Here’s a guest post by Hailie Wolfe on a topic we all can relate to!
Everyone poops. It’s true. It’s a normal, everyday part of life that we don’t think twice about. Until we give birth and have our first postpartum poop.
True Story –“When Abbie was one week old (Christmas Eve), Kevin went to work for the morning and my mom had left the day before. I was all, “I got this. It’s four hours.” When he came home at lunch I was sitting on the potty, half-naked, crying, and holding a screaming newborn with a two-year-old crying at my feet. It was horrible. He still laughs to this day. At least he took the kids that day before he laughed in front of me. I wish there was a choice to poop or rip your arms off because I would have chosen the second! Lol.” (Notice the “Lol” at the end? Proof that you can get through this and laugh about it later).
This story is not uncommon. Postpartum poop issues are probably the number one physical complaint from new moms (and even new again moms). And poop problems don’t discriminate either. No matter the mode of delivery, cesarean or vaginal, emptying the bowels can be an intimidating process. If you’re pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant, there are a few things you need to know to help you survive your first postpartum jaunt on the porcelain throne.
With the help of several mama friends and fellow Birth Boot Camp instructors, I have created Your Ultimate Guide to Helping it Slide. Enjoy.
Postpartum Poop Experiences
The first thing you need to know is that experiences vary greatly. When I solicited fellow veteran moms, the descriptions of their experiences ranged anywhere from “What’s the big deal?” to “I thought death was upon me.” The truth is, most women fall somewhere in the middle. Having a little background information is the best way to prepare.
If you’re one of the few women who have absolutely no issue going #2 after giving birth, consider yourself lucky and give thanks. Most women experience at least some discomfort. After birth, many women have some internal swelling and/or bruising which will make things a bit more sensitive than normal. This can cause a fear of going number 2.
In addition, many moms experience a level of constipation before the baby even comes. Prenatal constipation is a common issue for many moms, no matter how many babies they have had. Constipation during pregnancy is often caused by the additional hormones, especially progesterone, causing our food to digest more slowly (and take longer to come out on the other side). In addition, we also have a large growing bump pushing down on our uterus, which pushes onto our rectum, making it harder for us to push anything out. Oh, and those prenatal vitamins? The extra iron in them can cause constipation, too.
Constipation doesn’t stop after you have the baby, either. You think that pushing out a baby would help everything come out but that isn’t often the case. Many times constipation continues for weeks or months after birth because you still have additional hormones coursing through your body. And you’re probably still taking those prenatal vitamins, whose additional iron just makes it that much harder to go.
But constipation is only part of the battle. Constipation not only includes not being able to physically push a bowel movement out but also being too scared to push one out because of the pain or the fear of pain. Some moms are so tender in their vaginal and rectal areas
that they are scared of the pain a postpartum poop will cause. In the case of cesarean- section moms, they are afraid of pushing with their abdomen because of their surgical wounds. In the end, holding it in can further perpetuate the issue of constipation making it harder to go and making new moms (and new again moms) scared to even try. Its like an endless cycle of poop and fear- and that’s the last thing you want to be worried about with a newborn at home.
Just as in the case of giving birth, fears need to be addressed when you’re feeling nervous about the task ahead. You should work through these fears by talking to your mom, DOULA or TMI-Go-To-Friend. Address what you are nervous about. Is it pain? Stitches popping? Someone watching you? (sometimes a nurse or other care provider will be in the room to assist).Verbalize your fears and concerns. You will be met with empathy and nice words to help you calm down.
Postpartum Poop Diet Guide
The food you’re putting into your body will have an impact on your ability to poo with ease. Instructor, Julia West, recommends eating plenty of fiber and eliminating white flour the first week postpartum. Also, don’t forget to hydrate! Make sure you are drinking plenty of water. Instructor Janine recommends establishing what she calls a “greasy gut.” “Many mothers find [it helpful to stay] hydrated, and get their gut lubed up by drinking lemon water, homemade bone broth, eating fermented foods, and avoiding things that slow digestion (dairy, sugar, too much “rabbit food,” processed foods, etc.). This keeps things moving so that first camping trip to the bathroom isn’t too bad. In eastern cultures, fermented foods and soup are all a mother eats for a few weeks to recharge lost hydration, minerals, etc.”
Here are some foods that can help you work out those hard stools in a natural way:
• Prunes or prune juice
• Chocolate covered prunes (Oh, yes- they do make these!)
• Dark, leafy greens like spinach
• Sweet potato
• Chia seeds
• Whole-grain rye bread
• Oat bran
Changing up your diet to include some of these foods could help you work out some of the problematic poops- they will help soften the waste so that it is easier to push out, almost working like a natural stool softener.
Other Ways To Work The Postpartum Poop Out
Positions & Comfort Measures
Many moms report that they feel like they’re birthing another baby when they go for that first postpartum poop. The labor positions and comfort measures you learned in birth class will definitely come in handy! You’ve heard of women who “breathe” their baby out? Well, breathing is helpful with working on a monster poop, too – take deep breaths through the nose and blow out through the mouth! Close your eyes and RELAX your bottom! Some women like to enhance their squat with a Squatty Potty, a stool created specifically to enhance your squat while – well, going potty. If you don’t have one, you could also use a footstool, or a couple stacks of magazines. Some moms also find it helpful to lean forward a bit.
Instructor, Kristi Keen, says to be mindful of sphincter law. Yes, it’s a real thing. You should be learning about it in birth class! Our sphincters will clamp up if we feel uncomfortable or aren’t able to relax – like how you get “pee shy” and can’t go in a public restroom. Consider additional privacy if someone is watching you. Also make sure your brow is relaxed and your jaw is OPEN. Our bottoms mimic the actions of our faces. I know, that sounds weird… I can’t think of a better way to communicate it, but try this: scrunch your face up really tight – you know, typical poo-poo-face style. Now, take notice of your butt. It’s all scrunched up too. Now relax your face and open your jaw. BAM! Your butt is relaxed! Good job, butt!
Supporting areas where you are tender can be helpful as well. Instructor, Melissa Kosloski, says it is comforting to support your lady parts as you go, especially if stitches are involved. Instructor, Courtney Alva, encourages her clients to buy cheap washcloths at Wal-Mart (ones you don’t mind tossing). You can use those to support your sensitive perineum without toilet paper disintegrating and polluting your recovering lady garden. Supporting the incision site after a cesarean is helpful too. You can use a pillow or rolled-up towel to hug or gently hold against your abdomen. Some women find it beneficial to make some noise or talk themselves through it.
Just remember, if you need to cry out in agony, low noises seem to work better than shrill ones. Refer back to sphincter law.
Postpartum Poop and Timing
Don’t underestimate the importance of timing when it comes to evacuating a postpartum poop. When you feel the urge, GO! Don’t force it, but don’t wait and hold it in – many women do this because they are afraid to go. This can lead to additional constipation issues and just makes things worse altogether. You may not be able to time things out so that you’re home when you feel the urge, but what are you doing out and about anyway? You just had a baby. No, you’re not sick or crippled, but staying home and resting and bonding with baby should be your top priorities. And when the time comes to poop, you’re in the comfort of your own home! Again, remember sphincter law? We want you comfortable! Pooping in public or at someone else’s house? NOT comfortable! Get it? Stay.At.Home.
Postpartum Poop Products & Remedies
Stool softeners are the most commonly recommended remedy. Several moms who had scheduled cesareans said that after baby #1 they learned that it was helpful to start taking stool softeners a couple days leading up to the delivery date – this way, they didn’t have to wait for anything to kick in. If you have a vaginal delivery, ask for those stool softeners shortly after the birth. Don’t wait around. If anything, they’ll at least calm your mental state as you psych yourself up for for the big event.
Some moms enjoyed having a stash of wet wipes or Tucks pads to wipe their bottoms with instead of toilet paper. You want soothing products for your bum. You’ll be given a peri- bottle at the hospital. You can fill it with lukewarm water and a drop or two of tea tree oil for a cool, soothing effect.
I personally enjoyed Earth Mama Organics products. They have Organic Perineal Balm, Herbal Perineal Spray and Organic Herbal Sitz Bath sachets. Sarah Clark (better known as Mama Birth) mentioned using liquid chlorophyll to help keep things loose.
There are lots of other products to help move things along as well – Senna Tea, Colace, Miralax, etc. Apple Juice is also known for its ability to help loosen the bowels. Cold packs are nice to have handy too. If your bottom is sore, a cold pack can help with swelling and may even give you just a bit of a numbing sensation to help with the pooping process. Make sure your cold pack is wrapped in a towel or soft cloth and that you aren’t getting things too cold down there – if it doesn’t feel comfortable, that means you’re done with the ice pack for now. Ten minutes is usually a good rule of thumb.
Dealing with Hemorrhoids–Postpartum Poop Bad Guys
Yup, these bad boys get their own section of the slide guide. Sometimes pregnancy and/or birth can lead to hemorrhoids, swollen veins in the anal canal that may cause pain and/or itching. Again, Tucks pads (especially the ones with witch hazel) can be very nice on a sore behind. Having a hydrocortisone cream on hand can aid with the swelling and itching. In my quest for information, rutin was recommended. I had never heard of it before, but apparently it helps strengthen weakened blood vessels. Rutin helps vitamin C absorb better and is found in citrus, onions and broccoli and supplements are also available. Essential oils are everywhere these days, and I can say from experience that they can be helpful to the ailing bottom. Make sure you dilute them with a carrier oil, such as coconut oil first! Lavender is helpful for itching and Frankincense is a good anti-inflammatory. I also like the cooling effect of peppermint oil – it is soothing and the coolness helps with itching. To be clear, these go on your bottom. I, personally, would NOT use peppermint oil on my vulva. YOWZERS!
*as with any medication, or OTC product, always talk it out with your care provider
– Use pain meds only as needed. Some are known to cause constipation, so you don’t want to over-do it.
– I think this was mentioned already, but it’s important enough to say it again… NO strained pushing – let it slide out.
– Take your time. Don’t force it if it’s not ready to make its way out.
– Go when you have to go- don’t hold it in and don’t wait. Your body is your best friend and your worst enemy. Try to keep it on the friend side and listen to it!
– It’s worth noting that urinating may come with a burning sensation – you can dilute your pee with water in a peri-bottle during urination to help reduce the sting. If you’re struggling to pee, you might get a whiff of peppermint oil or turn on a faucet to enhance the urge.
– Passing gas my seem uncomfortable too. Walking can help the wind pass a bit easier. When you hold the toots in, sometimes it can cause nausea or vomiting – get moving to avoid that jazz.
– If the constipation is on-going, take a visit to your doctor. In very rare cases, there may be a blockage causing the issue since as a uterine or vaginal prolapse.
– Take a stool softener to help soften the bowel movements. There is no shame in needing them when you are postpartum (or even during pregnancy).
Take heart, maternal grasshopper! Being nervous about that first poop is normal, but it gets better! You can DO (DO) this!!
Think I missed something? How did you handle postpartum poop? Post it in the comments! Happy pooping!!
Hailie Wolfe is a devoted wife and mother of five. She owns Country Bumpkin Birth Services in Abilene, TX where she helps women have positive birth experiences. She offers doula services and teaches Birth Boot Camp natural childbirth classes. You can also follow Hailie on YouTube, and don’t miss her peaceful breech waterbirth.
Photo: Ljupco Smokovski/Shutterstock