[Treatment of Chronic Functional Constipation during Pregnancy and Lactation]

Z Geburtshilfe Neonatol. 2016 Feb;220(1):9-15. doi: 10.1055/s-0035-1554626. Epub 2016 Feb 11.
[Article in German]


Natural fibres (bulk-forming agents), docusate sodium (stool-softener), mineral oils (lubricant laxatives), macrogol (polyethylene glycol, PEG), sugars and sugar alcohols (osmotic laxatives) and anthraquinones and diphenolic laxatives (stimulant laxatives) seem to be safe medicaments regarding teratogenicity and lactation. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) risk categories for these substances taken during pregnancy and lactation are often the result of the lack of studies than of evidence-based information. So risk categories do not help in the decision-making for the right laxative. Alternative solutions such as proposals of the American College of Gastroenterology's Committee on FDA related matters, (ACG-FDA) and the Motherisk Programme try to improve decision-making. For newer compounds such as chloride-channel-activators and procinetics no data regarding safe use in pregnancy and during breast-feeding are available as yet. We suggest the use of macrogol and lactulose as the first-line therapy in treating chronic constipation during pregnancy. Macrogol shows some advantages, such as faster onset of bowel action and fewer flatulences. If this treatment does not work or starts but then stops working, we recommend in the second and third trimenon a second-line treatment with diphenolic laxatives such as bisacodyl and and sodium picosulfate. During pregnancy the decision on the application of these laxatives is largely determined by the side-effects of tenesmus associated with preterm births. During lactation we recommend macrogol (preferable to lactulose due to the lack of data), lactulose, bisacodyl and sodium picosulfate, according to the nature of the conditions.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding
  • Cathartics / administration & dosage*
  • Cathartics / standards
  • Constipation / diagnostic imaging
  • Constipation / therapy*
  • Female
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Lactation / drug effects*
  • Laxatives / administration & dosage*
  • Laxatives / standards
  • Obstetrics / standards
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / diagnosis
  • Pregnancy Complications / therapy*
  • Surface-Active Agents / administration & dosage
  • Surface-Active Agents / standards


  • Cathartics
  • Laxatives
  • Surface-Active Agents