Constipation is a common problem, affecting over 40 million people in the U.S. Bloating, abdominal pain, difficulty passing a bowel movement, and having infrequent or hard stools are the most common signs of constipation. Despite its uncomfortable symptoms, many people don’t tell their physicians about it due to embarrassment.
Some studies suggest women actually suffer from constipation more frequently than men. Although the exact reason for this isn’t known, there are some possible factors that contribute to constipation in women. Here are some of the culprits, and how to find relief:
- Your hormones. During pregnancy and after childbirth, constipation is common. Your body’s hormones may slow down your digestive tract, including your bowel movements. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, ask your physician before taking any medications for constipation. Some laxatives could be dangerous for you or your baby.
- Too much dairy. Many women eat yogurt and other low fat dairy foods to get calcium and other nutrients. But eating more than three servings a day, along with not enough extra fiber, could cause constipation. Try cutting back on these foods if you eat a lot of them.
- Your supplements. Are you taking calcium for bone health, or iron for anemia? Both can be constipating. Talk with your physician about adjusting your supplements or using a stool softener or fiber supplement to combat this.
- Antidepressants. Some types of antidepressants can cause constipation. If you think this could be the cause, talk with your physician. He or she may recommend a stool softener or other remedy to help.
Many over-the-counter remedies are available for constipation. Fiber supplements, stool softeners, and laxatives are all designed to help speed up the digestive process. But before you reach for one of these, consider lifestyle changes that may help:
- Get regular exercise, such as walking.
- Cut back on low-fiber, processed foods and eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Don’t ignore the urge to go.
If these changes don’t bring relief, talk with your physician. Sometimes constipation is a sign of another health problem that needs to be treated. And if you do take a laxative or other constipation treatment, take it only for a short amount of time unless your physician says otherwise. Some laxatives become less effective over time and can lead to more constipation.
Whatever you do, don’t ignore the problem. Long-term constipation can lead to complications such as a fecal impaction. With the many different treatments available, your physician can help you feel better and get your digestion back on track.
CarePoint Health Gynecology
With the help of a skilled gynecologist at CarePoint Health, you can make educated decisions about your health to be at your best at any stage of life. For more information about the comprehensive women’s services we provide, please contact us.
Content on our website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please call 911. Always consult your physician before making any changes to your medical treatment.