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Is It Safe to Use Laxatives in Pregnancy?

By Valerie Goldberg
Updated Feb 10, 2024
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Many people struggle with constipation for a variety of reasons, from making bad food choices to stress and the side effects of medication. Pregnant women can be at an increased risk for constipation but also may be unsure if it is safe to seek relief by using laxatives in pregnancy. Some products that get lumped into the laxative category, such as bulking agents and stool softeners, can be safe for a pregnant woman to use. If a pregnant woman uses true stimulant laxatives, however, then she can be putting her baby at risk.

Women who are pregnant may find it uncomfortable to move their bowels regularly. Pregnant women often are prescribed ironed pills, which are constipating by nature. Women who are carrying a child also may have random food cravings and change their diets, causing them not to consume enough fiber. The stress and fatigue that come with being pregnant also can contribute to pregnancy constipation.

If a woman needs to regulate her bowels while she is pregnant, then she should first try to drink more water and eat more fiber-rich foods. Pregnant women also can keep regular by doing some sort of exercise, even if it is only a few minutes of light walking. If these natural methods for relieving constipation do not work, then women should consult their doctors before using laxatives in pregnancy.

Using bulking agents as laxatives in pregnancy is a safe practice for most women. A bulking agent typically is a powder that is added to food or drinks to increase the amount of fiber a person is ingesting. Some bulking agents are flavored and others are clear and tasteless, making them easy for a pregnant woman to mix into a glass of water.

Stool softeners are another over-the-counter remedy for constipation. Using stool softeners as laxatives in pregnancy typically is considered safe, because all a stool softener is really doing is moistening the stool, making it more comfortable for a person to have a bowel movement. Genuine stool softeners don't cause intestinal stimulation and do not contain ingredients that can harm an unborn baby.

The use of stimulant laxatives in pregnancy should be avoided. Stimulant laxatives are strong and stimulate a person's gastrointestinal system, causing a person to have the urge to have a bowel movement. When a pregnant woman takes a stimulant laxative, there is a chance that the medicine also may cause uterine stimulation, leading to unwanted contractions. This type of laxative also can be very dehydrating, which can be bad for both mother and child.

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Discussion Comments
By discographer — On Sep 12, 2013
I had constipation during both of my pregnancies. I think hormones during pregnancy trigger constipation.

I tried bulking agents with fiber first. When those didn't work, I had to take a laxative. But in general, I don't like relying on laxatives because I feel like my bowels will become dependent on them to work. Most laxatives also work too well for me and I end up with diarrhea.

The best solution to pregnancy constipation is more fiber through food. My bowel movements were fairly regular during my second pregnancy because I would eat prunes and dried apricots first thing in the morning followed by a large glass of water. I also made sure that I had at least a salad and several fruits during the day.

By burcinc — On Sep 12, 2013

@simrin-- Yes, glycerin suppositories are safe, you can certainly use them if you have to.

If that doesn't work, ask your doctor to recommend you a mild non-stimulant laxative. Like the article said, the stimulant ones are not safe because it can stimulate the uterus along with the bowels. But there are certainly other laxatives that you can take.

By SteamLouis — On Sep 11, 2013

What about glycerin suppositories? Are those safe to use in pregnancy?

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