Following the successful delivery of the baby and the placenta comes delivering the first postpartum bowel movement. Although this may sound overwhelming, we have you covered with a guide to postpartum pooping.
This guide details the before, during, and after process for this often-feared addition to the aftermath of pregnancy and what you can do to ease the discomfort that you may experience.
How to Improve Bowel Movements During Pregnancy
Here are a few ways to lessen the discomfort with bowel movements after childbirth:
To prepare the body for childbirth and postpartum bowel movements, there are several techniques you can use during your pregnancy. The first exercise is perineal massages, which you can start roughly 35 weeks into your pregnancy.
It helps to have you or your partner use any water-soluble lubricants or natural oils for this massage.
To begin, place both your thumbs one inch inside your vagina and simply massage in a U-shaped motion along the wall of your vagina towards the anus.
Holding this position for one or two minutes at a time can vastly improve your postpartum pooping experience. This might seem awkward at first, but this massage prepares your perineum — the area between your vagina and anus — for stretching during childbirth.
Yoga enthusiasts, this one’s for you: child’s pose is another great exercise that helps lengthen your pelvic floor muscles.
Begin this stretch by kneeling on the floor with your toes together while keeping your knees hip-width apart. Exhale and lower your torso between your knees and extend your arms to reach as far forward across the floor as you can, lowering your forearms to your yoga mat and keeping your head down.
For an extra stretch, try to rest your forehead on the mat.
If you love squats, you will love this next stretch: the deep squat. Doing this exercise throughout your pregnancy also helps to stretch the perineum.
For this stretch, stand up with your feet shoulder-width apart while also making sure your feet are pointed outward. Let your arms hang in front of you as you squat down into a deep, sumo-squat.
You should feel this in your glutes, pelvis and quads!
You’ve probably heard of kegels before, especially because they can decrease the likelihood of postpartum incontinence as well as pelvic floor issues. For those that have made doing kegels a habit, you might have a shortened active phase of labor.
This exercise is great for before, during and after your pregnancy in addition to helping strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.
With an empty bladder, lay on your back with your knees bent. Tighten your glutes and quads to lift your pelvis up into a bridge for three to five seconds at a time in five-minute intervals once or twice a day.
Make sure your arms are lying flat on your mat and that your abs are not engaged.
What Happens In the Delivery Room
There are certain things that women in childbirth often experience which can cause anxiety regarding postpartum bowel movements.
Perineal Tears and Episiotomies
An episiotomy is a medical term for the surgical incision of the perineum often needed during delivery. The difference between the two is that perineal tears are natural whereas episiotomies are medical interventions where a nurse will make the surgical incision in the perineum to enlarge the vaginal opening.
According to BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 80% of women are affected by perineal tears during childbirth.
Pooping & Enemas During Delivery
Another common occurrence is pooping during delivery — it’s totally normal! There’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Even if you don’t think you did, nurses have the superb ability of cleaning it up so that the delivering mothers don’t even know! This often results in empty bowels after delivery so you may not have the urge to go to the bathroom after childbirth.
The next time you go to the bathroom after delivery, remember to be patient and wait for your body to work up to its first postpartum poop.
Enemas, on the other hand, are when a liquid is injected into the rectum to cause the passing of a stool. This can be helpful for those experiencing constipation or simply the need to empty one’s bowels without being able to do so naturally.
How Childbirth Affects Bowel Movements
Loosened Pelvic, Rectal & Abdominal Muscles
During pregnancy, labor and delivery, women will often experience loosened muscles, which are caused by a special hormone called relaxin, which peaks in your first and third trimester. This hormone causes your pelvic, rectal and abdominal muscles to loosen to prepare your body for delivery, and this holds true regardless of whether you had a vaginal birth or a cesarean section.
Relaxin is able to increase the elasticity in your tissues, muscles and ligaments which is why your joints will often ache and why your back might hurt! This hormone stays in your system for up to five months after childbirth which is why the ache is still around.
Hormones and Stress
One could argue that the aftermath of childbirth might be more difficult than the delivery itself, mostly because the hormones your body used while pregnant aren’t necessarily needed anymore, so there are a lot of changes as your body returns to normal.
More specifically, progesterone is a hormone made by the placenta that returns to normal after childbirth. On the other hand, estrogen remains at a high after delivery which is why you might feel extra emotional, moody and weepy in the coming weeks.
How to Have an Easy Postpartum Poop Experience
The hard part is over — that is, the delivery part is over. As your body returns to its natural state, there are several ways to mitigate the aftermath of pregnancy and improve your postpartum poop experience.
Drink Water and Eat Healthy
We know that telling you to drink water seems silly, but childbirth often leaves women dehydrated. The biggest culprit for constipation is — you guessed it — dehydration.
You also lose fluids during childbirth so replenishing your body with water and hydrating fluids is imperative to easy bowel movements. Just like during your pregnancy, you should be drinking between two and three liters of water per day.
Although it’s tempting to eat convenient fast food, opt for healthy, fiber-rich foods and snacks which will help your sluggish digestion. Some great additions to your diet include whole grains, nuts and fresh produce.
Take Care Down There
Your perineum will likely be sore whether or not you’ve had a tear or an episiotomy, so don’t be surprised if you feel pressure or pain down there.
Some essentials you can use to alleviate this postpartum discomfort include but aren’t limited to a sitz bath, Dermoplast or over-the-counter pain relievers. Make sure to sit on cushions as opposed to hard surfaces so that you can have relief from painful sitting.
A recent postpartum fad is the combination of a pad and a popsicle, often called a padsicle.
To make your own, smother maxi pads with aloe vera gel, Dermoplast or witch hazel and lavender essential oil. Then, pop them in the freezer for a refreshing and cooling padsicle to soothe your perineum.
Since padsicles aren’t store bought, it’s advisable to prepare them in bulk prior to or following childbirth so that you have easy access to relief.
Related Post: Postpartum Essentials for Recovery from Childbirth
Use Stool Softeners
When the hospital or birthing center offers or recommends stool softeners, we highly encourage you to take them.
Stool softeners aren’t to be confused with laxatives; instead, they help prevent your stool from hardening and make it so that bowel movements are easier to pass when they do arrive.
Feel free to take stool softeners for up to three days after childbirth.
Listen to Your Body
It might be tempting to ignore the urge to pass a stool out of fear, but it’s important to take a deep breath and let it happen. Holding it in only makes you more constipated!
It helps to use a toilet stool to raise your feet so that your colon can relax for an easy postpartum poop experience.
Once you’re ready, some light cardio like going for a walk not only improves your mood but your digestion! Not to mention a breath of fresh air — even if it’s just 10 minutes — activates your body and your bowels to eradicate any instance of constipation.
Now that we’ve given you all the postpartum pooping guidance you may possibly need, it’s natural to feel anxious about your first postpartum bowel movement. However, it’s important to note that it’s a small feat in comparison to what you’ve already done.
No matter where you are in the process, there are things you can do to mitigate your postpartum poop experience: if you’re pregnant, doing pelvic floor exercises and perineal massages can help you prepare for childbirth.
After pregnancy, it’s a good idea to keep Epsom salt for sitz baths and padsicles on hand. Products like toilet stools and warm water bidets can also ease the process to encourage healthy bowel movements as you recover from delivery and take care of your little one.
Author Bio: Mitali Shukla is a content writer based out of Seattle who recently graduated from Chapman University. Prior to her tenure as Content Writing Intern at Siege Media, she has worked for Los Angeles events publication DoLA as a Content & Social Media Intern and The Panther Newspaper as their Features & Entertainment Editor. For more, visit her website at www.mitalishukla.com.