Constipation can occur two to three times more often during and after pregnancy, Finnish researchers report.
The scientists studied 877 women with babies and compared them to 201 non-pregnant controls of the same age. They rated the women using Rome IV criteria for diagnosing constipation, which took into account five symptoms, including the level of strain on the stool, the feeling of incomplete defecation, the need for manual maneuvers to defecate, and 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 the pregnant women and 52 percent of the 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 caesarean section and 47 percent of women who gave vaginal birth were constipated at least a few days later, but one month after giving birth the rates were little different from controls.
"For pregnant women, I would suggest that they speak openly about this symptom," said senior author, Dr. Merja Kokki, anesthetist 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 affect the quality of life can. "