Once you’re pregnant, certain personal and surprising concerns can become rather important. You suddenly find yourself with a list of questions that would have made you blush before conception, like whether straining when pooping will hurt your baby. While it may seem inconsequential, you don’t want to do anything that may harm your developing child, or yourself for that matter.
For the most part, your baby will be okay even if you have to strain when it’s bathroom time. However, it might not be great for you. “Straining won't hurt the baby, but might lead to other things like hemorrhoids,” Dr. Jennie Mao, medical director of the UW Medicine Women’s Clinic at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, tells Romper via email. Although they are not uncommon in pregnant people at all, hemorrhoids (which are essentially swollen veins in your rectum and anus) are the sort of thing everyone would rather avoid because they can be uncomfortable and bleed.
There are other medical reasons why it’s ideal to avoid straining when you go number two, particularly during pregnancy. “If a woman has been diagnosed with placenta previa (placenta covers the cervix), this is a situation where you really don’t want any straining in defecation, so as to avoid any pressure inducing bleeding,” Kecia Gaither, MD, MPH, FACOG, double board-certified in OB/GYN and Maternal Fetal Medicine, Director of Perinatal Services at NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln, tells Romper via email.
But why exactly does pregnancy mess with your bowel movements so much? “Because of the hormone progesterone, the bowels move slower and women are often constipated,” explains Dr. Mao. Even the supplements you take may contribute to this problem. Constipation is a side effect of iron supplements, per the U.S. National Library of Medicine, and it is found in prenatal vitamins women are advised to take. Constipation may then lead to hemorrhoids, because the fun never stops when you’re expecting. So even if you’re taking all the recommended steps to have a safe and healthy pregnancy, you may still end up with some rough experiences in the bathroom.
Thankfully, there’s a lot you can do to make your bathroom visits easier during pregnancy. “The best way to manage this is to prevent constipation by making sure you stay hydrated, stay active, and eat a well rounded diet with focus on fiber,” recommends Dr. Mao. Over-the-counter products like like Colace (a stool softener) or Metamucil (a fiber supplement) can help move things along, she says.
If the straining really has you worried, then check in with your doctor, or maybe even a nutritionist for advice, especially if your struggle seems excessive or painful. Your healthcare provider can recommend some foods and pregnancy-safe supplements to keep you more regular so that you’re spending less time sitting and straining on the toilet. Eventually, after you’ve had your baby, your bowels will get back on track pre-pregnancy and you’ll be able to put all these problems behind you.
Dr. Jennie Mao, MD, medical director of the UW Medicine Women’s Clinic at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle
Kecia Gaither, MD, MPH, FACOG, double board-certified in OB/GYN & Maternal Fetal Medicine, and Director of Perinatal Services at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center, NYC Health + Hospitals System
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