Nearly three out of four pregnant women experience bowel problems such as
constipation and diarrhoea, but these issues don't significantly affect their
quality of life, a new study finds.
Researchers from Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Ill., noted
that these bowel issues are due to physiological and hormonal changes that occur
during pregnancy. Nutritional supplements that women take during pregnancy also
can play a role. The study authors added that since women expect these problems
to arise during pregnancy, they're better able to tolerate them.
The study included 104 women in their first trimester of pregnancy and 66
women in their third trimester. They completed two questionnaires: one asking
about the bowel disorders they experienced and another on how these problems
affected their quality of life.
Specifically, the women were asked if their bowel issues made life less
enjoyable, limited what they could wear or eat, or made them feel embarrassed,
vulnerable, angry, isolated or depressed.
Consume fluids and fibre
The study revealed that 72% of the first-trimester respondents and 61% of the
third-trimester respondents had one or more bowel disorders, including
constipation, diarrhoea, bloating and irritable bowel syndrome.
On a scale of one to 100, with 100 being the least impact on quality of life,
the women's average score was 94.9. The researchers said two issues had a
measurable effect on quality of life: Both constipation and bloating reduced the
quality-of-life score by approximately four points.
Study senior author Dr Scott Graziano, associate professor of obstetrics and
gynaecology at the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, advises
pregnant women to drink plenty of fluids and consume 25 to 30 grams of fibre
daily. The study found that pregnant women consume only 16 to 17 grams of fibre
a day. Stool softeners and suppositories are safe for pregnant women, Graziano
The study's findings were presented earlier this month at the American
College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists' annual meeting in New Orleans. Data
and conclusions from studies presented at medical meetings should be viewed as
preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has more on common
problems affecting the digestive system.