Constipation is a common problem during pregnancy, affecting up to 40% of pregnant women. Constipation refers to infrequent, difficult, or incomplete bowel movements. It is often caused by hormonal changes, decreased physical activity, and the pressure of the growing uterus on the intestines. While constipation is usually not serious, it can be very uncomfortable. Eating more fiber, drinking more fluids, exercising regularly, and establishing a routine can help relieve constipation. Prunes are known as a natural, safe way to help relieve constipation during pregnancy. But how many prunes should you eat?
What Causes Constipation During Pregnancy?
There are several factors that contribute to constipation during pregnancy:
– Hormonal changes – Increased levels of progesterone cause the muscles of the intestines to relax. This slows down digestion and can lead to constipation.
– Physical changes – As the uterus expands, it can partially obstruct the rectum and make bowel movements more difficult. The weight of the growing uterus also puts pressure on the intestines.
– Iron supplements – Iron supplements, which are commonly recommended during pregnancy, can cause constipation in some women.
– Dehydration – Pregnancy increases fluid needs, so not drinking enough water can lead to dehydration and constipation.
– Dietary changes – Some pregnant women unintentionally consume less fiber as appetite changes. Fiber helps add bulk to stool and prevents constipation.
– Decreased exercise – Physical activity usually decreases during pregnancy, which can slow digestion.
Are Prunes Safe to Eat During Pregnancy?
Prunes are generally considered safe to eat during pregnancy. They contain fiber, sorbitol, and phenolic compounds that have natural laxative effects to relieve constipation. The key is to eat prunes in moderation. Consuming too many may lead to diarrhea, stomach cramps, or an electrolyte imbalance.
It’s best to get medical advice before taking any herbal laxatives while pregnant. But prunes themselves are a safe, gentle way to ease constipation in most cases. One to two servings of prunes per day is usually recommended.
How Many Prunes Should You Eat for Constipation?
Most experts recommend eating 1-2 servings of prunes per day to help relieve constipation during pregnancy. Here are some more specific guidelines:
– 1 serving = About 3-4 prunes
– 1-2 prunes upon waking can help stimulate bowel movements
– 1 serving (3-4 prunes) at breakfast
– 1 serving (3-4 prunes) at dinner
– Can eat up to 2 servings (6-8 prunes) if needed for more severe constipation
So a daily total of 6-8 prunes is usually sufficient to help alleviate constipation without causing diarrhea or cramps. It may take 2-3 days of consistent prune consumption to notice improvement. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids as well.
Tips for Eating Prunes to Relieve Constipation
Here are some tips for getting the most benefit from prunes:
– Drink a full glass of water when eating prunes to aid digestion
– Choose prunes without added sugars or preservatives
– Eat prunes on an empty stomach when possible
– Try soaking prunes in hot water or tea to make them more potent
– Blend prunes into smoothies or oatmeal for easier consumption
– Start with a smaller amount (2-3 prunes) if new to eating prunes
– Exercise regularly in addition to eating prunes
– Establish a regular bathroom routine after meals
– See a doctor if constipation persists longer than 3-4 days
Best Ways to Eat Prunes During Pregnancy
There are many ways to add prunes to your diet. Here are some easy, tasty ways to eat prunes when pregnant:
– Chopped prunes on yogurt, oatmeal, or cereal
– Prunes soaked in hot tea or lemon water
– Prune juice – add water if too strong
– Smoothies with prunes and milk/yogurt
– Overnight oats with prunes, oats, chia seeds
– Energy bites – mix prunes, nuts, seeds, coconut
– Baked goods like muffins or bread with prunes
– Salads with prunes, nuts, chicken/tofu
– Roast chicken or meat with prunes
– Pureed prunes as a sauce on chicken or fish
– Trail mix with prunes, nuts and seeds
Get creative and try baking with prune puree or chopping prunes into savory dishes for a nutritional boost. Prunes add fiber, potassium, antioxidants and sweetness.
What About Prune Juice?
Prune juice is another effective way to get the constipation-relieving benefits of prunes. Many pregnant women find success with drinking a 4-8 oz glass of chilled prune juice each morning.
Be sure to read the label and choose 100% prune juice without added sugars or unnecessary ingredients. Dilute with a bit of water if the taste is too strong. Some downsides of prune juice include the high sugar content when drinking large amounts. It also lacks the fiber content of whole prunes. But prune juice can be a convenient alternative when you need fast relief.
How Long Does It Take for Prunes to Relieve Constipation?
Many people want to know how long after eating prunes they can expect relief from constipation. Results vary, but most people notice a laxative effect within:
– 12-24 hours after eating prunes
– 24-48 hours if constipation is severe
The key is consistent daily consumption, rather than just eating prunes occasionally when constipated. The fiber, sorbitol, and other active compounds have a cumulative effect. Prunes add moisture to stool and stimulate intestinal contractions to promote regular bowel movements.
Give prunes 2-3 days to start working before increasing your intake. Stop eating them if you develop diarrhea and drink more fluids. See a doctor if you go more than 3 days without a bowel movement while increasing fiber and fluid intake.
Prunes as Part of a High Fiber Diet
In addition to prunes, aim for 25-35 grams of fiber per day from high fiber foods like:
– Whole grains – oats, quinoa, whole wheat bread
– Fruits – berries, pears, figs, oranges
– Vegetables – broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots
– Beans and legumes
– Nuts and seeds – flaxseed, chia seeds
Prunes can be part of a balanced high fiber diet to prevent and relieve constipation. But rely on a variety of fiber sources for the best results. Stay hydrated, exercise regularly, and don’t delay going to the bathroom. Let your doctor know if constipation persists despite lifestyle and dietary changes.
Are There Risks of Eating Too Many Prunes?
Prunes are safe when consuming normal amounts. But eating excessive prunes can cause some adverse effects like:
– Diarrhea – Too much fiber and sorbitol from prunes can lead to loose stools.
– Abdominal cramps – Excessive amounts of prunes may irritate the digestive tract.
– Electrolyte imbalance – Overconsumption of prunes can disrupt electrolyte levels.
– Weight gain – Prunes are high in calories and sugar if eating large quantities.
To prevent these effects, stick to the recommended 1-2 servings (3-8 prunes) per day. Drink extra fluids and scale back your prune intake if you notice diarrhea. See a doctor if cramping is severe or prolonged.
The Bottom Line
Here is a quick summary on how many prunes to eat for constipation relief:
– 1-2 servings (3-8 prunes) per day
– Best to eat upon waking, at breakfast, and at dinner
– May take 2-3 days to notice improvement
– Drink plenty of fluids when eating prunes
– Eat a high fiber diet with a variety of sources
– Monitor your symptoms and adjust prune intake if needed
– See a doctor if constipation is severe or persistent
Prunes can be an effective, natural way to help get things moving again when constipated during pregnancy. Pay attention to your body’s signals and consult your healthcare provider with any persistent digestive issues. Aim for regular bowel movements to stay comfortable. With some dietary tweaks like eating plentiful prunes, you can poo like a pro, even during pregnancy!