Most side effects of taking prenatal vitamins are minor if you experience them at all. However, constipation (unpleasant, we know) is a common side effect that can happen when you take prenatal vitamins. Are prenatal vitamins causing this discomfort? How can you mitigate it? Read on to find out more.
Prenatal vitamins and constipation
Constipation is when you struggle to have a bowel movement for an extended period due to hard, sometimes painful, stool and can cause abdominal tenderness, cramps, and flatulence. Pregnancy constipation is defined as having fewer than three bowel movements in a week while you’re pregnant. One possible cause of constipation in pregnancy is your prenatal vitamin.
Can prenatal vitamins cause constipation?
While prenatal vitamins do not directly cause constipation, some of their ingredients can contribute to it. Iron and calcium are common ingredients in prenatal vitamins that are known culprits of causing constipation because of how they are absorbed by our bodies. When your body doesn’t effectively absorb available nutrients, constipation can be an uncomfortable side effect.
What should I know before taking a prenatal supplement?
It’s helpful to find out how supplements interact with one another and other medications you may be taking to get the most beneficial outcome. Some nutrients compete to be absorbed properly to be used for their intended purposes and shouldn’t be taken at the same time as other supplements and/or medications. The medications you take can also impact the effectiveness of supplements such as your prenatal vitamins. To find out more about when you should take certain supplements and medications, we suggest speaking with your primary care provider or your local pharmacist. Depending on the number and type of supplements and medications you are taking, spreading your intake throughout the day may be the best idea to have the maximum amount of impact.
Can prenatal vitamins cause constipation in a breastfed baby?
It is highly unlikely that your prenatal vitamin will cause constipation in an exclusively breastfed baby. It is important to consult your child’s pediatrician or speak to your primary care doctor if this is a concern that you have. Regular water intake and solid foods are usually not introduced to babies till they are at least 6 months of age. It is generally considered safe and usually encouraged to continue taking your prenatal vitamin while breastfeeding.
Why does iron cause constipation?
Your body can’t always absorb iron easily and what’s not absorbed can cause problems such as constipation. You can prevent constipation in a variety of ways, including gaining a better understanding of its causes. Some substances, like caffeine, can prevent proper absorption of iron, so avoid drinking your coffee within an hour or two of taking your prenatal vitamin. On the other hand, vitamin C aids in absorption. Taking your prenatal vitamin with a glass of orange juice can be beneficial.
We suggest letting your primary care provider know about what other supplements and medications you currently take if your prenatal vitamins have high iron content. Professionals can help you figure out how to take your supplements and medications effectively.
How much iron is in prenatal vitamins?
Some professionals suggest you look for prenatal vitamins with 30mg of iron. Prenatal vitamins with 30mg of iron are considered low-dose iron supplements that provide the amount of iron you need in your pregnancy. It’s suggested that you have a minimum of 27mg and a maximum of 45mg of iron per day while pregnant. If you have questions about how much iron is too much, speak with your primary care provider.
Dealing with constipation
How to handle pregnancy constipation
Your prenatal vitamin isn’t always the root cause of any discomfort you experience from constipation. Pregnancy constipation can occur for a variety of reasons, including hormonal changes. Making subtle shifts to your lifestyle can reduce, but not eliminate, the likelihood that you’ll experience constipation problems.
Drink plenty of fluids
Make physical activity part of your daily routine
Increase dietary fiber(found in fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains)
Prenatal vitamins with stool softener
It’s generally considered safe to take certain stool softeners when you experience constipation from your prenatal vitamins. There are no known issues with taking medications such as Metamucil, Milk of Magnesia, and Miralax. If you have questions about which stool softeners you can take with which prenatal vitamins, ask your primary care provider.
Prenatal vitamins that don’t cause constipation
Most side effects due to prenatal vitamins are minor. When you experience constipation while taking prenatal vitamins, the most likely cause is the iron content. To decrease your chances of experiencing constipation, choose a prenatal vitamin with lower iron content.
If you have questions that are specific to your needs, contact your primary care provider.