Laxatives for Constipation

  • Medical Author:
    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.

  • Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Quick Guide19 Constipation Myths and Facts

19 Constipation Myths and Facts

Are laxatives safe to take during pregnancy or while breastfeeding?

Hormones from pregnancy, as well as prenatal vitamins and iron supplements may cause constipation. Pressure from the uterus pushes on the bowels and can cause constipation.

Dietary and behavioral modifications can ease constipation during pregnancy and are considered safe. It's best to try these natural remedies first to treat constipation during pregnancy.

  • Eat a diet rich in fiber with whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Supplement fiber in the diet with over-the-counter products such as Metamucil, which is considered safe
  • Stay hydrated – drink at least 6-8 glasses of water per day
  • Drink 1-2 glasses of prune juice per day
  • Exercise regularly – if permitted by your obstetrician

Pregnant women should talk with their doctor before using over-the-counter laxatives or stool softeners during pregnancy. Laxatives can cause fluid loss and diarrhea, so it is important not to overuse them during pregnancy. Avoid cod liver oil as a treatment for constipation if you are pregnant because it may prevent the absorption of needed vitamins and minerals.

When should a doctor be consulted for constipation?

Many people have a life-long tendency toward constipation while others have occasional constipation alternating with a normal bowel pattern or even diarrhea. While mild and intermittent constipation in these individuals is usually not a cause for concern, a doctor should be consulted under the following circumstances:

  • A new onset of constipation or recent change in bowel habits
  • Moderate to severe constipation, or constipation that does not respond to self-treatment with simple bulking agents that provide fiber
  • Constipation that is accompanied by rectal bleeding, abdominal pain and cramps, nausea and vomiting, or involuntary weight loss
  • Constipation during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/10/2016

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