Between the hormonal effects of progesterone slowing down your intestines, the iron and calcium in your prenatal vitamins, and the baby growing bigger, it’s no wonder constipation during pregnancy is a common and crappy (or lack thereof) pregnancy symptom. You may be willing to try anything at this point to "become regular" again, and you may have read in certain baby boards and Pinterest about women taking activated charcoal to help with constipation. So can activated charcoal help with pregnancy constipation? And more importantly, is it safe?
Activated charcoal's popularity as a home remedy for many hygiene-related things seems to be pretty popular these days. And while dental experts recommend not using activated charcoal for teeth whitening because it strips the enamel from your teeth, what do other experts think about other uses for activated charcoal, like with pregnancy constipation? Dr. Sherry Ross, OB-GYN and Women’s Health Expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, tells Romper that even though activated charcoal is not "officially" approved for use in pregnancy, "it can be safely given to pregnant women for certain intestinal conditions including diarrhea and constipation." After all, "it is traditionally used for detoxifying the body of toxins, drugs, and poisonous substances," she adds.
How does taking activated charcoal work? Ross says, "It combines with a gas or activating agent to expand the surface area, flushing out toxins quickly and helping treat constipation."
However, she warns it’s extremely important to drink a lot of water when taking activated charcoal to avoid dehydration, which comes from some of the less-than-stellar side effects. So if you don’t want to add to the feeling of nausea and morning sickness you’re already having, maybe stick to safer and more researched methods to help with constipation. Ross also warns of aspirating the activated charcoal as a possible side effect, which causes serious complications.
Ross recommends safer alternatives to help with pregnancy constipation, which include everything from supplements and medicine to lifestyle changes. Drinking at least eight 10-ounce glasses of water per day was at the top of her list. "Water is the best choice, but fruit juice — especially prune juice — can also help regulate constipation," Ross suggests. She also recommends daily walks that last about 30 to 45 minutes, and other aerobic activities, because exercising and movement aids in digestion. Plus, "you feel physically and emotionally stronger and more energetic," she says. And who doesn’t want to feel like that during their pregnancy?
Including a lot of high-fiber foods in your diet, such as fruits, veggies, whole grains, and beans "help bring water into the intestines, softening the stool, and allowing it to pass easier," Ross notes. Metamucil, Citrucel, Miralax and other stool softeners are OK as well, as long as you get approval from your doctor first. "Stimulant laxatives, such as Ex-Lax and Senokot are the hardest on your intestines and should not be used during pregnancy without the consent of your healthcare provider," Ross warns.
“Stool softeners, such as Colace, moisten the stool, allowing easier passage. I encourage most of my patients to take 50 milligrams to 100 milligrams of Colace, two times a day, throughout the duration of the pregnancy," she says.
Still looking for a more natural way to help ease your pregnancy constipation symptoms? Ross recommends Cascara Sagrada as a safer natural alternative than activated charcoal. "Cascara Sagrada is a natural laxative made of dried bark. Take one to two capsules before bedtime with a large glass of water," she suggests.
Don’t suffer any longer. Constipation is the worst, and there are few things more frustrating — pregnant or not. Before ingesting that activated charcoal, maybe try some lifestyle and dietary changes first, and then take some stool softeners that are recommended by your doctor, or Cascara Sagrada as another homeopathic alternative. If you want to try activated charcoal as your homeopathic route, have done it pre-pregnancy, and the side effects don’t bother you, you do you. Just make sure you clear it with your healthcare provider first, because it appears the side effects of activated charcoal are almost as bad (if not worse) than the constipation itself.