Whilst it is easy to blame things on hormones (and your hormone progesterone is a big culprit here!), your ever-growing uterus is also taking up essential space that is normally occupied by your bowel. This means that the latter has less room to go about its natural business, contributing to your constipation.
You will be pleased to hear there are several things you can do to help alleviate this most comfortable pregnancy ailment:
Drink fluids - Increasing fluid intake water and fresh fruit, for example, will ensure smooth movement of solids through the bowel and help to keep stools soft, making them easier to pass! Warm liquids like hot water and lemon are particularly effective as they help to stimulate peristalsis (the wave like motion that creates intestinal contractions), helping you go!
Light exercise - Exercise encourages bowel movements. Even something as simple as a brisk walk can help to get things moving, so why not grab your jacket and walk to the shops to pick up some daily fibre sources to set you up the for the day ahead?
Indulge in fibre (although please do this slowly) - Add plenty of vegetables to meals, prunes in desserts, bran to your breakfast and so on, but do allow your body time to adjust to the fibre intake!
Massage - Massage can be beneficial to help relieve constipation by relaxing the abdomen, reducing discomfort and encouraging regular bowel movements. An effective abdominal massage should take approximately 15min, so it's worth getting comfortable so you can fully relax. Abdominal massage can be done lying, sitting or standing – do have a go in a few different positions to find out what works best for you.
There are a couple of key points to remember when engaging in abdominal massage:
- Use the flat of your fingers, rather than the tips to massage with. Using tips is too invasive and will feel uncomfortable
- Keep movements below the rib cage
- allow movements to flow but take your time enjoying and relaxing into your massage
- Reduce pressure when working over the bladder, which is situated below your belly-button and above the public bone
- Make sure that you massage in a clockwise direction as this ensures you are working in the same direction as the body’s digestive system
- In terms of pressure, find what is comfortable for you. Remember, you are not aiming to apply great pressure, yet massaging too lightly may feel 'tickly’ and is less effective for the relief of constipation.
You can massage with a variety of products but it is probably better to stay away from mineral oils which are known to clog pores and are not particularly nutritious for the skin. My Expert Midwife’s Fantastic Skin Elastic is formulated to provide the perfect combination of ingredients for your massage, with optimum benefits. Its unique combination of essential oils is designed to ease the discomfort and niggles of a growing bump, whilst grapefruit essential oil helps to promote better movement of the gut, alleviating constipation.
Once you are comfortable, follow these simple directions for abdominal massage:
- Start by resting the palm of your hand on your ‘bump’ and just take a couple of moments to breath in and out, allowing yourself to relax.
- Using the flats of your fingertips, start at the navel and begin to draw a small circle around it (in a clockwise direction). Repeat this several times.
- Slowly start to make these movements bigger so you eventually circle your entire abdomen. You will probably find that you start using the palm of your hand.
- After repeating the above a couple of times around the outer of the abdomen slowly start to decrease the size of circles working your back to the tummy button.
- finally come to rest your palm on your tummy again taking a few deep breaths to conclude the abdominal massage.
As well as helping to alleviate constipation there are many other benefits to abdominal massage during pregnancy:
- Your skin will benefit from the application of Fantastic Skin Elastic as it nourishes and helps alleviate some of the discomfort brought on by the gradual stretching of your growing ‘bump’.
- It should help you relax and, therefore, improve your sleep, which will keep you feeling at your best.
- As your baby grows, and towards the middle to end of your 2nd trimester, they may move in response to your touch. This is a very special experience which can help enhance and deepen the bond between you both.
- Consider including your partner and asking them to massage your ‘bump’. For some women this can feel a little awkward at first but regularly engaging in pregnancy massage together can be a great way to maintain closeness. It allows your partner to develop a bond you’re your baby.
Constipation is a common but uncomfortable ailment of pregnancy. This blog outlines different ways in which it can be relieved and describes how to do effective abdominal massage.