Many women who never have had constipation can then experience it during the course of their pregnancy. The hormones progesterone and oestrogen have an effect on smooth muscle such as the intestines making the bowels sluggish. The common advice is to drink more water but some women may already be experiencing oedema and hence are hesitant to increase their fluids. Often iron supplements are prescribed because of anemia which then by default lead to constipation. Structurally, just as the growing baby can put pressure on the inter-vertebral discs causing sciatica, the baby can also put pressure on the intestines in the later stages of pregnancy.
Is constipation during pregnancy normal?
Not all mums get constipation during pregnancy but is, however, common and Chinese medicine can help. But all is not gloom and doom for the constipated mum to be.
Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners using acupuncture and Chinese herbs have been treating pregnancy related constipation for hundreds of years.
Acupuncture done by the hands of a trained professional, during pregnancy is a safe and effective treatment. As at 2017 there are over six hundred members of Acupuncture NZ throughout New Zealand.
From a western medical treatment perspective, there is little to offer.
Strong laxatives are not recommended during pregnancy and in fact laxative herbs like rhubarb and senna are forbidden to be used for constipation during pregnancy according to Chinese herbal medicine texts.
What causes constipation during pregnancy according to traditional Chinese medicine?
There are a number of causes according to traditional Chinese medicine diagnosis as to what causes constipation and they can be either from deficient or excess imbalances.
It is important to compile all other accompanying signs that maybe present. The consistency of the stool is an important consideration as dry stools means that the cause could be what in Chinese medical terms is called “blood deficiency” or “yin deficiency”. If the stool has the appearance of small round pellets it can mean the liver energy is blocked and often the woman will experience irritability as well.
When the stomach is too hot or as in Chinese medical terms is called “stomach fire”, there can also be heart burn with the constipation.
A number of acupuncture points can be selected depending on the differing signs and symptoms and diagnosis. Chinese herbs can also be prescribed and up to fifteen different herbs may be formulated into an individually tailor made combination.
Serena Joe practises acupuncture in Wellington and has a heavily focused women’s health clinic seeing many pregnancy related disorders as well as acupuncture for pre and post IVF treatment. She recommends a simple home Chinese herb remedy to help with constipation during pregnancy. She says “You will need to go to a Chinese grocery store and buy some dried black sesame seeds known in Chinese as hai zi ma. Get about a table spoon and grind to a fine powder with a mortar and pestle and add a tea spoon of honey so it’s like a moist paste. You can have that three times a day. It’s not the be all and end all, but it often helps and tastes pretty good as well”.