Fibre in pregnancy
Read time: 4 minutes
Fibre is an important part of a healthy pregnancy diet, yet many women aren’t getting enough1. Discover which foods are high in fibre to increase your daily intake and how this plant-based food helps to support your digestive system at a time when you’re more susceptible to constipation.
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Why fibre is important during pregnancy?
Well-known for its role in keeping the digestive system running smoothly, fibre is an important part of a healthy pregnancy diet.
Found in plant-based foods, fibre is the part of the plant that the body can’t digest. By moving through the body, rather than being absorbed, it helps other waste to pass through more efficiently.
There are two types of fibre, and many foods contain both types:
Insoluble fibre does not dissolve in water or break down in the body. Instead, it absorbs water along the way and helps other foods move through your system2.
Soluble fibre can also absorb water, making stools softer and easier to pass. It has the added benefit of binding with cholesterol to lower your levels and can help to reduce your risk of heart problems2.
Fibre and reducing common pregnancy discomforts
Constipation is a common pregnancy problem but is less likely to occur if you eat a diet rich in fibre. It can also be a result of you not drinking enough water to meet your increased fluid needs3.
A sluggish system is also partly due to your increased levels of progesterone during pregnancy. Progesterone is a natural muscle relaxant and makes the bowel muscles less effective, so waste stays in the large intestine for longer. The body then reabsorbs water from the stools, making them firmer and harder to pass4.
Although constipation is thought of as a mild discomfort, left without treatment it can lead to piles (haemorrhoids), which can become painful and sore5. If you do get piles, your healthcare professional can suggest effective ways to relieve the symptoms.
The best way to minimise these uncomfortable conditions is to include several sources of fibre in your diet each day, drink plenty of fluids and stay active .
Foods that are high in fibre
A National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) found that 87% of the UK population aren’t eating their recommended 18g of fibre per day5.
If you think you may not be getting enough fibre, there are some simple changes you can make to increase your intake. Find out which vitamins and supplements you should include in your pregnancy diet, too.
Many carbohydrates, including bananas, apples, beans, lentils and chickpeas, are also high in fibre, giving you the best of both worlds.
Key sources of fibre1:
- Granary and brown bread
- Shredded wheat and wheat biscuits
- Bran cereal and bran flakes
- Brown rice (opt for a high-fibre version over white varieties)
- Dried fruit such as apricots and figs
- Root vegetables (carrots and potatoes are good sources)
- Corn on the cob
- Cabbage (green and raw)
- Beans and peas (green and raw)
- Baked beans
Tips for adding fibre to your pregnancy diet
- Choose wholegrain versions of foods like bread, pasta, cereal and rice.
- Add extra vegetables to your sauces, curries and casseroles, or include them as an extra side serving.
- Eat raw fruit and vegetables as snacks between meals.
- Leave the skins on your fruit and vegetables when possible.
- Add a handful of nuts to your cereal, or sprinkle pumpkin seeds on salads.
Read more about eating for two
- NHS. Why is fibre important? [Online]. 2018. Available at: www.nhs.uk/chq/Pages/1141.aspx?CategoryID=51&SubCategoryID=167 [Accessed February 2020]
- NHS. Information on Fibre [Online]. 2018. Available at: https://www.ouh.nhs.uk/patient-guide/leaflets/files/11855Pfibre.pdf [Accessed February 2020]
- Agostoni CV et al. Scientific opinion on dietary reference values for water. EFSA journal 2010;8(3)1459.
- NHS. Constipation – causes [Online]. 2019. Available at: www.nhs.uk/conditions/constipation/ [Accessed February 2020]
- NHS. Piles in pregnancy [Online]. 2018. Available at: www.nhs.uk/Conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/Pages/piles-haemorrhoids-pregnant.aspx [Accessed February 2020]
Last reviewed: 28th July 2020
Reviewed by Nutricia’s Medical and Scientific Affairs Team
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