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3 out of 4 Pregnant Women Suffer Bowel Problems

Update Date: May 20, 2013 05:01 PM EDT

There really is no such thing as a perfect pregnancy. A new study revealed that three out of four pregnant mothers-to-be experience constipation, diarrhea or other bowel disorders.

However, researchers noted that such bowel disorders have only minimal impacts on pregnant women's quality of life.

Researchers at the Loyola University Medical Center studied 144 pregnant women.  The women were enrolled and completed the first trimester questionnaire, and 66 women also completed a survey in the third trimester. 

The findings revealed that 72 percent of the first trimester respondents and 61 percent of the third trimester respondents reported one or more bowel disorders, including constipation, diarrhea, bloating and irritable bowel syndrome.

Participants were also asked to fill out a questionnaire of how their bowel problems affected their quality of life.  Some of the questions in the survey asked whether bowel problems made life less enjoyable, limit what a person can wear or eat or make a person feel embarrassed, vulnerable, angry, isolated or depressed.

Researchers found that most bowel problems had little affect on the women's quality of life.  However, the only bowel problems that a significantly impact on quality of life was constipation and bloating.

Lead researcher Dr. Scott Graziano said the reason bowel problems have minimal impact on quality of life is most likely because pregnant women have learned to expect such problems during pregnancy. Therefore, they are better able to tolerate them.

Bowel problems are caused by physiological and hormonal changes that come with pregnancy.  For instance, higher progesterone levels affect the smooth muscles in the intestines.  As a result, food moves more slowly through the intestines, which can lead to constipation.  Researchers said that vitamins like calcium and iron supplements women take during pregnancy can also cause constipation.

Researchers say that pregnant women should drink lots of water and eat plenty of fiber.  The latest study also that pregnant women consume, on average, only 16 to 17 grams of fiber a day, while the recommended level for pregnant women and other adults is 25 to 30 grams per day.

The study will be presented at the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists 61st Annual Clinical Meeting in New Orleans.

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