It is very common for pregnant women to experience constipation, especially during the beginning months of their pregnancy. Is it safe to turn to stool softeners for relief?
Overall, stool softeners are safe during pregnancy, including well-known brands such as Colace, Metamucil, and Dulcolax. However, it is best to always check with your physician before beginning to take a stool softener.
This article will dive deeper into types of laxatives that are safe for pregnancy and recommend alternatives to laxatives. Read on!
Stool Softeners for Pregnancy: Which is the Best Type?
It is important to note that constipation is a very normal and common part of pregnancy. In fact, up to a whopping 39 percent of women experience occasional constipation during their pregnancy.
This unpleasant symptom is often increased during pregnancy due to hormonal changes that your body experiences, especially in the second and third months of the first trimester of pregnancy (source: Cleveland Clinic).
In general, stool softeners, bulk-forming laxatives, and saline laxatives are safe during pregnancy (source: Mayo Clinic). They are typically effective for constipation and do not get absorbed by the body, so they cannot impact the baby (source: Canadian Family Physician).
Many sources recommend speaking with your physician about taking stool softeners while you are pregnant (source: National Library of Medicine).
Stimulant and osmotic laxatives can contribute to dehydration or electrolyte imbalances and should be avoided during pregnancy (source: Canadian Family Physician).
Safe Stool Softeners for Pregnancy
Here is a list of stool softeners that are considered safe for pregnant women (source: Mayo Clinic). Note that you should still speak with your physician before taking any, including those on this list.
- Colace (Docusate Sodium)
- Surfak (Docusate Calcium)
- Metamucil (Psyllium)
- FiberCon (Polycarbophil)
- Milk of Magnesia (Magnesium Hydroxide)
- Magnesium Citrate
Natural Stool Softeners During Pregnancy
If you are looking to avoid prescription medication, there are some more natural remedies that could help relieve pregnancy constipation. The key treatment for constipation, especially when you are pregnant, is fiber, water, and physical activity. Let’s talk more about these in detail.
To avoid needing stool softeners and other medications to relieve constipation, make sure you are eating a diet rich in dietary fiber. Dietary fiber cannot be absorbed by the body, so it helps move food throughout the gastrointestinal tract. Fiber is found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Additionally, make sure you are drinking lots of water throughout the day. It is recommended to have a water intake of eight to twelve cups per day (source: Cleveland Clinic). Pair this with 20 to 30 minutes of gentle exercise about three times a week.
As mentioned in the list above, some fiber supplements can help with pregnancy-related constipation as well, such as psyllium (also known as Metamucil).
However, as a dietary supplement, fiber supplements mentioned here are not regulated the same way food is in the United States. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not monitor dietary supplements for safety or efficacy before they hit the market (source: FDA).
The FDA does track and investigate adverse effects reported afterward. Therefore, these supplements should be discussed with your physician prior to taking them.
Can You Take Stool Softeners in Every Trimester?
While many believe that stool softeners might increase the risk of miscarriage at the beginning of pregnancy or of early labor at the end of pregnancy, stool softeners are safe in every trimester of pregnancy. However, there is some concern over the use of stimulant laxatives, such as bisacodyl or Ducodyl (source: Mayo Clinic).
As mentioned above, do not start taking stool softeners (especially when you need to take them regularly) without first speaking with your physician.
Especially when taking laxatives, consistent use can contribute to dependency on the laxatives for a bowel movement.
Always follow the instructions on the medication packaging and those given by a healthcare professional.
In conclusion, stool softeners are generally safe for pregnancy when approved by a doctor. I hope this article was a helpful guide to navigating constipation during pregnancy.