Can Labor Pains Feel Like Constipation? Pregnancy Complications Explained

Last modified: August 2, 2019

Richard Honaker M.D.
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What does labor feel like? Ask your sister, mother, or friends about their experience and you’ll hear very different stories. This is because every woman, every pregnancy, and consequently every birth is different.

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We all know the distinct stages of labor, but when it comes to labor pains there isn’t a definitive guide we can refer to. Hence, we have to rely on analogies. It’s easier to explain the labor pain one experiences right before delivery because it’s sharp, intense, and in most cases quite unbearable.

What’s harder to explain, are the labor pains experienced in the early stages of labor. These labor pains are less intense and may not even be noticeable at first. A lot of women feel that they are like menstrual cramps or constipation.

Can Labor Pains Feel Like Constipation?

The answer is yes. When you enter the first stage of labor, your body may experience slight discomfort as well as pain in the lower abdomen which is similar to the feeling you get when you’re having constipation. You may also feel some pain in your stomach along with some cramping.

This is completely normal and generally happens between 37th and 40th week of pregnancy. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, you can be certain that labor has begun once you start seeing other signs such as an increase in vaginal discharge, seeing a plug of mucus, and feeling that the baby has dropped.

If the discomfort comes and goes, it may be false labor or Braxton-hicks contractions. One way to check if you’re having true labor pains is to do gentle exercise. Braxton Hicks contractions are less noticeable during exercise while labor pains are still noticeable. Today, even wearables can help you track your contractions.

Constipation Can Be A Sign Of Pre-Term Labor

While it is common to have constipation like feeling, lower abdominal cramps, and a dull backache after the 37th week of your pregnancy, it is a cause of concern if these symptoms show up before you this time frame. This could be an indication of pre-term labor.

If the pain is accompanied by bleeding, pelvic pressure, watery fluid leaking from the vagina, or increased vaginal discharge, it is important to contact your physician as soon as possible. This will help in avoiding any pregnancy complications.

The good news is that pre-term labor may not always result in the birth of a premature baby. Today, doctors can delay or stop the labor through different treatments, enabling the baby to stay inside the womb for longer. These treatments help the uterus to relax and give the baby time to develop.

Pregnancy Complication Or Just Plain Old Constipation

While it is true that labor pains may feel like constipation, it is also true that constipation and gas are very real concerns when it comes to pregnancy. Sometimes, constipation can cause cramping and shooting pain in the abdomen which may seem like a contraction. This gives you an impression that you’re experiencing labor.

In the case, where the constipation like feeling is not accompanied by any other symptoms it may just be tightening of the stomach cause by constipation. During pregnancy, changing hormones and vitamins and iron supplements can slow down the gastrointestinal tract causing constipation.

That’s why it’s extremely important to watch your diet and water intake during pregnancy. Drinking around 10-12 glasses of water, eating fiber rich foods, and including light exercise in your routine can help you avoid constipation and consequently other pregnancy complications that come with it. There are also a few health and wellness tips which you can follow to ensure that you keep these pregnancy complications at bay.

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In Conclusion . . .

Finally, it’s important to remember that every pregnancy and labor journey is different. Hence, it’s always a good idea to speak to a physician particularly when you have concerns about labor pains and are unable to understand what you’re feeling. In case you have any specific queries, chat with one of our doctors today.


Author: Erum is a public relations professional who specializes in technology comms. She is an avid reader, a travel enthusiast, and a self-proclaimed story-teller. Before joining the content team at Your Doctors Online, Erum was the PR manager at Hill & Knowlton Strategies and was handling communications and content strategy for a diverse portfolio of brands. She is also a new mom who is finding her way around motherhood.

Disclaimer: This article provides general information and is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease or medical condition. If you require specific advice, please consult one of our medical professionals through the app. However, in case of an emergency, please call 911.

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