Constipation during Pregnancy: Causes, Identification of Patterns, and Treatment

Constipation during pregnancy is a common complaint. It is thought to be caused by the relaxant effect of progesterone on smooth muscles, pelvic hyperemia, and pressure from the enlarged uterus. From a Chinese medicine perspective, constipation during pregnancy may be due to a deficiency, usually of blood and/or kidneys, or to an excess, usually stagnation of qi. Treatment of constipation during pregnancy is difficult, as the basic treatment principles of moving downwards or promoting the downward movement of qi are not allowed during pregnancy. A complication of constipation during pregnancy is the development of hemorrhoids.

Etiology and pathology

  • Irregular diet
  • Emotional stress
  • Lack of exercise
  • Overwork
  • Pre-existing deficiency of Blood and/or Kidneys
  • Pregnancy
  • Abnormal function of the Penetrating Vessel (Chong Mai)

Identification of patterns

  • Deficiency of Blood and/or Kidneys
  • Excess of Liver-Qi
  • Stagnation of Liver-Qi
  • Stagnation of Qi in the Penetrating Vessel (Chong Mai)

Treatment principles

  • Regulate the diet
  • Reduce emotional stress
  • Increase exercise
  • Treat pre-existing deficiencies of Blood and/or Kidneys
  • Regulate the function of the Penetrating Vessel (Chong Mai)

Western medicine viewpoint

Western medicine focuses on addressing the underlying causes of constipation during pregnancy and may recommend a high fiber diet, increased fluid intake, and regular exercise. Laxatives may also be prescribed in severe cases.