How common is constipation during and after pregnancy?

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  • A Finnish study investigated the prevalence of constipation among pregnant women
  • The frequency of bowel movements and consistency of stools of participants were tracked
  • Results revealed that 40% of pregnant women had constipation compared to 21% of non-pregnant women


Constipation is more commonly experienced by women than men, according to research. It is also one of the most common gastrointestinal symptoms experienced during pregnancy and after childbirth. 

A study, conducted by a research group from the University of Eastern Finland, set out to evaluate just how prevalent constipation is among pregnant women and during puerperium (the period of six weeks after childbirth).

The study

The study was observational and included pregnant, non-pregnant and postpartum women. The women were further divided into five groups: women in the second trimester, women in the third trimester, women who gave vaginal birth, those who gave birth through Caesarean section, and a group of women who were fertile but had not been pregnant for the previous 12 months. The non-pregnant women functioned as a control group.

The frequency of bowel movements and consistency of stools of participants were tracked.

Results

Results revealed that 40% of pregnant women and 52% of postpartum women suffered from constipation. These statistics are significantly higher than the 21% of non-pregnant women who were constipated. According to researchers, the results for pregnant women were expected due to hormones released during pregnancy, as well as “changes in water absorption, dietary factors, and reduced physical activity during pregnancy”.

What can be expected after pregnancy?

Although a relatively high number of women experience constipation during pregnancy, the study found that bowel function tends to return to "normal" about four weeks after giving birth. The researchers expressed that “gastrointestinal function during pregnancy and in postpartum should receive attention because severe constipation may have a substantial impact on the pregnancy experience and may affect the mother’s physical and social health status and impair the relationship between mother and newborn”. 

Image credit: Pexels

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