Constipation is a common problem in late pregnancy. Circulating progesterone may be the cause of slower gastrointestinal movement in mid and late pregnancy.
The objective of this review was to assess the effects of different methods for treating constipation in pregnancy.
We searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group trials register, the Cochrane Controlled Trials Register and MEDLINE. Date of last search: January 2001.
Randomised trials of any treatment for constipation in pregnancy.
Trial quality assessments and data extraction were done independently by two reviewers.
Two suitable trials were identified. Fibre supplements increased the frequency of defecation (odds ratio 0.18, 95% confidence interval 0.05 to 0.67), and lead to softer stools. Stimulant laxatives are more effective than bulk-forming laxatives (odds ratio 0.30, 95% confidence interval 0.14 to 0.61), but may cause more side effects.
Dietary supplements of fibre in the form of bran or wheat fibre are likely to help women experiencing constipation in pregnancy. If the problem fails to resolve, stimulant laxatives are likely to prove more effective.