This post may contain affiliate links to items I love, and I am confident you will too! All opinions are my own, however, I may receive a small commission on purchases. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. For any health advice I give on nutrition and weight loss, make sure you check with your doctor, as I am not a health professional.
Before childbirth, you’ll have many people telling you about the complicated challenges women undergo, both before and after pregnancy. From sheer hormonal changes to baby blues, many things are happening inside during and after pregnancy that pregnant women are prepped for.
Though, out of all these things, hardly anyone talks about the hit that the digestive system takes after childbirth and how hard that first postpartum poop can be.
And pair that with all the hormonal changes that deal with breast milk production, and there’s a lot of stress and anxiety, which can, in turn, lead to a whole other side of digestive disorders, like IBS.
Regardless of whether you’ve had a vaginal birth or c-section, most women go through a series of different bowel movement problems that lead up to that first postpartum poop, which include constipation, poop leakage, and reduced bowel function.
However, it’s quite normal to experience all of these things, and knowing what to expect always tends to put you in a better headspace to figure your way out.
Here’s an overview of what you need to know about your postpartum bowel movements and how you can easily navigate this part of motherhood.
First Off, Postpartum Poop Problems Are Normal
Motherhood comes with many milestones that new mothers are eager to achieve, but if we list the ones they’re often embarrassed about, it revolves around their postpartum bowel movement. If this is your first pregnancy, this may come as more of a surprise than if you’ve been through childbirth before.
Charbel Salamon, a Urogynecologist at Winnie Palmer Hospital, explains that childbirth can stretch or morph a lot of ligaments and muscles in the pelvis, called the pelvic floor.
These muscles, also termed pelvic floor muscles, can stretch and tear during delivery, weakening the pelvic floor in women. When that happens, the pelvic organs’ core functions are affected, including bowel movement, rectal muscles, bladder function, and more.
This leads to many problems in your first bowel movement after delivery and persistent difficulties in bowel movements after the first one.
Postpartum Bowel Movements: Why Do They Change?
If it wasn’t already obvious, a significant change happens in your body when you experience childbirth.
Pushing a baby out of your body isn’t exactly the easiest thing to go through, and as a result, many different things weigh in and start to make changes, ones that result in changed bowel movements.
In addition, external factors like medical interventions, anxiety, and stress can also make your first postpartum bowel movement hard to come. Here’s an overview of all these factors to give you a better idea.
As we mentioned before, the body goes through a major set of changes, which holds for almost every woman becoming a new mother.
Uterine contractions are the first problem in many women after childbirth, resulting from the uterus shrinking to its original size. When it contracts and cramps, you might experience the need to go to the bathroom suddenly.
Pelvic floor muscles, and the overall changes to the pelvic floor(as a result of vaginal delivery), can cause problems in the rectal region as well, which might get you constipated.
Inflammation due to stress is also a major contender in problems with pooping after birth and can cause diarrhea and constipation.
In terms of labor and delivery, most women are bound to have problems with their bowel movements, especially the ones that have had a C-section.
This is because, for non-vaginal birth, patients are given a lot of different medications before and after birth, a lot of which intervene with the gut-brain axis and the gut microbiome, as explained in this comprehensive study.
Even in the case of vaginal delivery, perineal stitches, additional iron supplements, and strict labor restrictions can put the digestive system in a tight spot and make it a lot harder for that first postpartum bowel movement.
Not Prioritizing Self-Care
As beautiful as parenthood is, it can take, unimaginably, a lot of space in the parents’ lives, even more so for the mother.
From settling into the new headspace of being a mother to taking care of the billion needs of the new baby, it’s hard to lose track of your health and neglect any form of self-care towards yourself.
Self-care neglect that can lead to reduced bowel movements can look like the following, but this list certainly isn’t exhaustive.
- Decreased water intake
- Lack of sleep
- Increased feelings of fatigue
- Not answering nature’s call when you should
Postpartum Embarrassment and Fear
Yep, it’s not just you. Postpartum embarrassment is very much real and can be anything from feeling fearful of going to the bathroom, even to pee, to feelings of the embarrassment of going to the bathroom, especially if someone else is nearby.
This is often why bowel movements shortly after the postpartum can be hard to deal with since there’s always an audience in the hospital room for most childbirth cases.
Medical practitioners often prescribe stool softeners to cater to that problem, as it helps ease the first bowel movement and encourages you to get up and go to the bathroom.
Common Postpartum Poop Problems – And How To Treat Them
Now that we’ve discussed crucial reasons why pooping can change after childbirth (at least for a few weeks), it’s essential to know the exact problems you might experience and how you can navigate them to feel better.
To make it easier on you, we’ve listed some of the major postpartum poop problems below, with quick and easy methods to navigate these troubling waters.
According to The Woman’s Royal Hospital, fetal incontinence is a problem that affects 25% of women after childbirth. Though it’s easily treatable depending on its severity, many women refrain from telling their doctors about this problem, largely because they’re shy and embarrassed.
However, it’s essential to know that if you’ve given birth, there’s a high chance you already have fecal incontinence, which is marked by accidental anal leakage.
Fecal Incontinence is treated by many different methods, ranging from small lifestyle changes to invasive surgery for severe cases.
That’s why we recommend telling your healthcare provider about everything to make it easier for you and your newborn baby.
Constipation postpartum can feel like it’s never going to end, and it can stick around longer than usual if you’re not actively doing anything about it. We recommend doing some of the following for postpartum constipation, if not all:
Add IBS Supplements:
Pre and Probiotics have been mainly researched to help with the digestive process and disorders like constipation and diarrhea. Especially ones that contain soluble fibers.
In addition, it’ll also help you boost your digestive function and system, preventing future disorders like these.
Most physicians even recommend IBS patients consume more dietary fiber to relieve symptoms. Even if you don’t have IBS, incorporating dietary fiber foods in your diet can greatly benefit your gut and digestion.
Supplements like IBSupport by Gistive are great for adding vital pre-and-probiotics superfoods to your diet to help combat postpartum constipation.
BONUS: Use code ‘JOYFUL’ to get 10% OFF your first purchase of IBSupport by Gistive.
Drink Plenty Of Water:
Doctors recommend new mothers drink up to 100 ounces of water, as it’s a natural stool softener and plays and important role in getting the bowel movement running if you’re shooting empty.
Use A Stool Softener:
Stool softener medicines, as we’ve mentioned before, allow you to not only ease up but encourage you to go to the bathroom even if you’re not feeling like it. In terms of constipation, they’re pretty helpful if you’re constipated and can relieve some digestive discomfort.
Unless you’re restricted due to a C-section delivery, moving your body lightly is a great way to get the ball rolling. Though, it’s imperative that you set realistic goals about how much you should be moving, as it can lead to injury.
Postpartum diarrhea often comes with stretching or tearing of the rectal muscles, often during childbirth. Heads up for moms-to-be; you might take bathroom trips more often than you thought. Try to eat smaller frequent meals rather than big meals and a healthy diet to allow the gastrointestinal tract to not get overloaded and enable healthy digestion.
Regarding the fixes, doctors often recommend following the BRAT diet to eliminate diarrhea, including bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. Though if you’re thinking about it, these aren’t just randomly selected food items but are considered what we like to call “binding foods” that help against diarrhea. Getting a healthy gut back is the most important thing.
In addition, those sleepless nights of taking care of the baby might tempt you to up your coffee intake. However, professional practitioners strongly urge you to refrain from caffeine. Caffeine, in any form, can trigger the digestive tract for bowel movements almost instantly. So if you’re struggling with diarrhea, we’d recommend putting that cup of joe down.
Postpartum hemorrhoids are common, especially for women who go through vaginal delivery. Not treating them correctly can worsen your hemorrhoids, resulting in a lot of pain and rectal itching.
The first method we’ve seen doctors recommend to prevent hemorrhoids is a sitz bath, a fancy name for a shallow bath of warm water for you to sit on. Though, as fancy as it sounds, it can be quite helpful in relaxing your anal sphincter and letting the healing process begin.
Know When To Get Help
Motherhood is easier said than done, and those first few weeks of postpartum will have you hanging by threads, if not worse. However, having an idea of what to expect and how to deal with problems can mean the world when you’re stuck in a pickle that you can’t get out of.
However, though this guide is fully aware of how to deal with postpartum poops, knowing when you need assistance from a health care provider and help is an integral part of new motherhood.
Never expect to deal with everything yourself; if you think something is out of your self-care scope, call your healthcare professional immediately.
Words Of Wisdom
We talk about many complications, possible bad scenarios, and problems that occur after the delivery, but it’s essential to realize that in most childbirth cases, complications are rare.
In fact, according to Hopkins Medicine, only 8% of pregnancies in the world occur any difficulties, and an even lesser percentage of them turn out to be harmful to the mothers or the baby.
So keep that in mind, and enjoy the blissfulness of motherhood in its complete purity. In the case of your bowel movements, you’re likely going to get that sorted out quickly, provided you’re following the above guides we’ve mentioned and appropriate medical advice if needed.