Because Everyone Deserves to Poop Without Pain
Pain or discomfort, straining, hard stool and straight up FEAR are some of the most common things I hear about when talking about early postpartum bowel movements. Maybe you just pushed out a 7lb baby or had major abdominal surgery - either way, those initial bowel movements come with mixed emotions and physical obstacles.
The Causes of Postpartum Constipation
Even good old Cochrane(1) has looked at preventing postpartum constipation. They state that there are many factors leading to constipation after childbirth, including: "the administration of enemas before labour, the ability of women to eat during active labour, and irregular and altered eating habits during the first few days after delivery can each have an influence on bowel movements in the days after giving birth." Unfortunately their goal of being able to prevent postpartum constipation was foiled because surprise, surprise, research has neglected to really look at treatment for postpartum constipation!
So what does this mean/how can I not be afraid of pooping after having a baby?
Ok, we don't know EXACTLY the cause of postpartum constipation - maybe it is hormones (I'm looking at you, progesterone), maybe it is a shift in organs within the abdominal cavity or protecting the perineum after childbirth, or a combination of all the above. While I wish we knew the cause, let's look at what we do know - how to help support the system so bowel movements are not painful!
Staying hydrated in the early postpartum period means drinking at least 8 cups of water a day, possibly more! When the body doesn't have enough water, it naturally steals it from other areas. This is why one of the first signs of dehydration can be constipation. Traditional Chinese Medicine recommends warm liquids so the body does not have to heat up (or dry things out) in order to process foods and beverages.
2. INCREASE ROUGHAGE
Do you remember how Grandma always insisted you needed prunes? Well, she may not have been wrong. A diet high in fiber like split peas, figs, chickpeas, beans, nuts, flaxseed, carrots, potatoes, berries, kale, spinach, prunes, etc. and low in processed foods naturally helps the bowels maintain a steady flow. Make a smoothie, eat a salad, have sautéed veggies, eat whatever you love and eat enough of it!
3. PERINEAL SPRAY BOTTLES
The spray bottle is basically a woman's BFF in the postpartum time period. If you have any amount of tearing then the spray bottle can help by applying water while you are having the bowel movement.
Those babies are feisty little beings when they are inside and tend to push our intestines out of the way to make room for themselves. In the non-pregnant person, the diaphragm can actually push the organs downward up to 10mm (feel free to go get a ruler and measure how big 10mm is, it's crazy!). The movement of the diaphragm through breathing acts as a visceral massage for your intestines, massaging the poop down and out of the system.
Have you ever heard of the phrase rest & digest? Well, we are best equipped to digest, process and expel our food when we are in a relaxed stage. This takes our body from the fight or flight stage and allows us to relax enough to do our thing. Relaxing and/or meditating for a few minutes a couple times of day can help calm the body, mind, soul and bowels. Added bonus? Relaxation can help improve your breath so it acts as a two-for-one bowel improver!
Movement encourages movement and in the postpartum period it is important to get a nice flow. Get up and move! It doesn't have to be intense, but even a 5-10 minute walk every awake hour can ease constipation.
BONUS: SQUAT IT
The Squatty Potty is well-loved for a reason, it is great at putting the bowels in a position for optimal removal!
Need Help? Let us know! There's no shame in having postpartum constipation because seriously, you are not alone. Call 331-307-7110 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Lauren today!