Topic Overview


Constipation is a common problem during
pregnancy. Delayed passage of bowel contents (slow transit) is the most common
cause of constipation during pregnancy.

You may also have
constipation or discomfort with bowel movements for a few days after delivery.
Your first bowel movement may be painful if you had an episiotomy or tear in
your vagina.

Constipation may be caused by:

  • A lack of fiber in the diet.
  • Medicines, such as antacids, iron supplements, or
    opioid pain medicines that were given during labor.
  • Not drinking
    enough fluids.

Drink plenty of water and juices to lower your chance of
constipation. Talk
with your doctor before taking any other nonprescription medicines, such as a stool softener, to treat
your constipation. Some medicines may not be safe to take during

You may have
hemorrhoids that cause you pain during your pregnancy
and after delivery. Use home treatment measures or talk to your doctor about
treating your hemorrhoids.

Blood in the stool

A small amount of bright red
blood on the surface of the stool or found on the toilet paper is often caused
by a small rectal tear (fissure) or hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids
are common during pregnancy and after delivery because:

  • The larger
    uterus places more pressure on the blood vessels in the lower belly.
  • Constipation causes fewer and strained bowel

Bleeding caused by hemorrhoids often causes pain with the
bowel movement and may make the toilet water bloody. It is not serious if
there is only a small amount of blood and if the bleeding stops when the
diarrhea or constipation stops. Home treatment may be all that is

Bleeding can occur anywhere in the digestive tract. The
blood is digested as it moves through the digestive tract. The longer it takes
the blood to move through the digestive tract, the less it will look like
blood. Often, blood from bleeding in the stomach looks black and tarry. Blood
that has moved quickly through the digestive tract or that begins near the
rectum may appear red or dark red.

Talk with your doctor if your
stools are black, tarry, or mixed with bright or dark red blood. Bright red
blood in the toilet bowl following a bowel movement also needs to be checked by
a doctor. Your doctor can do some simple tests that check for even very small
amounts of blood in your stool.


Certain foods and medicines also can change the
look of the stool. Taking medicines with bismuth subsalicylate, such as
Pepto-Bismol, or iron tablets can make the stool black, and eating lots of
beets may turn the stool red. Some food colorings also can change the color of
your stool. Eating foods with black or dark blue food coloring can turn your
stool black.

Related Information


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP – Emergency Medicine
Adam Husney, MD – Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD – Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Kirtly Jones, MD – Obstetrics and Gynecology

Current as ofMarch 16, 2017