“I’m pregnant and I can’t poop.  What can I do that is safe for my baby?”


This is a common complaint in pregnancy.  I would venture to say that 95% of my pregnant patients experience this at some time in their pregnancy, if not throughout the whole thing!

Pregnancy constipation is caused by a number of factors.  Firstly, hormones produced by the body cause the muscles in your bowel to relax.  This results in a longer transit time – the advantage is that your body will have a better opportunity to absorb all the nutrients possible from the food you eat.  This is a bonus for baby!

As your body grows, baby begins to take up more and more of the space that your bowel usually occupies.  This can mean that things get backed up more easily than before you were pregnant.

There are so many options for helping pregnancy constipation which are natural and safe for both you and your baby.  When I’ve experienced constipation in my pregnancy, I found that different things helped at different times – usually a combination of a few things.  I would encourage you to try it all – something is bound to help move things along eventually.

Hydration – make sure you get your eight (8oz) glasses of water per day.  Hydration is very important for bowel health in anyone, especially if you are expecting.  Remember that it doesn’t have to be straight-up water all the time.  Try adding some fresh fruit (like apples, melon, cucumbers or lemons) to your water.  Herbal tea counts as a hydrating beverage as well – as long as it is caffeine free.  In my pregnancy, I loved spearmint tea or lemon ginger tea – which also helps with nausea!  Green tea, black tea and coffee can all have a dehydrating effect, so it is best to avoid these.

Fibre – fibre intake can make a world of difference when it comes to getting things moving.  The best way to get fibre is through fresh fruits and veggies.  Try to get your 5-10 servings per day but have more if you can.  Some fruits are better than others for this purpose.  For examples are rich in pectin which helps keep things slippery and smooth but bananas can actually encourage constipation.

Movement – moving your body can help to jump start things going.  Many pregnant ladies, especially in the beginning, are far too tired to actually work out or attend a fitness class but even little bits can help.  When I was in my first trimester, going for a 10 min walk or doing some hip circles on the exercise ball were all I needed to encourage things to get going.

See a practitioner – when I was in my first trimester, I saw my acupuncturist and herbalist every week and it was so helpful with everything from morning sickness to fatigue to constipation.  My herbalist provided me with a constipation relief herbal tea – which I also offer to my own patients.

Try herbs – Another sweet herbal secret I often pass on to my patients is slippery elm powder.  Slippery elm is a demulcent (which means it is goopy, slippery, smooth and soothing).  This herb is helpful to anyone with constipation or even hemorrhoids – to help things slip and slide easily.  This herb have been proven safe in studies, but as always, be sure to consult a qualified practitioner to determine if it is right for your body.

Slippery elm is actually pretty slimy and boogery (yes…I said boogery) so it is best to hide it in things when taking it – as opposed to putting it in a glass of water.  You can purchase it at many health food stores and herbal pharmacies.  When I was in my first trimester and at my most “backed up” stage, I found sweet relief in making slippery elm smoothies every morning.  After being on them for a few days, I was able to have a movement daily – like clockwork!



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