Is Colon Cleansing Safe During Pregnancy?

Colon cleansing is a procedure to cleanse the colon from toxic substances and relieve problems such as constipation and indigestion. However, colon cleansing during pregnancy may not be recommended for common pregnancy digestive health problems.

If you are pregnant and experiencing such gastrointestinal problems, then scroll through. This post will tell you about pregnancy colon cleansing, including its safety and measures to maintain a healthy and clean colon.

In This Article

What Is Colon Cleansing?

Colon cleansing, as the name suggests, is a medical procedure to cleanse the colon using water. At times, the water may be mixed with substances such as herbs or clay.

The procedure involves pushing water through the rectum (enema) and then removing it from the body. This process is called colon irrigation or colonic irrigation. It eliminates toxins from the large intestines and provides relief from constipation and other digestive problems. Colon cleansing is also possible through the use of oral laxatives. Oral laxatives help clear out the colon from end to end by inducing diarrhea. It is used as a last resort in treating complications such as fecal impaction that is induced by chronic constipation.

Is Colon Cleansing Safe During Pregnancy?

Oral laxatives or colon irrigation procedure is not safe when pregnant

Image: Shutterstock

Colon cleansing – whether through a colon irrigation procedure or the use of oral laxatives – is not considered safe during pregnancy.

Side Effects Of Colon Cleansing During Pregnancy

Colon cleansing while pregnant isn’t safe, and it can lead to many adverse effects, some of which include (1):

  • Colon cleansing can cause dehydration and abdominal bloating. During pregnancy, dehydration can cause significant damage to fetal health.
  • Colon cleansing can also cause injuries to your colon and rectum. Such injuries can cause complications during pregnancy regarding your treatment; not to mention your discomfort and pain.
  • There is no scientific evidence that colon cleansing is necessary or provides benefits that you can’t get from other treatment measures.
  • If you suffer from any health conditions such as heart, liver or kidney problems, colon cleanses can increase your risk of complications. The reason for this is that colonics can alter your body’s electrolyte levels.
  • Colon cleanses (both the enema method and oral laxatives) can lead to untimely uterine contractions, causing preterm labor. During pregnancy, if needed, your doctor may prescribe you fiber-based laxatives, which are considered a safer intestinal cleansing and detoxification option (2).

Dr. Ila Dayananda, board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist from Brooklyn, New York, says, “Colon cleanse or colonic hydrotherapy is not recommended during pregnancy due to the risks of dehydration and infection, along with the possibility of falsely stimulating contractions. If you’re experiencing gastrointestinal pains during pregnancy, it’s important to immediately consult your doctor to determine possible causes.”

Colon cleansing during pregnancy may lead to preterm labor

Image: Shutterstock

protip_icon Quick tip
Cramping, nausea, bloating, and perianal soreness are some other side effects of colon cleansing (9).

Colon Cleansing And Pregnancy

Some clinics or practitioners of colonics suggest the second trimester as the perfect time for a colon cleanse during pregnancy. But there is no scientific evidence as yet to suggest that colon cleansing any time during the pregnancy is safe.

There is also no evidence as yet to suggest that colonics is necessary to cleanse the colon. Colon cleansing may have its advantage. But if you are pregnant, you have other options to find relief from any digestive/intestinal issues rather than opt for colon cleansing using enema or herbal supplements, which can harm the fetus (3).

Maintaining Good Colon Health During Pregnancy

During pregnancy, women can suffer from constipation as the fetal growth exerts pressure on the intestinal muscles. Other reasons for it can be hormonal changes, increased use of iron supplements and lack of physical activity.

Here are some measures you can take during your pregnancy to keep your colon clean and healthy.

  • If you are planning your pregnancy, stop consuming toxic products such as alcohol, tobacco, and processed foods. Also, talk to your doctor about necessary lifestyle changes such as exercises to do before and during your pregnancy. Such healthy changes can go a long way to keeping your body free of toxins (4).
  • Ensure adequate fluid intake during your pregnancy for good gut health. Proper fluid intake can minimize chances of constipation during pregnancy.
  • Consume more fiber-rich foods such as whole grains, lentils, fruits, and vegetables. If you need a fiber supplement depending on any health concern, your doctor can recommend safe fiber-based supplements and laxatives such as Citrucel and Colace. Avoid taking over-the-counter (OTC) fiber supplements or any laxatives without your doctor’s approval.
Consume more fiber in your pregnancy diet

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Pregnant women should eat about 20 to 35 grams of fiber daily (10).
  • Include physical activity in your routine during your pregnancy. Physical movement helps to keep the digestive system in good condition.
  • Talk to your doctor about your digestive health concerns to find the best solutions for you during your pregnancy.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is it normal to have colon pain during pregnancy?

Abdominal pains or mild cramps are common during pregnancy and may be caused by trapped intestinal gas and constipation. Changing your position, defecating, or passing gas may provide relief (5).

2. Can colon problems cause miscarriage?

Colon pain caused by irritable bowel syndrome may be associated with an increased risk of miscarriage (6) (7). Consult your doctor in such cases to find a treatment plan to help alleviate complications.

3. Does my colon move during pregnancy?

The growing fetus can cause the stomach and intestines to be displaced upward and laterally, while the colon may become narrowed due to compression (8).

4. Can pregnancy be a cause of colon polyps?

People with familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) are more prone to developing colon polyps. Pregnancy can worsen the disease severity and aggravate the symptoms in the upper gastrointestinal tract in FAP patients (9).

Whether to treat indigestion or relieve constipation, colon cleansing during pregnancy is unsafe. Dehydration and injuries to the colon and rectum are some adverse effects of colon cleansing that can affect your and your unborn baby’s health. Thus, you should not try colon cleansing without consulting your healthcare provider. Eating a fiber-rich diet, maintaining optimum hydration, and staying physically active are practical ways to keep your gut health sound. Speak to your doctor if you have digestive issues after making positive lifestyle and dietary changes to ensure proper prenatal care.

Infographic: Maintaining Good Colon Health During Pregnancy

Fetal weight and growing uterus during pregnancy can press on or block parts of the intestine, slowing digestion and triggering issues like constipation. However, adopting some practical lifestyle changes may help manage these digestive issues and take proper care of your colon health. Read the below infographic to learn how.

tips to keep your colon clean during pregnancy (infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

Get high-quality PDF version by clicking below.

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Download Infographic in PDF version

Key Pointers

  • Colon cleansing is a medical procedure that uses water, sometimes mixed with herbs, to clear the colon of toxins and relieve constipation.
  • Colon cleansing during pregnancy can cause dehydration, which can harm the fetus.
  • Pregnant individuals should ensure adequate water intake to promote good gut health and prevent constipation.
  • Regular exercise, as advised by a doctor, can help keep the digestive system strong and healthy during pregnancy.

References

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Colonic Irrigation When Pregnant.
    https://www.healthcentre.org.uk/colonic-irrigation/colonic-irrigation-when-pregnant.html
  2. Jonathan D. Siegel and Jack A. Di Palma; (2005); Medical Treatment of Constipation.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2780140/
  3. Steven Horne; (2006); Colon Cleansing: a popular but misunderstood natural therapy.
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17182488/
  4. Planning for pregnancy.
    https://www.cdc.gov/preconception/planning.html
  5. Stomach pain in pregnancy.
    https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/related-conditions/common-symptoms/stomach-pain/#:~:text=Stomach%20(abdominal)%20pains%20or%20cramps,a%20poo%20or%20pass%20wind
  6. Ali S Khashan; (2012); Increased risk of miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy among women with irritable bowel syndrome.
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22373726/#:~:text=Conclusions%3A%20IBS%2C%20a%20common%20disorder,care%20for%20women%20with%20IBS
  7. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS);
    https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/irritable-bowel-syndrome
  8. Sanoop Koshy Zachariah et al.; (2019); Management of acute abdomen in pregnancy: current perspectives
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6371947/
  9. Pregnancy does not influence colonic polyp multiplicity but may modulate upper gastrointestinal disease in patients with FAP
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2597927//
  10. Eating Right Before and During Pregnancy
    https://www.ucsfhealth.org/education/eating-right-before-and-during-pregnancy
  11. Pregnancy does not influence colonic polyp multiplicity but may modulate upper gastrointestinal disease in patients with FAP
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2597927/
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