The Safety of Using Laxatives During Pregnancy

Constipation is something very common due to the hormonal and physical changes women go through during pregnancy. The symptoms may include a decrease in the frequency of defecation, hard stool, abdominal pain, and frequent gasses. If you are experiencing constipation during your pregnancy, you may think of using laxatives to relieve the discomfort.

Is It Safe to Use Laxatives During Pregnancy?

There are several brands of laxatives in the market. They have different compounds, and some are stronger than others. The safety for you to take laxatives while pregnant will depend on many factors.

1. Safe Laxatives While Pregnant

  • Stool Softener

This is considered the safest type of drug during pregnancy. It works by increasing the amount of excreted water in the feces, therefore making them softer and easier to pass through the digestive system. The most commonly recommended stool softener is docusate sodium (Dulcoease, Colace).

  • Bulk-Forming Agent Laxatives

These are safe long-term laxative drugs to use during pregnancy because they are not absorbed by the body. They work by dragging water to your intestines and mixing it with your stool to make them come out easy and painless; however, secondary effects like bloating are common. Taking this kind of drug with your prenatal vitamins is not recommended because it will delay or impede vitamin's effect.

Some over-the-counter brands and their active ingredients are polycarbophil (Fiber-Lax, equalactin, Mitrolan), methylcellulose (Citrucel) and psyllium (Perdiem, Metamucil).

  • Osmotic Laxatives

These kinds of laxatives work very fast by changing the electrolytic balance in your body to make it easier for the digestive system to process, soften and discard the stool. Since their long-term use can pose a risk to the mother and fetus health, they can be taken for short periods of time when the above mentioned laxatives fail to do their work.

Your doctor can prescribe you one out of three types of osmotic laxatives, including lactulose (Kristalose), saline (Philips' milk of magnesia) or polymer (MiraLAX).

2. Unsafe Laxatives During Pregnancy

  • Stimulant Laxatives

If you already have soft stool but are having a difficult time to excrete the stool, then your doctor may prescribe you some stimulant laxatives like Bisacodyl (Dulcolax, Fleet, Correctol), Senna (Senokot, Ex-Lax) and Sodium Picosulfate (Laxoberal, Gluttalax, Pure-Oden). However, these laxatives must be taken under strict medical supervision especially during the third trimester of pregnancy, as their function is to stimulate the abdominal walls and make them contract to activate the digestive system, which may lead to unwanted uterine contractions in some cases.

  • Lubricant Laxatives

Even though lubricant laxatives are commonly used on a daily basis by many people, pregnant women should absolutely avoid them. The most famous lubricant laxative is castor oil; the oily consistency that characterizes it may produce a coat on the intestine, which will prevent the absorption of many nutrients, thus affecting the normal growth of fetus.


Before taking any kind of drug, you'd better consult your GP to make sure there are no contraindications to doing it. If you need to start taking laxatives, begin with stool softeners in the first place and follow with bulk-forming agents if needed. Do not take more than one type of laxative at the same time. 

Natural Ways to Deal with Constipation During Pregnancy

Now you know that some safe and unsafe laxatives during pregnancy; you'd better try these home remedies first to avoid possible side effects of laxatives.

1. Increase Your Fiber Intake

A diet rich in fiber will assure you a proper bowel movement and softer stool, and it is a completely safe way to prevent constipation during pregnancy.

Foods that contain a high amount of fiber include oatmeal, bran cereals, integral rice, whole-grain bread, prunes, bananas, papaya, figs, carrots, apples, pears, strawberries, oranges, artichoke, broccoli, lentils, and peas, among others.

2. Stay Hydrated

Dehydration is usually the leading cause of constipation. Make sure to drink plenty of water, at least 2 liters per day. Enough fluids can help make your stool soft enough to come out easily and on a regular basis.

3. Control the Frequency and Amount of Food You Eat

Avoid big meals, and try to eat smaller portions of food every 4 or 5 hours. By this way, your digestive system has enough time to process everything without being overloaded. This will also help you feel more satisfied and prevent excess weight gain. If you suffer from heartburn, you can benefit from doing this as well.

4. Do Exercise

Keep moving yourself to activate your bowel movements. When you are still everything in your body is still, including your intestines. There are many exercises you can do while being pregnant, and if in doubt you can always consult with your physician to make sure there is nothing preventing you from doing any of them. Walking, jogging, swimming, and prenatal yoga are some of your available options.

5. Try Chamomile Tea

In some cases, constipation develops as a result of stress. Drinking chamomile tea can help you soothe your nerves and relax, and it will also keep you hydrated. All these factors make this beverage a suitable option to help prevent or even alleviate constipation.

6. Other Natural Remedies

  • Yogurt. It can relieve constipation since it has many probiotic bacteria, vitamins, and minerals that can help regulate and activate the digestive system.
  • Psyllium Husk. The seeds of this plant have a very high fiber content, making it one of the excellent natural laxatives during pregnancy to prevent and relieve constipation. 
  • Dandelion Tea: This beverage is considered to have mild laxative and diuretic properties, as well as provide several minerals and vitamins that can help ease constipation.
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