly if you’re suddenly running to the toilet for number twos all the time. (Not fun!)

a cut in half: Your poop habits may change throughout pregnancy, from constipation, to diarrhea in the last trimester. Read on to find out what's normal and what's irregular.

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Your poop habits may change throughout pregnancy, from constipation, to diarrhea in the last trimester. Read on to find out what’s normal and what’s irregular.

Sooo…is pooping a lot one of the signs of early pregnancy?

Actually, this is a bit of a myth, says Temeka Zore, MD, a board-certified ob-gyn and reproductive endocrinologist at Spring Fertility. Pooping a lot isn’t linked to the beginning of most pregnancies. In fact, constipation is more likely.

Hormonal changes, particularly during the menstrual cycle, can have an affect on bowels, especially for people with IBS, research has found. But without a regular cycle during pregnancy, you may not notice the same digestive patterns (a.k.a. period poops) that you might have during menstruation. (Still, that’s not to say *no one* experiences an increase in poops during early pregnancy, it’s just not super common.)

During the early stages of pregnancy, the first thing you’ll probably notice is your period dropping off. Then, it’s common to experience nausea or vomiting, breast tenderness, fatigue, and increased urination, says Dr. Zore. Bloating and cramping, particularly of the uterus, are also some things you should be prepared for. It’s important to note that most of these unpleasant symptoms won’t last for too long in your pregnancy (thankfully!).

What if I *am* pregnant and pooping more frequently—normal?

If your stomach issues go beyond occasional cramping, bloating, and fullness—these are signs that the uterus is expanding and compressing your bowels, says Dr. Zore—there might be something else going on. Of course, if you’re already aware that you have a form of inflammatory bowel disease, just note that the symptoms may flare up during pregnancy, according to a study published in Gastroenterology and Hematology.

If you’ve never been diagnosed with any gastroenterological conditions and are experiencing frequent bouts of diarrhea throughout your pregnancy, for example, this is worth getting checked out, since it could be a sign of a more serious inflammatory bowel condition, like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. “These include multiple episodes of diarrhea per day, bloody stools, fever, and abdominal pain,” Dr. Zore explains. It’s important to pay attention to any of these symptoms, whether they’re mild, moderate, or severe, she says.

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What can you do if you have pregnancy diarrhea?

Again, diarrhea throughout pregnancy is actually less typical than constipation, but if you do experience it, it’s more likely to happen closer to the time of delivery. “At that time, your uterus starts producing hormones known as prostaglandins, which help soften the cervix and prepare the uterus to contract in labor,” explains Dr. Zore.

The prostaglandins also get the smooth muscles of the digestive tract moving, so stool will pass more quickly, Dr. Zore says. You may just experience increased frequency or urgency to go to the bathroom, or you may even get diarrhea in some cases.

If you do have diarrhea, hydration is super important. Basically, loading up on water is your best defense mechanism. Eating a diet rich in fiber while pregnant is also key to make sure you don’t end up with loose stools, says Dr. Zore.

What other poop changes can happen during pregnancy?

You’re likely to have constipation at any point of your pregnancy due to the hormonal changes going on. “The elevated progesterone levels in pregnancy lead to smooth muscle relaxation in the uterus (to prevent uterine contractions early on) but can also lead to the relaxation of the smooth muscle in the colon, leading to reduced bowel activity and constipation,” says Dr. Zore.

The other unpleasant symptom you may experience during pregnancy is hemorrhoids, which can affect 30 to 40 percent of people during pregnancy and the postpartum stage, according to Dr. Zore. They can make constipation worse, first of all, but can also cause pain and even bleeding. This makes your hydration and high-fiber diet even more of a priority, Dr. Zore says.

If you’re experiencing persistent bleeding or bloody stools, that is a red flag of a potentially more serious condition.

When should you see a doctor?

Any time you notice blood in your stools while pregnant, contact your ob-gyn to check in on what could be wrong, Dr. Zore says. If you have persistent diarrhea that’s causing you to lose weight during pregnancy or is accompanied by a fever greater than 100.4 degrees, alert your doc, she adds. And, if you find yourself not making it to the bathroom, or having extreme stomach pains or cramping, you should bring these symptoms up to your gyno, too.

In some cases, it might benefit you to see a G.I. doctor as well as your ob-gyn. “If you have a known history of inflammatory bowel disease and notice you are having a flare of your symptoms, you should contact your ob-gyn as well as your gastroenterologist,” says Dr. Zore. Or, if your pregnancy is causing stomach issues beyond the scope of what seems normal, it wouldn’t hurt to have a check up with a gastroenterologist to make sure your digestion is healthy.

The bottom line: Pooping more and having diarrhea usually isn’t an early sign of pregnancy. Most pregnant women deal with constipation. If you are having diarrhea, check in with your ob-gyn.

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