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Why is constipation more common in women?

Hormonal changes may be one of the reasons that cause constipation to affect more women than men

Constipation is a problem characterized by low bowel movement, with less than three bowel movements a week, stools and hardened stools, effort and / or pain to evacuate, in addition to persistent difficulty in evacuating or feeling of incomplete evacuation1.

The problem becomes chronic when constipation persists with some of these symptoms for three months. And in this case, the disease can have many causes, such as blockages in the colon (large intestine) or rectum, anal fissure, tumors or changes in the nerves of the colon or rectum, or conditions that affect hormones in the body, such as hypothyroidism1.

However, there are some factors that predispose to chronic constipation, such as1:

  • be elderly
  • be woman
  • dehydration
  • low fiber diet
  • do little or no physical exercise
  • intake of medications such as sedatives, opioid analgesics, antidepressants
  • depression or eating disorder.
  • Why women?

    It is a fact that women appear in the group with a greater predisposition to constipation, and one of the hypotheses found by science is that the female pelvic muscles can suffer damage resulting from childbirth and gynecological surgical interventions, in addition to other disorders, very frequent during menopause2.

    Other evidence shows the higher prevalence of the problem during pregnancy2, and also due to hormonal changes3 that happen to women throughout their lives, since the increase in the hormone progesterone contributes to the reduction of intestinal transit, which leads to constipation during the menstrual cycle and during pregnancy.

    In addition, behavioral factors, histories of sexual, physical and emotional abuse can also be associated with dysfunctions of the digestive system2.

    Constipation in pregnancy

    Constipation is a very common complaint during pregnancy. To give you an idea, one to four pregnant women has the problem. There is little evidence of what can cause the problem, but it is possible to relate it to increased levels of progesterone, which decreases intestinal transit. As the hormone increases, the plasma concentration of motilin, an intestinal protein that stimulates the contraction of smooth intestinal fibers, decreases4.

    Other factors that can cause constipation during pregnancy are lack of water intake, lack of physical activity, inadequate dietary program and insufficient amount of fiber4.

    Constipation at menopause

    The proportion of women with constipation increases as age advances, so it is possible to relate constipation to menopause. When the woman stops menstruating, there is a decrease in the estrogen hormone in the female body, also occurring anatomical and physiological changes.5.

    How to relieve constipation?

    Constipation treatment can have several aspects: with medication, behavioral changes or diet6. But remember that, regardless of the line, it is important to respect the evacuation reflex, that is, go to the bathroom when you feel like it, drink water and eat fiber6, in addition to putting other measures in the routine that help prevent and treat constipation. See below what you can do to give strength to the intestine:

  • Medication: Dulcolax is an example of a drug indicated for the treatment of constipation. Composed of bisacodyl, Dulcolax acts directly on the intestine, stimulating its movement and accumulating water, which reduces intestinal transit time, in addition to stimulating defecation and promoting the softening of stools7
  • Practice physical exercises: regular exercise strengthens the abdominal muscles and stimulates peristaltic bowel movements6
  • Respect the desire to go to the bathroom: make it a habit to always evacuate at the same time and avoid holding stools6
  • Eat slowly: chewing slowly helps digest food6
  • Increase fruit consumption: fruits are rich in fibers, with soluble ones increasing fecal volume while insoluble ones stimulate peristaltic movements. The tip is to consume at least two servings of fruit a day, but don’t forget to keep the peel, part with more concentration of insoluble fibers6
  • Consume greens and vegetables daily: they are also source of fiber and responsible for providing most of the dietary fiber6
  • Include whole foods: whole foods, such as bread, rice, pasta, wheat bran, oats, flaxseed, granola, are less processed than their refined versions, so they have a greater amount of fiber, minerals and vitamins6
  • Increase your fluid consumption: keeping a bottle of water close at hand is one of the tips to increase your consumption. Natural juices and teas also help maintain healthy bowel movement6
  • Consume probiotic and prebiotic foods: probiotics are microorganisms that help to keep the intestinal microbiota balanced, providing a good functioning of the intestine. Prebiotics, in turn, serve as food for these microorganisms, stimulating their growth and reproduction6.
  • Remember that all measures must be followed by the doctor.



    1 – Mayo Clinic. Constipation. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/constipation/symptoms-causes/syc-20354253. Accessed on November 29, 2019.

    2 – Garcia, LB; Bertolini, SMMG; Souza, MV; et al. Intestinal Constipation: Epidemiological and Clinical Aspects. Revista Saúde e Pesquisa (2016); v. 9, n. 1, 153: 162. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.177651/1983-1870.2016v9n1p153-162.

    3 – Chiarelli, P., Brown, W. and McElduff, P. Constipation in Australian Women: Prevalence and Associated Factors. International Urogynecol Journal (2000); 11:71. https://doi.org/10.1007/s001920050073.

    4 – Kawaguti FS; Klug WA; Fang CB; et al. Constipation in Pregnancy. Revista Brasileira Coloproctologia (2008); 28 (1): 046-049. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Fabio_Kawaguti/publication/262506862_Constipation_in_pregnancy/links/5448ec220cf2f14fb814526a/Constipation-in-pregnancy.pdf.

    5 – Oliveira, SCM, Pinto-Neto AM; Count, DM; et al. Intestinal Constipation in Postmenopausal Women. Brazilian Medical Association Magazine (2005); 51 (6), 334: 41. https://doi.org/10.1590/S0104-42302005000600017.

    6 – Brazilian Federation of Gastroenterology. The Important Role of Diets for Digestive Health. Available at: http://www.hospitalsantalucinda.com.br/downloads/saude-digestiva.pdf. Accessed on November 29, 2019.

    7 – Dulcolax® (Product package insert). Sanofi-Aventis Farmacêutica Ltda. Available at: https://www.dulco.com.br/static_resources/bulas/bula-dulcolax-paciente.pdf. Accessed on February 10, 2020 .

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