Oh, Crap! | What I Wish I Knew

Constipation After Birth

Welcome to part two of our blog series entitled What I Wish I Knew. You can find part one here.

In this series we explore topics that now-experienced parents wish they would have known more about before they went through pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. When we asked this question, the most common answer we received (by a long shot) was that many mothers wish they would have known that the first bowel movement after giving birth can be quite a struggle. Although it may be an uncomfortable topic, we want you to be fully prepared to tackle this unpleasant issue.

We are so grateful for professionally trained birth doulas and postpartum doulas, but after hearing several horror stories of postpartum bathroom problems, it’s clear that what Fort Worth, Dallas, and the rest of the world really needs is postpartum constipation doulas. Someone to hold our hand and talk us through relaxation techniques on the toilet. Someone to bring us water and wipe the sweat from our brow when we need a break from pushing. Someone to wholeheartedly support our decision when we request medication to ease the process a bit. Okay, maybe we’re kidding, and we can guarantee that almost any birth doula or postpartum doula would actually do all those things for you, even while using the restroom. No extra certification for constipation support necessary.

So what causes this intimidating phenomenon?

Constipation tends to be very common during pregnancy due to several contributing factors. Your digestive system slows down considerably, prenatal vitamins often have a high iron content, physical activity tends to decrease, and your diet may be lacking adequate fiber and water. If you are struggling with hemorrhoids, another common side effect of pregnancy, this can complicate constipation issues even further.

During birth, there are additional components that may lead to constipation. You may forgo food and water longer than you normally would, resulting in dehydration. If you are breastfeeding, you may be further at risk for dehydration. Certain narcotic pain medications or anesthetics given during labor or a cesarean birth can cause your muscles to be sluggish and slow down your digestive system. After birth, your pelvic floor muscles may be weakened. Discomfort in the perineum or from the surgical site may cause you to delay using the restroom longer to avoid pain.

What can you do to avoid constipation?

All of these issues in pregnancy and birth have the potential to pave the way to an unpleasant restroom experience after birth; however, with a little mindfulness and preparation, you may be able to avoid the worst of it. Many of these tips may also help prevent hemorrhoids, as well as make for an overall healthier pregnancy.

1. Drink plenty of water during pregnancy, labor, and postpartum. Lots and lots of water.

2. Remain active during pregnancy. Resting is important to your recovery after birth, but depending on the circumstances, a little bit of walking may help to keep things moving.

3. Eat foods high in fiber, such as whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. Avoid low fiber foods made with refined white flour.

4. Seek regular prenatal chiropractic care. Not only is this great for keeping your spine and pelvis aligned for optimal health for the mother and child, it also restores function to the nervous system, which helps constipation to resolve naturally.

5. After birth, try not to hold things in. This will only makes it worse and potentially cause more pain. Try to use the restroom as early and often as you can.

6. If you are already constipated, temporarily adding prune juice or senna tea to your diet in small quantities may help to get your bowels moving. You may want to avoid drinking too much to prevent having the opposite problem of diarrhea.

7. Asking your health care provider for a stool softener after birth may be beneficial. Stool softeners increase water absorption in the stool, making it easier to pass. In more severe cases, a laxative may be necessary. Laxatives stimulate the digestive tract walls, speeding up the bowel movement process.

We hope this information makes the first trip to the toilet after birth a more positive experience. And if you need additional support, we’re confident we can doula you through it.

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