Ayurvedic treatment for Constipation in pregnancy

Constipation in pregnancy

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  • Definition
  • Causes
  • Symptoms
  • Diagnosis
  • Management
  • FAQS
  • References

Definition

Constipation in pregnancy Ayurvedic treatment

Normal bowel function varies from person to person. Constipation is defined as having less than three bowel motions per week with stools that are hard and difficult to pass.  There may also be a need to push or strain, and a feeling of incomplete evacuation.1

Having a healthy diet, plenty of fluids and regular exercise will help to maintain regular bowel motions.  It is better to prevent constipation in the first place than try to treat it later, especially in pregnancy.

Ayurveda treats constipation as a problem arising due to the predominance of the vata dosha. In fact, all people with the vata constitution may have this problem to some extent or the other.

Constipation is a common symptom during pregnancy. A majority of women experience constipation during pregnancy, which is usually worse in the second trimester.1 The majority of cases are simple constipation that occurs due to a combination of hormonal and mechanical factors affecting normal gastrointestinal function. However, a number of women suffer from constipation prior to conception and find their symptoms worsen during pregnancy.1

Causes

Constipation in pregnancy

The cause of constipation usually multifactorial. In pregnancy it can be caused by the raised hormone progesterone levels. Progesterone leads to smooth muscle relaxation and thus causes reduced motility and increased water absorption in the gut. Slow gut movements lead to constipation.

From an Ayurvedic point of view, dietary bad habits are the main cause of constipation.2

The cause of constipation as identified in Ayurvedic texts is attributed to use of

  • Conflicting foods
  • inadequate food intake
  • fasting
  • heavy to digest, dry, constipating, oily and fermented food 2

Symptoms

Constipation in pregnancy

The general symptoms are as follows1

  • 3 or less than three bowel movements in a week
  • Stool that is difficult or painful to pass
  • Pain or bloating in your abdomen
  • Flatulence/gas

Depending on the constitution of the person, there are different observed symptoms of constipation. The following are some of the symptoms2

  1. Vata dosha symptoms – First symptom is browning of the tongue that cannot be cleaned easily. Along with this there is uneasiness in their stomachs and flatulence
  2. Pitta dosha symptoms – The stools are slightly yellowish and there will be a burning sensation in the anal canal.
  3. Kapha dosha symptoms - The colon feels heavy. Patient feels lethargic most of the time. There is gas and flatulence as well as bad breath. Stool is faint or white in colour.

Diagnosis

Constipation in pregnancy

Doctor will make the diagnosis on the basis of your description of bowel movement problems.

Management

Constipation in pregnancy

Laxatives are medicines used to treat constipation, and are generally poorly absorbed from the mother’s intestines. Thus these cannot reach the blood and finally affect the baby. The aim of treatment is to restore a normal bowel habits.

Ayurveda’s principle for managing constipation is identifying the basic underlying cause and treating them. On a general note, a person who develops constipation, should be given gentle laxative action is to be followed.2

Diet Recommendations (Aahar)

Ayurveda and general medicine recommend a dietary plan for pregnant women with constipation. This includes –

  • Plenty of fluids in diet
  • Adequate amounts of complex carbohydrates and fibres in diet including whole grains and cereals
  • Adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables
  • Vata and Pitta pacifying diets including warm soupy foods
  • Lightly cooked vegetables and stewed fruits
  • Inclusion of ghee in diet and large glass of warm water with each meal

Lifestyle changes (Vihar)

  • Daily massage with warm sesame oil
  • Regular physical activity can help reduce pregnancy constipation
  • Quitting smoking and alcohol
  • Cutting down on caffeine containing drinks
  • Taking regular and frequent meals

FAQS

Constipation in pregnancy
  1. I am 3 month’s pregnant, what diet I should take according to Ayurveda?

Ayurveda recommends right dietary and lifestyle changes along with herbs to promote a healthy pregnancy.

Dietary advice includes –

  • Eating a healthy balanced diet, lots of fruits, vegetables and adequate diary foods
  • Including whole grains and complex carbohydrates rather than processed foods
  • Routine use of folic acid supplements daily. Foods rich in folic acid include lentils, kidney beans, green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, nuts, and beans.
  • Food should be enriched with all six types of tastes (sweet, pungent, sour, bitter, spicy and astringent)
  • Female with prior history of abortion should avoid brinjal, suran, papaya, celery, onion, chili, garlic, ginger, pepper, mustard, jaggery in diet
  • Those who suffer from constipation, gas, bloating must avoid peas, potato and other heavy to digest cereals. They can take green grams.

During the first trimester Ayurveda emphasizes on nourishing rasa and rakta dhatu, that is blood and blood plasma. This means diet should be rich in juicy fruits, coconut water, herbal infusions (raspberry leaf, nettle, oatstraw). Milk and ghee should be included in diet.

  1. What care do I take for first three months of pregnancy?

According to Ayurveda following lifestyle changes to be made:

  • Include regular exercise and keep fit.
  • Avoid abnormal asanas (positions), avoid sexual intercourse, straining at abdomen, heavy exercise and weight loss programsn
  • Avoid travelling in a vehicle on rough roads, sitting for long hours, lifting heavy objects
  • Avoid negative feelings and thoughts such as sorrow, anger, grief, fear and doubt as these things will affect mental and physical growth of fetus
  • Avoid exposure to unhappy or violent events
  • Avoid sleeping during the day and staying up late in night
  • Do not hold natural urges like holding urine or motion
  1. What can I expect during my 2nd trimester?

The mother’s body changes significantly during second trimester. The discomforting symptoms of the first trimester like morning sickness, fatigue, bloating etc are typically lower during this time. It is sometimes the easiest of the three trimesters of pregnancy. During this time the baby grows rapidly. Some of the maternal changes include

  • Larger breasts. Breast tenderness that was present during the first trimester may be reduced in intensity.
  • Growing uterus leads to a growing belly
  • Starting in the second trimester, there may be a weight gain of about 1.4 to 1.8 kilograms a month until delivery.
  • There may be slight contractions of the uterus wall as it builds strength.
  • Dark patches may appear over the skin. There may be a dark line down the abdomen
  • Stretch marks may also become apparent
  • Nasal and gum problems may appear.
  • Spells of dizziness are common
  • Leg cramps especially in the calf muscles can occur more frequently.
  • Some vaginal discharge is seen
  • Enlarging uterus may press upon the bladder. Bladder and urinary infections are common.
  1. What diet should I take post-delivery?

Ayurveda suggests following diet recommendation post-delivery:

  • Increase intake of foods that include sesame seeds, dry nuts, fenugreek seeds/leaves, garlic, drumsticks & carom seeds to increase milk supply for breastfeeding.
  • Have fresh milk as the first meal of the day to help may help enhance the quality of the breastfeeding milk.
  • Consume and cook vegetables such as beans, squash, carrots, beets, green leafy vegetables and zucchini preferably in ghee.
  • Lentils, cereals and whole grains should be seasoned with whole spices and served hot.
  • Avoid cabbage, potatoes and cauliflower during the first three weeks.
  • Avoid leftover foods, stale and cold foods. 
  1. I am 4 months pregnant and suffer from acidity. What can I do to avoid acidity?

Ayurveda suggests simple diet changes to prevent acidity. Few of them are:

  • Avoid excess greasy or spicy foods
  • Irregular eating habits to be avoided
  • Include more leafy vegetables and Adequate water intake
  • Avoid sleeping just after taking meal.
  • Excessive intake of the caffeine to be avoided. Carbonated drinks are to be avoided
  • The diet should consist of milk with sugar, and a little old rice.
  • Other recommended substances are: barley, wheat, rice (at least one year old), cucumber, bitter gourd, green banana, pumpkin, pomegranate, and cow's milk.
  • Pomegranate juice andpomegranate chutney also help balance the acid in the stomach. It tastes sour, but it is actually both astringent and bitter, which help balance Pitta.
  • Eating small meals more often helps in digestion
  1. I am pregnant and get often constipated. What can I do?

Ayurveda and general medicine recommend a dietary plan for pregnant women with constipation. This includes –

  • Plenty of fluids in diet
  • Adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables
  • Vata and Pitta pacifying diets including warm soupy foods
  • Lightly cooked seasonal vegetables and stewed fruits
  • Inclusion of ghee in diet and large glass of warm water with each meal

Lifestyle suggestions:

  • Light massage with warm sesame oil
  • Regular physical activity can help reduce pregnancy constipation
  • Quitting smoking and alcohol
  • Cutting down on caffeine containing drinks
  • Taking regular and frequent meals
  1. What is dysmenorrhea?

Dysmenorrhoea refers to painful menstruation that is periods with menstrual cramps. These pains are typically throbbing or cramping pains in the lower abdomen. These pains are usually apparent just before and during the menstrual periods in most women who suffer from dysmenorrhea. The pain may range from annoying or a discomfort to severe so that it may be difficult to do you daily routine for few days every month. In some women, the cause of dysmenorrhea may be endometriosis or uterine fibroids while in young girls ovulatory cycles, pin hole and other psychological factors may cause the condition.

In Ayurvedic classics, menstrual pain which is so severe that you cannot do daily activities is termed as dysmenorrhea (Kashtartava). According to Ayurvedic text there are many other diseases in which Kashtartava is considered and is described as a symptom. According to Ayurveda, aggravation of vata and pitta dosha are the main causes of menstrual diseases.

  1. I have endometriosis. Can I exercise during menstruation?

For women with endometriosis, regular rest is important. Women should avoid exercise during menstruation and should keep their exercise relatively moderate throughout the month. In general also, strenuous physical activity, prolonged standing etc may be avoided during periods.

Forms of exercise that regulate the flow of Vata and nourish the nervous system such as walking, swimming, Tai chi, Qigong and some forms of yoga are advisable.

Regularity in daily routine (going to bed and waking up at a similar time each day and regular meal times) is very important for calming aggravated Vata, as is regular self-abhyanga / warm oil massage.

  1. I am not able to conceive since last two years. What could be the reason?

According to Ayurveda, Vandhyatva or Female infertility is a disease of the reproductive system involves the failure to achieve a pregnancy or a live offspring.  Infertility exists when a healthy couple  is unable to achieve pregnancy after  two or more years or  fail  to  conceive  for  several  years  after  the  first delivery.

The causes of infertility may lie in the male partner or in the female partner. Possible causes of male infertility include –

  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Altered quality of sperm that may be low in number or may be unhealthy
  • Blockage of the tube that carries the sperm to the penis from the testes
  • Impotence or erectile dysfunction

The causes of female infertility include –

  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Damage to the fallopian tubes or diseases of the ovaries or womb
  • Fibroids or endometriosis affecting the uterus

Some general causes of infertility include:-

  • Early and Late marriage: Not well development of reproductive organs.
  • Nutrition less & fat rich food: No nourishment of body, tempers ovary function.
  • Tight clothing & mobile: Overheating of testis leads to low sperm count.
  • Smoking & alcoholism: Lowers motility of sperms and lowers LH hormones.
  • Improper hygiene of genital organs: Causes infection of genital tract.
  • Stress: Loss of energy and enthusiasm to do sex.
  • Loss of libido. Affects HPO axis leads to impairment of ovarian function. e to above causes disord

Long term diseases, psychological or environmental factors may cause infertility in both men and women. With age fertility usually declines.

  1. Is menopause a disease?

Menopause is a natural physiological state. It is defined as occurring 12 months after a woman’s last menstrual period and marks the end of menstrual cycles. Menopause can happen in the 40s or 50s. It is a natural biological process that ends the fertility. However it is no reason not to stay healthy and vital.

Ayurveda describes menopause as a normal stage of life that comes with aging. ‘Vata’ increased during the later years of life. Hence symptoms of menopause experienced by some women are similar to the symptoms seen when the Vata dosha rises and upsets the normal balance of the body. Vata-type menopausal symptoms are depression, anxiety, and insomnia (not able to sleep properly). There can be involvement of more than one dosha in menopause. Women with Pitta-type symptoms are often angry and suffer hot flashes. Kapha type symptoms include low mood, weight gain, and feelings of mental and physical heaviness.

 

References

Constipation in pregnancy
  1. Cullen G, O’Donoghue D. Constipation and Pregnancy. Best Pract Res Clin Gastroenterol 2007; 21(5):807-818.
  2. Rawat AKS. Herbal Remedies for Management of Constipation and its Ayurvedic Perspectives. JIMSA 2012; 25:27-30.
  3. Constipation in pregnancy and breastfeeding. Accessed on 2nd September 2016, downloaded from: seslhd.health.nsw.gov.au/mothersafe/documents/ConstipationFactsheet.pdf
  4. Pregnancy week by week. Accessed on 2nd September 2016, downloaded from: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/expert-answers/pregnancy-constipation/faq-20058550

Disclaimer: The information on this page is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Do not use this information to diagnose or ayurvedic treatment of womens-health and/or constipation in pregnancy without consulting the doctor. Consult your physician before beginning an exercise regime. "While we have products /ayurvedic medicines for womens-health and/or constipation in pregnancy, you must consult an authorized physician before taking any of the products. For more information on products, visit www.dabur.com or call 1800-103-1644"